Geneia podcast guest Anna Thomas discusses population health strategies and public health.
Thought Leadership

Geneia Conversations: Leading Public Health in a Pandemic

July 21, 2021
Data and population health strategies improve Manchester, NH’s health
President and CEO

As we say on our website, what’s not to love about New Hampshire?

New Hampshire residents enjoy a high quality of life, high income, and close proximity to Boston, the Seacoast, the Lakes Region and the mountains. Manchester, NH, the state’s largest city, also is home to one of Geneia’s two offices.

Affectionately known as the Queen City and ManchVegas, I, too, called Manchester home. It’s where I was born and attended high school. It’s also the hometown of Adam Sandler and the poet Louis O. Coxe. Once a thriving mill town and the largest textile producer in the world, Manchester is now headquarters to DEKA Research, Dean Kamen’s company that’s best known for creating the Segway, FIRST Robotics, Jetboil, CCA Global and Southern New Hampshire University as well as the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) and BioFabUSA.

Manchester, NH: Opportunities and Challenges

In the words of Anna Thomas, the city’s public health director, “Manchester is an urban center with more than 110,000 residents. Among Manchester’s challenges are:

  • Growth in aging, ever-changing community diversity and family structure.
  • Significant increases in local poverty levels (especially among children) compounded with a high cost of living.
  • Reliance on often siloed and sometimes competing health and social service providers, public assistance programs, etc.
  • Inappropriate and/or untimely use of care (at the wrong time and in the wrong place, or not at all).
  • Some community and neighborhood vulnerabilities exist such as violence, crime, unhealthy living and housing conditions.”

Galvanizing the community to respond to these challenges largely falls to Anna and her team. It’s a tremendous responsibility, made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, Anna is optimistic about the future, generous with her time, and forward-looking in her approach, using data and population health strategies to improve the health of Manchester residents.

I got to know Anna when I joined the board of the Granite United Way (GUW), and had an opportunity to witness and support her leadership in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health winning Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy, a collaboration between the City, GUW, local health systems and schools. This effort held particular importance to me as one of the schools identified as a “hot spot” was my own elementary school, Gossler Park School. The turnaround at Gossler, through the work of so many, most particularly the administration, teachers and Anna’s public health department, is nothing short of remarkable.

In May, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Year. Manchester’s mayor, Joyce Craig, heralded the chamber’s choice saying, “In a year of unthinkable challenges, Anna Thomas has risen to the occasion without complaint in a role that is usually without recognition. She is driven, focused and utterly selfless – a leader that we are lucky to have guiding the health of our community.”

Anna is someone I want you to know.

Listen now to Geneia Conversations: Redefining Healthcare to hear Anna Thomas, Manchester, NH’s public health director, discuss her career in public health, health equity and how the COVID-pandemic has impacted her work.