Montana’s Public Health Challenge

Montana is the fourth largest state in landmass in the U.S with a population of just over one million residents, faces significant public health challenges. The study funded by the Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) for $1.5 million, titled “Creating a Vision for a Healthier Montana–Strengthening the Montana Public Health System” identifies the health issues needing action from state and local public health and healthcare organizations.

These issues include behavioral health, social determinants of health, chronic disease prevention and health promotion, adverse childhood experiences and trauma, maternal, infant and early childhood care, education and safety, and access to healthcare.

One important recommendation in the study suggests, developing a Public Health Institute (PHI) to support the public health system in the state. The plan is to not only improve population health but also to invest in strategies that demonstrate value to rural, frontier, and tribal communities.

PHIs are nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing public health practice and make systematic improvements in population health. The improve public health by addressing current and emerging health issues, build partnerships across government, business, and academia, focus on population health, foster innovation, and leverage resources.

It is suggested by a consultant team that the PHI should:

  • Be a network to weave together organizations involved in health improvements to support social determinants of health
  • PHI should listen to suggestions from rural and frontier communities across a broad cross section of the state and tribal communities
  • Should build and support Montana’s already strong collaborations
  • Should not try to duplicate existing functions, but be in place to fill gaps and enhance functions currently being provided by others
  • Support capacity and be a neutral credible source for information and data building for behavioral health, data sharing, IT systems, and performance management
  • Provide an unbiased, non-partisan view for policy recommendations
  • Address disease prevention, health promotion, system building plus other priorities
  • Increase overall funding for public health in Montana


It is recommended that a minimum of $750,000 each year for three years should be used to cover limited salaries, benefits, some direct costs, some contractual costs, as well as some direct programmatic work along with deliverables.

Ideally, the mix of funding would come from public and private sources in the state, MHCF, Headwaters Health Foundation, and a hospital or healthcare system such as the Billing Clinic and the Department of Public Health and Human Services DPHHS .

Go to to view the study “Creating a Vision for a Healthier Montana—Strengthening the Montana Public health System”.

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