Making significant strides toward developing the Department-wide operational plan to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, representatives of 10 agencies and more than 13 staff offices from across HHS gathered for a two-day retreat last week. Getting down to specifics, participants shared details and received feedback on agency-specific plans, identified opportunities for cross-agency/office collaboration, and refined the outline of the operational plan due to the White House on December 9, 2010.
To further inform HHS efforts, participants first heard perspectives from three non-federal representatives who were invited to share their expectations of the HHS operational plan. Sharing their thoughts were Dr. Monica Sweeney, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Mr. Chris Collins, Vice President and Director of Public Policy, amfAR; and Ms. Heather Hauck, Director, Infectious Disease and Environmental Health Administration, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. All expressed optimism for the great potential inherent in the HHS plan and the NHAS generally, but also communicated high expectations. Recognizing the importance of a continuum of prevention, care and treatment efforts, they urged a thoughtful approach that diminishes "silos" and encourages and even facilitates greater degrees of flexibility with and collaboration among agencies across the Federal government as well as with state and local health departments. Additional input on the HHS NHAS operational plan received in writing by the Office of the Secretary from community organizations, associations, and other parties was also shared with the meeting participants. This input included a written summary of the 10/13/10 Community Check-in meeting.
During the remainder of the retreat, each of the HHS agencies and staff offices with an HIV/AIDS budget presented to the group several proposed high priority FY11 activities aligned with the NHAS. Colleagues then posed questions and offered suggestions to help agencies sharpen their plans, including identifying opportunities for information sharing, program collaboration, or other means to harmonize efforts across agencies for even greater impact.
Significant time was also devoted to honing the cross-agency, multi-jurisdictional collaborative project that will serve as a key element of the HHS operational plan. In presentations to the group, CDC, HRSA, IHS, NIH, and SAMHSA highlighted ways that their respective agencies could support the HHS-wide effort to focus on the 12 geographic areas in the U.S. most heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. Numerous opportunities for enhancing plans for the initiative were identified, including a specific recommendation that CMS take an active role in the project. Also raised were issues that require further exploration and discussion across several agencies and offices.
The coming weeks will include intensive efforts to refine and sharpen the HHS NHAS operational plan, culminating in the Secretary's review of the plan prior to submission to the White House on December 9. Agencies and offices across the department are actively engaged in thoughtful planning and examinations of how we can improve our administrative practices, strengthen collaboration and cooperation across all levels of government, and successfully capitalize on this important opportunity to advance our country's HIV/AIDS programs.
Photo Caption: Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS; Dr. Ron Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Disease, HHS; Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Seiji Hayashi, Chief Medical Officer, Bureau of Primary Healthcare, Health Resources and Services Administration; Ms. Wendy Wertheimer, Senior Advisor, Office of AIDS Research, National Institutes of Health; Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, Director, Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health; Mr. Greg Millett, Senior Policy Adviser, White House Office on National AIDS Policy; Ms. Karen Milgate, Director, Office of Policy, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.