QI Innovator Award Winner: Charlotte Marthaler, MS

Tuesday, April 19 - It is our pleasure to honor Charlotte Marthaler, from the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department (LDCHD), as a public health QI innovator. Congratulations, Charlotte!

What makes Charlotte Marthaler a QI innovator?

Charlotte Marthaler has been a public health QI leader for most of her career. As assistant director at LDCHD in Kansas, she supports the director's efforts to move LDCHD forward by providing leadership, analyzing internal policies and procedures, and brainstorming ideas about how to improve health in the community. In this role, Charlotte leads LDCHD's QI efforts; as a result, LDCHD achieved PHAB accreditation in 2015. LDCHD is partnering with Les Beitsch, a PHQIX Expert Panel member, to assess the agency's quality culture and tie together individual QI, program QI, and organizational QI. During a recent training, Les remarked how impressed he was that the LDCHD employee performance appraisal process is so deeply embedded in QI, a credit to Charlotte's work in this area.

Charlotte has helped the LDCHD Child Care Licensing and Administrative programs achieve Public Health Model Practice Awards from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). She also helped the Kansas WIC program receive a Promising Practice designation from NACCHO. Charlotte demonstrates leadership, innovation, collaboration, and stewardship of QI in Kansas by serving as a member of the Kansas Public Health Workforce Development Coordinating Council. She also recently served on NACCHO's Performance Improvement Leadership Collaborative.

We asked Charlotte to share some insights regarding challenges encountered, lessons learned, and advice about public health QI. Here's what she had to say!

Q: Describe one challenge you have encountered in conducting QI in public health and how you worked to overcome that challenge.

A: One challenge I’ve encountered is staff hesitancy to use QI tools regularly as an aid to decision making. I’ve found modeling the use of tools in team meetings to be effective. Being proactive and helping match a particular QI tool such as an affinity diagram or control and influence matrix to an identified question has also helped. One-on-one coaching with program managers on the selection and use of specific tools has built confidence. First-hand experience of value has definitely led to greater use of QI tools among health department staff.

Q: What is one key lesson you have learned in your experience implementing public health QI initiatives?

A: Often QI initiatives start with too broad of an aim statement. I believe this is due to a reluctance to spend the time needed in the planning phase of Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA). It is well worth the time to examine the current process flow in detail, gather baseline measures, and identify the root cause of the problem.

Q: What advice would you give to public health practitioners who are new to QI?

A: My advice to those who are new to QI is to seek out and make use of the great resources available through PHQIX, NACCHO, and the Public Health Foundation, to name a few. Learning how other public health practitioners have applied QI concepts to their work greatly advances understanding.

Congratulations, Charlotte! Thank you for sharing your insights, for your demonstrated leadership in public health QI, and for being a member of the PHQIX community!

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Submitted by rpope on

First off I would like to say congratulations, as it sounds like you are well deserving of this honor. I am also very interested in your employee performance appraisal process and how it weaves QI into it. If you would be willing to share your insight/example on that topic it would be greatly appreciated, as we are always looking for opportunities to strengthen our QI Culuture.

Well done! -Ross Pope (Mid-Michigan District Health Department)

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