Virginia one of eight states selected for public health law project

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Virginia one of eight states selected for public health law project

The Commonwealth of Virginia is one of only eight states selected to participate in the State Public Health Law Program, a project to improve public health by improving the process of public health policy making. PHS Chair Ruth G. Bernheim is on the nine-member project team for Virginia, as announced in a June 18th email from Joe Hilbert, Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs of the Virginia Department of Health.

Dear Network Members:

This is to inform you that Virginia has been selected to participate in the Excellence in State Public Health Law Program, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Virginia is one of only 8 states that were selected.

The Aspen Institute’s overall goal of the program is to enable policymakers and state agencies to more effectively address public health issues and to become leaders in creating healthier states. The program seeks to strengthen public health law collaborations among state officials and state-level policymakers, and increase leaders’ effectiveness on public health issues in their respective states, including working across party lines, across government agencies and branches, and across sectors.

Virginia’s project team consists of the following individuals:

  • Dr. Cynthia Romero – State Health Commissioner
  • Dr. Marissa Levine – Chief Deputy Commissioner
  • Dr. Bill Hazel – Secretary of Health and Human Resources
  • Senator Emmett Hanger
  • Delegate Dr. Scott Garrett
  • Robin Kurz – Attorney General’s Office
  • Sarah Stanton – Division of Legislative Services
  • Ruth Gaare Bernheim – University of Virginia
  • Joe Hilbert – Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs, Virginia Department of Health


Virginia’s objective for this project is to establish a model process for developing public health law and policy in Virginia with an initial focus of using a public health law approach to promote reduction of chronic disease risk factors.  Virginia will seek to enhance relationships between state health officials, state legislators and state officials, and develop a common level of understanding, concerning Virginia’s public health system.  For purposes of developing a model process, Virginia will focus on 1) ensuring that foods served or sold in state government facilities and institutions meet nutrition standards consistent with the Dietary Standards for all Americans; and 2) development and implementation of agreements for the shared use of physical activity facilities.

During the project, Virginia’s team will be guided by the following key questions: 

  • What is the best way to go about establishing a public health policy agenda in Virginia? 
  • What is the best way evaluate potential changes in public health policy? 
  • What type of public health policy approaches to prevention of chronic disease leads to higher level of consensus between and among branches of government and between legislative leaders from different parties?


Virginia’s team will be having a series of meetings later this year.  While the meeting dates have not yet been scheduled, one will be in the September/October time frame and the other will be in the November/December time frame.  The team will be seeking input from external stakeholders such as the Chronic Disease Prevention Collaborative Network.  The involvement of stakeholders such as you will be important to the success of the project.  Additional details concerning the specific date, time, location and agenda of each meeting will provided to you. 

In addition, I am scheduled to provide an update and status report to the Virginia Chronic Disease Collaborative Network at its meeting on September 26. 

Should you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact me.

I look forward to your involvement and participation in this project.




Joe Hilbert
Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs
Virginia Department of Health