What is public health authority? Public health authority is the Constitutional and legal power that grants the field its ability to protect and promote the public's health and safety in agencies, through regulation, and more. Since public health authority the is foundation for the field, threats to public health's authority affects all types of public health work - epidemiology, health promotion and education, emergency management, community health work, and more.

"Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, backlash against public health authority is significantly limiting the ability of public health officials to do their job. Public health leaders have experienced personal threats, and many state legislatures have approved or are currently considering laws that would strip powers from local and state public health agencies. In many cases, these policy changes would diminish preparedness for future emergencies and worsen existing inequities in health and wealth." -ChangeLab Solutions

Watch ChangeLab Solution's 10-minute video to learn more about the source and scope of public health authority, the powers delegated to different levels of government, and the limits on those public health powers.

OPHA's APHA/RWJF Public Health Authority Team

McKenzie Cowlbeck

APHA Team Supporting OPHA 

Susan Polan

Angie McGowan

Rya Griffis

Cande Vazquez

Lindsey Wahowiak

Ursula Oguejiofor

National Partners Supporting Public Health Authority

Project Background:

As part of a grant between the American Public Health Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to mobilize the public health community to address these challenges to public health authority, APHA will work in three main areas.

  • First, to increase awareness of current and future legislative threats to public health authority in the public health community, including with APHA leadership, state affiliates, sections, caucuses, and partners. In addition to increasing understanding of these issues, APHA will collaborate closely with and learn from other partners working on these issues and will share resources and information to help public health professionals take action in their own states and communities.
  • Next, APHA will work closely with a select group of state and regional Affiliates to provide additional resources targeted for collective action by our partners. This will ensure that the public health voice and leaders are prominent in state and community level discussions.
  • Finally, APHA will work with its project and public health partners to mobilize public and multi- sectoral partners to act to protect public health now and to begin to build support for the resilient, equitable system we need in the future. 

To accomplish this goal, we are working with partners to focus on numerous key states to engage more carefully in this work.

OPHA's Public Health Authority Activities

  • Create awareness of these issues by educating OPHA members and stakeholders about the challenges to public health and its authority to act (e.g., events, webinars, legislative updates, newsletters, conference sessions). 
  • Share materials with members, public health partners, and broader cross-sectoral partners around challenges to public health authority and the ability to act. 
  • Serve as the lead or designated contact for state-based coalitions around public health advocacy efforts in Oklahoma, focusing on these public health and public health authority issues. Provide the public health perspective and help to bring coalitions and other public health and community partners to these efforts.
  • Advocate for these issues and public health in your state, including reaching out to elected officials, partners, and public health stakeholders to discuss and at times, lobby for or against legislation.

Oklahoma Public Health Association
121 NE 52nd Street, Ste. 260
Oklahoma City, OK 73105