Building Better Relationships to Serve Veterans

Our veterans have served our nation and worked to protect us all, but veterans are at a higher risk for mental health challenges, social stressors and suicide. The CDC Foundation and partners are working to address these issues. This includes a convening in July 2021 with the overarching goals to build relationships among state public health agencies, veteran-serving organizations and private sector partners, and to activate public-private partnerships that help fill gaps and create more opportunity for an upstream, public health approach to veteran suicide prevention. 

The action-oriented virtual convening, titled “Warrior Built: Strengthening the Ecosystem of Support for Veteran Suicide Prevention,” was hosted by the CDC Foundation in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The two day convening, consisted of interactive, human-centered design-led sessions where participants heard moving veteran testimonies from Jarrad Turner, founder of 9P Solutions, and Chris Mercado, founder of Objective Zero Foundation. Participants were also able to engage in a fireside chat discussion with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, and CDC Foundation President and CEO Judy Monroe, MD. 

Team-based breakout sessions and action planning activities were facilitated by DC Design, a social impact and design strategy firm, contracted to help uncover insights into the real needs, wants and experiences of the three partner groups in relation to multi-sector engagement. This human-centered design approach focused on building empathy among participants before defining and ideating a plan to enact after the convening.

The design and planning phases focused on defining a common problem to work on through “how might we” statements, aimed at developing solutions to address the problem. A majority of the second day of the convening was set aside for teams to think about the necessary components to their action plan for enhancing collaboration by building out the five key steps (who, what, when why and how) of their plan to address challenges and create opportunities around advancing an upstream, public health approach to veteran suicide prevention. 

The CDC Foundation is excited to share the Warrior Built: Strengthening the Eco-System for Veteran Suicide Prevention webpage as a dynamic resource to utilizing tools developed from the convening as well as other materials to enhance communication and increase partnership. For more information on the convening or resources available, please reach out to

This article is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $140,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government. 

Emily Gordon
Emily Gordon, MPH, is a program officer for the CDC Foundation.