National Partnership for Women & Families

Debra L. Ness


For more than three decades, Debra Ness has been a strong, unwavering advocate for fairness and social justice. She has an extensive background in health and public policy, and possesses a deep and unique understanding of the issues that face women and families at home, in the workplace, and in the health care arena. Before assuming her current role as president, Ness served as executive vice president of the National Partnership for 13 years. She has strengthened the organization’s standing as one of the country’s most powerful and effective advocates for women and families.

Ness serves on the boards of some of the most influential organizations working to improve health care. She is a member of the Board of Directors and chairs the Consumer Advisory Council of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). She was recently elected to serve as the first public member on the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Board of Trustees and sits on the management board of the National Cardiovascular Data Registry (NCDR). She is also one of the first public members of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Board of Directors. Ness co-chairs the Consumer-Purchaser Alliance, a group of leading consumer, employer, and labor organizations working to promote the effective use of performance measurement in health care to inform consumer choice, value-based purchasing and payment. Ness was appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to serve on the Guiding Committee of the Health Care Payment Learning & Action Network (HCPLAN) and also co-chairs the HCPLAN Consumer & Patient Affinity Group. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Health Care Transformation Task Force (HCTTF), and recently completed service on the Board of Directors of the National Quality Forum (NQF).

In addition, Ness serves on the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and co-chairs its Health Care Task Force. She is a member of the board of directors of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Ness graduated summa cum laude from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and sociology. After completing graduate work in social welfare and public health policy, she received her Masters of Science from the Columbia University School of Social Work. She worked in numerous capacities at the Service Employees International Union, first as director of adult education and career development efforts, and later conducting strategic planning and organizational development programs for local unions. In 1986, she moved to head up field operations for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), where she worked to revitalize the organization’s grassroots political capability and affiliate network. She became NARAL’s deputy director in 1989 and helped transform the organization into a major force in American electoral politics. She joined the National Partnership in 1991.

Ness lives in Rockville, Md.

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