Helena Whitney effectively bridges the policy and the politics of healthcare with her combination of public health, legislative affairs and community outreach experience. Her areas of expertise include U.S. – Mexico border health, immigration, the social determinants of health, culturally responsive care, behavioral health integration, and delivery system transformation. Much of her work is rooted in the link between personal health and where a person lives and how they live.
Helena recently conducted a comprehensive community health assessment of a border county in southeastern Arizona for a coalition formed by local government, a regional foundation and three community hospitals. The evaluation identified the challenges to achieving integrated healthcare delivery, including current funding structures that encourage system fragmentation. The next phase of the project involves development of a plan to address these systematic issues.
Helena has designed and delivered online and classroom-based courses on organizational leadership and societal change for the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University. Instructional concepts include the role of culture and gender in organizations and how these factors impact leadership; understanding implicit bias; and how unconscious biases influence decision making. Helena has parlayed this experience into training tools for HMA clients who are seeking to improve the delivery of culturally responsive patient care.
Prior to joining HMA, Helena was vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for the University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN). She rallied policymakers and industry stakeholders to create a supplemental payment pool for Arizona hospitals serving the state’s most vulnerable populations. She also championed legislation resulting in $400 million in Medicaid funding to support graduate medical education for Arizona’s teaching hospitals. Prior to UAHN, she shaped public opinion and ignited community engagement for Maricopa Integrated Health Systems, the safety net healthcare system serving Phoenix and surrounding communities.
As a senior health and human services policy advisor for the Arizona House of Representatives, she co-authored a legislative referendum increasing tobacco taxes by $0.60 per pack to fund trauma services, community health centers, and chronic disease prevention and research. Passing by 67 percent, the measure continues to be a primary healthcare revenue source. She also advanced policy reform in child welfare and long-term services and supports, including upstream changes addressing the social determinants of health.
Helena earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work with a concentration in public policy from Arizona State University.
Helena has global perspective. Growing up in a military family and a naturalized citizen from Serbia, she has been to more countries than U.S. states. When not working, Helena enjoys volunteering with the local Doberman pinscher rescue and training her own adopted dogs.