Policy Wisdom: Playing a Leadership Role in Public Health Policy Initiatives Worldwide

According to a 2022 report from the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans, investments in public health not only improve the health of society but also advance equity and foster economic and climate resiliency.

As the same organization states, most of the gains in life expectancy achieved in the 20th century resulted from public health advances such as cleaner air and water, improved sanitation and food safety, safer environments and thus fewer injuries, and vaccines to protect against infectious disease.

It is then not a surprise that committed public health advocates like Ana Rita Gonzalez, dedicate their efforts, career and lives to shape public policies worldwide for the benefit of all.

Policy Wisdom, LLC (PW) is a public health policy consulting company founded in 2010 with the ambitious goal of playing a role in worldwide public health initiatives.“We provide clients with the strategies, resources, and vision necessary to achieve their public health policy goals. We shape public health policies by working with the full spectrum of individualsfrom policymakers to those who guide their thinkingat governmental and non-governmental organizations and in the private sector,” added Ana Rita Gonzalez, CEO of the company.

The journey towards success

“I am a health policy nerd. I am passionate about the impact of health policy on our lives. I feel that it ensures deep and broad access to health and creates the conditions to keep us healthy and safe.I have always felt that public health and healthcare are most impactful when all stakeholders have a seat at the table, and when they can talk to each other one-on-one, with openness, and without fear. I realized that this was not happening often enough and that the conversations were not always based on shared quality evidence.

I have devoted my life to shaping policies based on evidence in every corner of the world. And doing it with a strong methodological framework and ample participation was a goal and dream. A conversation with my husband around our kitchen counter 14 years ago made it happen. He was the force behind my passion, the one who pushed me to create Policy Wisdom, LLC. Now he shares my passion and we run PW together. Great ideas sometimes have a way of popping up when you least expect them, as they have been secretly brewing in your mind and heart. Policy Wisdom, LLC (PW) was founded in 2010 as a virtual company before remote work was a trend. We wanted to lead from day one and succeeded at it,”elaborated Gonzalez.

Who we are

We are a strategic partner to organizations, companies, and governments, dedicated to advancing public health policies around the world. Supported by a 100% virtual network of more than 40 consultants located on several continents, we have completed more than 600 projects in more than 160 countries to improve the population’s access to health services and products through evidence-based policy shaping. We partner with our clients using evidence-based research and methods to create an achievable strategic path to shape policies that positively impact the health, environment, safety, and development of individuals, communities, and nations.

Beating the odds

“Innovating is always the biggest challenge. Asking people to look at things differently is the challenge I have faced most often. But resolving it always leads to the most satisfaction. For example: creating Policy Wisdom as a virtual company in 2010 when that was unheard of. I overcame this challenge with good arguments, open and frank communication,and outstanding results,” says Ana.

The inspiring journey

“Wanting to do more and in a different way. Wanting to offer work flexibility, access to consultants all over the world, and solutions to clients based on evidence. Generating a safe space where everyone can shine and be the best version of themselves. More selfishly, I wanted to be surrounded by smart people, amazing human beings who care for public health as much as I do. We translated that into our vision, which has remained the same over the years: “to be a benchmark of excellence in health policy and a valued partner in the creation of policies that benefit public health worldwide.”

The work and life balance

“Policy Wisdom works in partnership with our clients to create a thoughtful and actionable strategic path to shape policies that impact the health, environment, safety, and development of individuals, communities, and nations. Through our partnership approach, we pay close attention to clients’ goals and needs.

Time management, team development and empowerment, and proper delegation are key to achieving balance in any situation, especially in a work-life scenario. But most importantly, understanding your true priorities and working around them.”

Success viewed through some case studies

PW has the unique opportunity to work for clients in the government and private sector, as well as with patient/advocacy groups worldwide. “The countrywe were working with needed to address challenges regarding child obesity and a culture of lack of exercise, in which economic incentives did not have much traction. We provided 12 policy recommendations to address this problem, for potential implementation throughout a period of two to three years. Within a year of implementation of the policies, progress was seen. 

Another example is related to vaccines, the most cost-effective public health intervention. In the last 15 years, a vaccine hesitancy movement has emerged, questioning the positive impact of vaccines. Demonstrating the positive impact of a type of vaccine and providing the evidence to governments, advocacy groups, healthcare providers, and citizens, in a way that makes sense for each of these different audiences, allows for this benefit to be available faster through inclusion in immunization calendars, to protect the population against preventable diseases.

Finally, precision medicine is new, and it has incredible potential to create effective treatments and reach more people. We are working on helping develop appropriate policies to expand access to precision medicine,” elaborates Gonzalez.

Women in business, now and in the future

“Our business model has been 100% virtual since day one, 14 years ago. If COVID left us with one positive thing, it is the flexibility of employees, particularly women, to work from home. I also foresee women escalating to roles of leadership in areas formerly dominated by men. I feel we are reaching an extreme situation, with the rich being extremely rich and more people being extremely poor. I think society will start, in the next ten years, to shift toward a more balanced and compassionate world, to avoid self-destruction. I trust most leaders are smart enough to move toward this path.”

Milestone achieved

“I just wrote and launched, with some of our team members, a series of children’s books that can convey the importance of public health policy in impacting health worldwide. The books provide children the opportunity to learn what public health is, what health policy is, and how it impacts their daily lives. A career in public health is something we should be aware of from childhood, like being a doctor, an architect, or a farmer. And understanding the role of health policy in our lives and how we can impact it should be something we grow up knowing and shaping. It is important to avoid being only a recipient and not an active participant in health policymaking and public health.

Athena’s Adventures in Health Policy is a series of 16 books, from pre-school to 12th grade, authored and published by me, and co-authored by other PW team members. Through this series, we hope to educate and make an impact on school students regarding various areas of public health. Eight titles are already available for purchase through Amazon.com. One dollar from each purchase will be donated to Global Health NOW (GHN), an initiative of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, of which I am an alumnus,” quoted Gonzalez.

Advice to the women aspiring to join the business world

“Seek wisdom in every aspect of your life. The more you know, the more you can share. Do not be afraid to do what you love and aspire to do great things. Surround yourself with a wonderful team and inspire them to be better and excel in every role. As a woman, you can bring many typical female traits as assets to your daily work. Traits like compassion, nurturing, affection, cooperation, and expression allow you to be an empathic leader,” concluded Gonzalez.