142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

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Public health and an existential model of administration: Relevance, meaning, and decision making within public health administrative action

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 : 11:10 AM - 11:30 AM

T. Lucas Hollar, PhD , Master of Public Health Program, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL
The health and financial consequences of chronic disease continue to escalate. Obesity appears containable, but it refuses to be vanquished. Meanwhile, arguments surrounding access to healthful foods pit public health voices against one another. For those responding to such issues, doing so is akin to Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the mountain.

Nevertheless, public health addresses issues that competing and aligning groups determine to be meaningful enough to address. However, there are no universally objective ways of identifying problems, formulating and administering policy, or evaluating interventions. The political, social, economic, and scientific aspects of public health complicate efforts to address public health issues. Additionally, attempting to solve one set of problems creates other problems and/or unintended consequences. Therefore, public health’s work never ends, and administrators end up living and working within multiple, at times competing, social and organizational systems.

This research theoretically conceptualized this predicament to discover how administrators exist and work within such contexts. This paper applies lessons learned from a grounded theory analysis of the experiences of Senior Executive Service members within the US Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Transportation, and the Merit Systems Protection Board to public health administration.

From this work, a grounded theoretical framework emerged that provides an existential approach for understanding administrative efforts and experiences; wherein, administrators utilize existential generative action to create meaning and relevance for themselves and their organizations. In a world without universally accepted meanings and purposes, an existential model of public health administration facilitates a melding of theory and practice by critiquing common ways of discussing administrative action, facilitating discourse amongst interested parties, and seeking to negotiate conflicts between competing belief systems.

The topics of chronic disease, obesity, and healthful food access illustrate this approach through a juxtaposition of the existential model against the rational, interpretive, and critical models of administration.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Explain common models of administration applicable to health administrators. Evaluate the applicability of alternative models of administration to public health scenarios. Design one’s approach for generating relevance and meaning for oneself, one’s organization, and one’s constituents within the context of public health administration.

Keyword(s): Public Health Administration, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an Assistant Professor of Public Health with a PhD in Public Administration and concentrations in Organizational Studies, Public Policy, and Administration Theory. Additionally, I practice and teach qualitative research methods, organizational behavior, and leadership. In addition to my research, I am/have been engaged in qualitative methods for evaluations funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act (Community Transformation Grant).
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.