One of the challenges faced by the PHLs is that their routine services - while clearly important contributions to the maintenance of public health - are generally outside of the public eye. Indeed, typical PHL operations imply that PHLs will rarely take center stage in any standard public health activities.
The more successful PHLs, and those that have more positive outlooks on PHLs' future, share some common features. These PHLs work hard at outreach and communication to ensure that public health agencies, state and local government, MCOs and providers, other laboratory stakeholders, and the general public are aware of and informed about the PHL's unique value and responsibilities. These PHLs are also actively involved in collaborative activities among stakeholders and strategic planning for such activities.
While the efforts of these few PHLs are noteworthy, national leadership is needed to heighten awareness of PHLs' importance, build ties among laboratory stakeholders, and help set the agenda for public-private cooperation. Individual PHLs cannot be expected to shoulder the entire burden of outreach and communication. Not only should effective national leadership help preserve core PHL activities, it should also buoy the morale and leadership within the PHLs, thereby helping them to help themselves.