Interview by Noelle Toumey Reetz
For 25 years, the Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) has played a crucial role in developing and evaluating hundreds of health programs and services across Georgia and the U.S. Using research from experts at Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, it provides expertise, guidance and program development in a variety of areas, including behavioral health, child health and well-being, health care financing and rural health. Now, it’s expanding its work internationally and making plans for the next quarter century.
Here, Karen Minyard, chief executive officer of the GHPC, discusses the organization’s impact and shares her vision for the future.
How does the Georgia Health Policy Center affect the lives of Georgians in ways they may not even realize?
Every issue we touch, whether it’s cancer research, maternal and child health, rural health systems or other issues, we are helping guide the decision-making to improve lives. We put together the best information to support our clients, who range from state governments to nonprofit organizations to community programs, to bring excellence to the work they do.
If you look at the issue of obesity, for example, we are focusing on areas like health care, communities and families and services that provide stability. We want to determine what overall culture will support systems that are conducive to healthy lifestyles and weight loss. We want to help create these environments to motivate positive change for Georgians.
What are some of the successes you are celebrating?
In the past five years, we have nearly doubled our funding and size, growing from 56 employees to 86 employees. Currently, we’re working on 85 different projects and over the past 20 years, we’ve served more than 1,200 communities.
You have been with the center since the very beginning. What brought you here?
In 1995, I was a Ph.D. student in business and healthcare financing when the founding director of the GHPC heard about my work. He asked if I would share what I was learning about the relationship among hospitals, physicians and patients in a rapidly changing environment.
The more I learned, the more I became perplexed about the financing of healthcare — where does the money come from and who decides? I wondered why the decisions didn’t always match up with the needs of the people and it made me want to learn more.
I have spent a lot of time traveling across Georgia and the country, looking at how health systems are changing, especially in rural areas. In 2001, I became the center director and, in some ways, the 25th anniversary feels like a story of my career. This is a place where I have an opportunity to make a difference.
To what do you attribute the success and longevity of the GHPC?
We are committed to being connected in the real world to the policy issues we work on.
That is a big part of our mission that we take seriously. Our center is woven into the fabric of both national and state health policy and we are working with several countries outside the U.S. as well. Our approach is to provide excellent information and create the right conversations to find better, smarter health solutions.
What are you looking forward to in the next 25 years?
We want to be better, faster and smarter. We’ve never had this goal of “let’s get big.” Instead, our goal has always been to bring excellence to everything we do. If I think about the next 25 years, I think about a Health Policy Center that has an incredible built-in learning system so everything we learn across different projects is applied to our work on a national scale and put in place here in Georgia.
We are also focused on expanding our administrative capacity and cultivating our employee culture and environment. Over the last year, we’ve developed an inclusion council focused on fostering equity and diversity as we continue to grow. I would like to see us continue to build on scholarship, administrative support, leadership expertise and continuous learning.
Celebrate With the GHPC
Throughout 2020, the Georgia Health Policy Center will host expert speakers and coordinate acts of service events to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Find all the events here. To learn more about the center’s work, check out the GHPC Now commemorative magazine or watch the 25th anniversary video.