CDC Foundation, ASTHO and MPHI Provide Support to Strengthen Public Health Partnerships to Advance Health Equity

Communities and public health departments across the country face persistent health inequities that were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, governmental public health has received an influx of funding to address health inequities and to strengthen the public health workforce and infrastructure. The CDC Foundation, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) announced today STRETCH 2.0, a project building upon the STRETCH Initiative (Strategies to Repair Equity and Transform Community Health). Through the STRETCH Initiative, the partners will provide specialized technical assistance to state public health agencies and their communities to address the underlying policies, practices, resource allocations, power dynamics, relationships and mindsets that have allowed health inequities to persist.

The importance of state public health agencies continuing to champion health equity, build authentic and equitable relationships within their community and leverage new investments to catalyze the hard work of systems change is critical to support thriving communities. This initiative aims to strengthen the relationship between the community and state public health agencies because community voice and experience is pivotal to ensuring public health prioritizes and addresses the underlying causes of public health challenges.

STRETCH 2.0 will convene up to seven collaboratives comprised of a community-based organization (CBO) or a community coalition partnered with a state public health agency for capacity building support activities to strengthen relationships, promote power sharing, build skills and develop an action plan to advance and sustain health equity. This support will include launching a learning community, providing tailored coaching to individual community teams and developing and disseminating national technical assistance resources. The seven selected collaborative participants will develop a facilitated workplan to create sustainable change in their communities for improving the health and wellbeing of all their community members. STRETCH will help participating state health agencies and communities coordinate their health equity work across funding opportunities, such as the Public Health Infrastructure Grant (PHIG).

Learnings from STRETCH will be shared nationally with opportunities for public health practitioners outside of the seven participating collaborative members to join subject matter experts for discussions on public health systems change.

“Community-based organizations and other local partners bring valuable expertise, resources, networks and community perspectives to enable more inclusive and equitable public health systems,” says Lauren Smith, MD, MPH, chief health equity and strategy officer at the CDC Foundation. “With a coordinated, multisector approach, we can transform our public health system into one that has the resources, capacity and networks to create communities where all people have a just and fair opportunity to be healthy.”

STRETCH 2.0, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, expands on the learnings and experiences from the first phase of the initiative in which 10 state teams developed health equity goals and workplans linked to the STRETCH framework. The STRETCH 2.0 collaborative will also focus on the STRETCH framework, an action-oriented guide to shifting approaches to create meaningful systems change with focus on five domains of work: community-led approaches, place-based initiatives, workforce development, data management and finance systems.,

“State and territorial health officials know that working directly with community leaders, the faith community, local health providers and social service agencies is the best way to tackle health disparities,” says Michael Fraser, PhD, ASTHO CEO. “Devoting time, staff capacity and leveraging resources to strengthen these relationships is critical to advance health equity and transform health care systems. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the CDC Foundation and MPHI to support public health leaders in establishing stronger, more effective multisector partnerships that foster community resilience and well-being.”

STRETCH 2.0 focuses on strengthening community engagement and establishing and sustaining partnerships with intermediaries, community-based groups, public health agencies and other sectors to address persistent structural inequities that hold our communities back from reaching their full health and wellbeing potential. Learnings from the STRETCH initiative will be translated into action models to be shared for sustained improvements to building opportunities for everyone to live their healthiest lives.

"For health equity to last systems must change. Over the past two years, the STRETCH Initiative guided state public health agency teams and their partners through a deep learning process to this end. The journey has begun, and we are confident that change for equity can and will happen across public health and the communities we serve," says Renee Canady, PhD, MPA, MPHI CEO.

To apply for STRETCH 2.0, interested CBOs or community coalitions can complete the application through the CDC Foundation’s website. A one-hour informational call will be held on Thursday, September 14, 1:00-2:00 PM ET.


About ASTHO: ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.

About MPHI: MPHI is a Michigan-based, non-profit public health institute leading public health efforts across the country with a mission of working together to center equity, promote health and advance well-being. Our broad network of partners includes academia, government, community-based organizations and healthcare providers. These connections empower all of us to develop solutions to a wide range of challenges. Learn more about our work by visiting

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at