Opportunities as a Winnable Battle

Panorama SHO-and-tell dinner

Winnable Battles programs strengthened and advanced their work by taking advantage of both planned and unforeseen opportunities. Meetings provided access to the collective knowledge of senior leadership and subject matter experts on a regular basis. The process of developing a Winnable Battles strategy and ensuing action plan ensured programs focused on high impact priorities. Setting a baseline and target defined a clear goal in measureable terms.

CDC Vital Signs

Vital Signs

The CDC Vital Signs monthly report highlights a different public health issue each month and includes an MMWR Early Release, graphic fact sheet and website, media release, virtual town hall and social media tools. Although participation in a monthly Vital Signs increased the amount of work for each topic area, it also provided an opportunity to elevate the issue, identify what specifically can be done at the federal, state, local, and healthcare provider levels. Throughout the course of the Winnable Battles initiative, multiple Vital Signs were published on each Winnable Battle topic area, keeping CDC priorities “top-of-mind” for stakeholders. Significant communications support for each Vital Signs publication resulted in social and traditional media coverage to further drive the public health discourse.

CDC Briefing to the American Medical Association Thumbnail CDC Briefing to the American Medical Association Thumbnail Welcome to CDC's New Health Official Orientation poster

Advancing the Conversation around Winnable Battles

In addition to this systematic approach to creating opportunities for advancement, other opportunities developed organically. One example is the State Health Officer (SHO) trainings led by the CDC Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (OSTLTS). The goal of the orientation is to help new health officials initiate and improve relationships with CDC leaders and other health officials to strengthen the public health system. Winnable Battles are framed as CDC public health priorities for SHOs during their on-site orientation and they are asked to consider identifying their own state’s Winnable Battles once back home. Learning about Winnable Battles is cited as a key take-away from the annual SHO session.

Educating public health stakeholders about CDC work often included mention of Winnable Battles. The Prevention Status Reports (PSR), another OSTLTS product, are designed to address 10 important public health problems and concerns. Six of the 10 topics covered by the PSR publication and web site are Winnable Battles.

Programs identified as Winnable Battles were often given opportunities to tell their stories in venues and with audiences they may not have reached otherwise. Because they were recognized as CDC public health priorities, Winnable Battles were often on the agenda with visiting public health officials, congressional staff, American Indian and Alaska Native health officials, government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs).

Briefings were held at CDC, online and at NGO sites.

Welcome to CDC's New Health Official Orientation poster

State Strategy Meetings

“Creating an environment where CDC scientists and state health officials can educate each other and learn from one another is very powerful,” said Kathleen Ethier, PhD, Director of the Program Performance and Evaluation Office, CDC. “The synergy and enthusiasm created at this meeting helps motivate participating state health officials, legislators and others to take back what they’ve learned to address their state’s health priorities in the most effective way possible.

“Legislators in the states are very concerned with their state budget issues,” said Karmen Hanson, Health Program Manager at NCSL. “They found it very beneficial to gather around a table outside of their states and focus on the most important health issues facing their state. They also enjoyed hearing from other states on how they have addressed Winnable Battle issues.”

Working with the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) also advanced Winnable Battles work. CDC funded NCSL and ASTHO to host several two-day seminars called “Cost-Effective Strategies in Public Health: The Winnable Battles Initiative.”

The meetings were designed to educate state officials on Winnable Battles and opportunities to improve the health of state residents. Participants included State Health Officers (SHO), Medicaid Directors, legislators, Department of Health officials and others in public health. Speakers from the CDC, health professionals with expertise in these health issues, business leaders and state leaders who have successfully developed and implemented policies related to these areas were featured. Prior to, during and after the seminar, NCSL and ASTHO worked with states to draft Winnable Battles Action Plans specific to their states which outlined strategies and programs to implement. Subject matter experts from the CDC provided information and insight on specific health challenges. Information and analysis shared with state leaders informed their decisions. State leaders also benefited from listening to and learning from officials from other states grappling with similar health issues. Participants also gained awareness of CDC resources to help combat health issues in their states. In total, 32 states participated and meetings were held in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.


States participating in the "Cost-Effective Strategies in Public Health: The Winnable Battles Initiative" meetings.

Winnable Battles also benefited by adoption and promotion through partner organizations. One example is a toolbox developed and distributed by NCSL. The toolbox provided an overview of Winnable Battles and examples from select states (Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York) on actions they took to address a specific health issue. In 2013 the nine-page booklet, The Winnable Battles Initiative, Strategies and Opportunities to Improve Health, was distributed to state policy makers and posted online. In addition, organizations including the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Public Health Foundation (PHF) partnered with CDC to build awareness and knowledge of Winnable Battles. NACCHO adopted CDC Winnable Battles and created one of its own on diabetes. Winnable Battle resources from PHF’s Online Store, courses from TRAINExternal, and other tools offered through PHF were used by public health and other professionals to build the capacity to be successful.

NACCHO adopted CDC Winnable Battles and created one of its own on diabetes. Winnable Battle resources from PHF’s Online Store, courses from TRAIN, and other tools offered through PHF were used by public health and other professionals to build the capacity to be successful.

Page last reviewed: December 14, 2017