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 sits on 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 one of the first public members on the board of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). She co-chairs the Consumer-Purchaser Alliance, a group of leading consumer, employer and labor organizations working to promote the use of performance measurement in health care to inform consumer choice, value-based purchasing, and payment. She serves on the Quality Alliance Steering Committee (QASC) and on the Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) National Advisory Committee (NAC). She recently completed service on the Board of Directors of the National Quality Forum (NQF).

She leads the Campaign for Better Care — an initiative that is working to ensure that health care reform is implemented in ways that improve health care for the oldest, sickest and most vulnerable patients.

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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