Health & Wellness Science & Technology Society & Culture

Inaugural State of Public Health Conference to focus on collaborative strategies

Conference's goal is to improve Georgia’s public health outcomes

Athens, Ga. – On March 21, state leaders committed to improving the health of Georgians will gather at the University of Georgia for the inaugural State of Public Health Conference. Hosted by the Georgia Public Health Training Center in the UGA College of Public Health, the conference will begin with registration at 8 a.m. in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center.

The State of Public Health Conference aims to move past the challenges of the day by bringing public health professionals together for a practical discussion about public health in Georgia. The keynote address will be given by Tyler Norris, vice president of Total Health Partnerships at Kaiser Permanente, and a plenary presentation by Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The conference will feature several interactive, solution-driven workshops tackling a variety of key public health issues in the state. The workshops will focus on integrating continuous quality improvement practices into public health, working through the accreditation process for public health districts, engaging communities to improve health, using social media to reduce tobacco usage and strengthening the relationship between primary care and public health.

The conference’s goal is to use the dialogue from these workshops to craft an actionable plan that would improve the health and well-being of all Georgians.

“We know that the population health status of Georgians living across this great state is not what it could be, and the public health indicators in Georgia show persistent challenges as indicated by our high rates of chronic disease, obesity and smoking,” said Marsha Davis, the director of the Georgia Public Health Training Center and associate dean for outreach and engagement in the College of Public Health. “There are dramatic differences in health status throughout our state, often varying by race, ZIP code and economic status.

“At the same time, Georgia has many assets. At this conference, we want to acknowledge our challenges and transcend them by leveraging our assets. We want to bring passionate individuals together to determine what the state of public health in Georgia could be. We know where we are, so the most important thing is figuring out what we can do, collaboratively, that will improve health outcomes for all Georgians.”

Norris, who will be giving the keynote presentation, is a member of Kaiser Permanente’s community benefit, research and health policy team. He helps implement the company’s aspiration for the complete physical, mental and social well-being of its members, workforce and communities through services and clinical, educational, environmental and social actions that promote the health of all people. He also leads Kaiser Permanente’s portfolio of integrated physical activity and active transportation initiatives.

Among his voluntary roles, Norris is the board chair of IP3, a nonprofit technology venture that powers The Community Commons, and an array of data platforms for leading health philanthropies and governmental agencies. A long-time social entrepreneur, he has more than three decades of service in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors focused on growing the impact of the “Healthy Communities Movement” and has worked with more than 350 communities and scores of organizations in the United States and around the world.

Norris has a bachelor’s degree in international political economy from Colorado College and a master of divinity degree from Naropa University.

Plenary speaker Fitzgerald was appointed as the first commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health in 2011 where she oversees various state public health programs. A board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist who has practiced medicine for three decades, she also directs the state’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments.

Prior to joining DPH, Fitzgerald held numerous leadership positions, including time spent as the president of the board of directors for the Georgia OB-GYN Society and chairman of the board of directors of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation where she remains as a senior fellow. She also served as a health care policy adviser for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the late Sen. Paul Coverdell.

Fitzgerald holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Georgia State University and a doctor of medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine. She completed post-graduate training at the Emory-Grady Hospitals in Atlanta and held an assistant clinical professorship at Emory Medical Center.

Registration for the conference is free and, though geared toward public health professionals, is open to the public. For more information, see

UGA College of Public Health
Founded in 2005 as a response to the state’s need to address important health concerns in Georgia, the UGA College of Public Health is comprised of four departments and two research institutes as well as the Center for Global Health. The college offers degree programs in biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, health promotion and behavior, public health, health policy and management and toxicology as well as certificate programs in gerontology, disaster management and global health.

Graduates from the College of Public Health—nationally known for its work related to infectious disease, cancer research, gerontology, disaster preparedness and other areas—typically go on to a diverse range of careers, including medicine, health education, emergency management, public health policy, environmental science and social work. For more information, see