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Maddy Frey Conducts RWJF Evaluation of The Network for Public Health Law

Maddy Frey Conducts RWJF Evaluation of The Network for Public Health Law

In 2018, COPHP alumna (’09) Madeleine (“Maddy”) Frey’s consulting company, Madeleine Frey Consulting, LLC, was selected via a competitive bidding process by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to conduct an evaluation of The Network for Public Health Law during the period of May 2018 - February 2019. The goal of the evaluation was to better define and serve the Network's target audiences, which include public health practitioners at local, state and federal levels.

The Network for Public Health Law is a nonprofit created by RWJF in 2010, which offers free legal technical assistance to local and state public health departments across the country. Maddy says, “In my opinion, the Network is public health's best kept secret! They help health departments understand their legal authority and how to enact that authority, which varies widely from state to state, and even from county to county within states.” For example, a local public health practitioner looking for ways to improve mental health in their county can call the Network to receive tailored assistance in identifying existing laws or policies in their county that they can draw upon. In one case, the Network helped one public health department to identify legal protections for volunteer physicians practicing in under-resourced areas, which allowed those physicians to continue practicing. 

For their evaluation, Maddy’s team used a participatory and capacity-building approach, asking Network leaders to partake in developing their Theory of Change and better defining their target audiences, and they used an equity lens to ask which audiences were most in need of, and receiving, services.

Three key findings emerged from the evaluation. First, the Network is successfully reaching its target audiences. Key informants suggested the Network could magnify its impact by expanding services to professionals in other sectors working to address the social determinants of health, such as transportation, education, and gun violence prevention. 

Second, the Network can improve awareness of its services, which are greatly needed yet not widely advertised, even within public health circles. Potential users who are less-resourced or less aware of law and policy approaches to improve public health may especially benefit from targeted outreach. 

Third, building capacity for legal public health action may have some inherent limits. Legal skills and expertise, especially when interpreting public health laws for application in complicated public health settings, are difficult to impart to non-attorneys. In this respect, public health legal capacity is different from other public health field-building enterprises, which operate on the principle of more straightforward skill and knowledge transfer.  

Maddy’s journey to conducting public health evaluations began in 2002, while collecting household data on indoor air quality in Indonesia, but her passion was sparked during her MPH training at the University of Washington Department of Health Services. As she reflects, “I have loved evaluation ever since facilitating the evaluation case led by Aaron Katz in my 2nd year of COPHP (in HSERV 538: Participatory Evaluation & Community Engagement). To me, evaluation allows us to actually understand the real impacts of our efforts to improve health, and focus on improving these efforts to reach people, rather than simply proving outcomes.” Other formative experiences included Bud Nicola's management course (HSERV 540: Management & Leadership), which was “amazing and surprisingly applicable to every aspect of my work. I will also never forget Clarence Thomas teaching us to not be ‘poverty pimps,’ and [Program Director] Dr. Amy Hagopian encouraging us to be more radical at every possible turn. While I was initially drawn to COPHP for its unique approach to teaching and learning about the social determinants of health, I continue to be amazed at how applicable the degree has been to my career in so many different ways.”

Maddy has served as an evaluator in several prior roles. First, as an evaluator for the Center for Community Health and Evaluation from 2010-2012, where she was “very influenced by Bill Beery, Allen Cheadle, Maggie Jones (COPHP, '07), Lisa Schafer (COPHP, '09) and all my colleagues who understood the value of community and partner relationships when asking and answering questions about impact.” While serving as Director of Evaluation with Healthcare Georgia Foundation (Atlanta) from 2012-2016, Maddy found that “Foundation President Gary Nelson helped me understand the intersection between philanthropy and evaluation, and the many and nuanced factors that can lead to an organization's embracing evaluation. I was also incredibly fortunate to meet Marshall Kreuter who was on the Foundation's Evaluation Advisory Board, as well as his wife, Martha Katz, former deputy policy director of the CDC. Both of them are giants in public health, and over time have taught me an incredible amount about public health in the US. The three of us also share a love for Bill Beery, who passed away in 2013, and who truly taught me the importance of finding the fun in work and enjoying our colleagues.” In her current role as head of her own consulting company, serving clients such as Cottage Health (Santa Barbara), Maddy is learning to “understand the important role that hospitals play, especially via Community Benefit programs, in co-designing, implementing and evaluating community-based prevention programs.”

Says Maddy, “From these experiences, I have learned so much! Mostly about the role of the evaluator as facilitator. The evaluator is rarely the topical expert, but has the unique ability to draw out and highlight the voices and expertise of community members, program staff, and partners who may be most affected by a program or advocacy strategy. The evaluator has great influence over how success is defined and measured, and whether or not equity, in particular racial equity, is integrated into that process.” 

Maddy’s selection for the RWJF evaluation was a lengthy and rigorous one. As she explains, “My name was put forward to the RWJF Program Officer by my mentor, Martha Katz, and my company was then vetted and invited to reply to the Request for Proposals. During a bidders’ conference call I learned a little more about my competition - they were multi-million or billion dollar companies, so I knew I needed to stand out. I pulled together a diverse and highly talented group of 12 consultants*, including 11 women, and 6 women of color. I knew my team members via COPHP connections, prior colleagues, social connections, and contacts through the world of Ultimate Frisbee. I am deeply grateful for the contributions of my team, including Key Project Leads Ama Atiedu and Leigh Alderman (COPHP, '14). Everyone gave great input on the proposal, and I think RWJF could tell that my team not only had the skills to do the work, but that we could navigate working with the many interested parties in the evaluation, as well as the complex political waters of evaluating public health advocacy work.” 

Looking to the future, Maddy plans to continue her consulting work. “I am open to new directions,” Maddy says, “but for now, I am really enjoying my consulting work, as it allows me to influence public health strategy with a large degree of flexibility and autonomy.”

To learn more about Maddy’s work, visit and

*Maddy’s Consulting Team: Leigh Alderman, Fiona Asigbee, Ama Atiedu, Andrea Berry, Jenny Choi, Lasha Clarke, Kayla Emrick, Nicole Lezin, Sarah Stachowiak, Maithri Vangala

Photo: Maddy (middle) with fellow consultants Lasha Clarke (left) and Maithri Vangala (right)


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