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ASTHO Environmental Health’s Busy Week

The past week has been busy for ASTHO’s environmental health team. See below for highlights from the week!

ASTHO Meets New ECOS Executive Director

ASTHO-Meets-New-ECOS-Executive-DirectorOn March 19, ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser, along with Jim Blumenstock, ASTHO’s chief of health security, and Abe Kulungara, ASTHO’s senior director of environmental health, met with Donald Welsh, the new executive director of the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and Carolyn Hanson, the deputy director at ECOS. EPA, ECOS, and ASTHO have a Memorandum of Agreement on public health and environmental collaboration that will advance the parties’ mutually shared mission of protecting the public’s health from environmental threats and hazards. At the meeting in Washington D.C., ASTHO and ECOS underlined the need to collaborate in enhancing communication and developing resources around contaminants like Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

ASTHO Attends State Presentations on PFAS Biomonitoring Projects

ASTHO Attends State Presentations on PFAS Biomonitoring ProjectsAlso on March 19, Kathy Dolan, ASTHO’s director of environmental health, and Nicholas Porter, ASTHO’s senior analyst for environmental health, along with leadership from CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), attended presentations from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) on their recently completed PFAS biomonitoring projects. The presentations took place at CDC’s Chamblee campus in Atlanta. The projects implemented and evaluated CDC/ATSDR’s PFAS Exposure Assessment Technical Tools (PEATT), a step-by-step protocol for assessing a community’s exposures to PFAS in affected communities in both states.

ASTHO Discusses Food Safety Policy on Capitol Hill

ASTHO Discusses Food Safety Policy on Capitol HillOn March 14-15, ASTHO brought several state health officials and other members of the environmental health and infectious disease policy committees to Washington, D.C. to discuss policy implications around new and emerging methods to detect foodborne disease, capacity building for foodborne outbreak response, and the identification of opportunities and strategies for successful interagency collaboration. The meeting featured presentations on whole genome sequencing and culture independent diagnostic testing, One Health, and cannabidiol (CBD) infused foods. Officials from CDC, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, FDA, and USDA provided updates on food safety priorities and initiatives.

ASTHO Speaks to PHAB Board

ASTHO Speaks to PHAB BoardOn March 20, Danny Staley, ASTHO’s chief of Caribbean operations, and Joya Coffman, ASTHO’s senior director of performance improvement, presented an update on crisis funding and ongoing work in the Caribbean at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) meeting. Staley began the presentation with an overview of the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria, highlighting the response ASTHO is leading as part of its crisis work with CDC. This work includes supplemental staffing, equipment purchases, and contracting for impactful public health system improvements. One important area ASTHO highlighted to the board is business processes improvement technical assistance and training that ASTHO is providing to expand public health capacity to implement streamlined and standardized processes in financial management, procurement, and human resources. PHAB board members and federal partners underscored the critical role of public health departments and national partner organizations in crisis recovery efforts from the lens of both immediate workforce and resource deployment, as well as executive leader mentorship and support.

John Wiesman Co-Chairs PACHA Meeting

John Wiesman Co-Chairs PACHA MeetingOn March 14-15, John Wiesman (SHO-WA) co-chaired the 63rd Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) Meeting in Washington, D.C. In his opening remarks, Wiesman called for bold action to defeat HIV/AIDS in America. He highlighted the importance of working across sectors to deploy effective prevention and treatment interventions, provide timely access to affordable healthcare services, and tackle stigma. He emphasized that discrimination of all kinds and social determinants of heath must be addressed to end the epidemic. “As one state who has had an initiative to end AIDS, we look forward to working with each other and learning more from each other to pull together best practices,” said Wiesman. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, CDC Director Robert Redfield, and leadership from HRSA, NIH, SAMHSA, and IHS discussed the initiative to end HIV and PACHA’s critical role in influencing and impacting this historic effort.

ASTHO’s 2019 Washington Week

From March 11-15, ASTHO hosted its annual Washington Week. See below for highlights from the week!

Washington Week: Inaugural ASTHO Policy Academy

Inaugural ASTHO Policy AcademyTo kick off the week, ASTHO hosted an in-person training for its inaugural Policy Academy on March 11-12. The ASTHO Policy Academy, designed and conducted with the assistance of CDC’s Office of the Associate Director for Policy, helps state health agency leaders develop and strengthen their policy skills. Teams from three state health agencies attended, representing the Arkansas Department of Health, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Each team was made up of health officials, senior deputies, legislative liaisons, legal counsel, and program staff. During the Policy Academy, they received training on key steps in the policy development process, including policy analysis, policy communication, engaging stakeholders, and policy development.

Washington Week: Insular Areas Subcommittee Dinner Meeting

Insular Areas Subcommittee Dinner Meeting 2019Esther Muña (THO-CNMI) chaired the Insular Affairs Subcommittee meeting on March 11. The subcommittee provides a forum for ASTHO’s members to exchange information on policy challenges and solutions within the Pacific and Atlantic jurisdictions. The subcommittee identified policy priorities for consideration by the full government relations committee and ASTHO board. It is believed that this is the first time that jurisdictions in the Pacific and the Atlantic have collaborated on a shared public health policy agenda along with states with relatively large numbers of island populations.

Washington Week: Leading in Government Workshop

ASTHO Leading in Government WorkshopOn March 12, ASTHO facilitated a workshop in partnership with the Georgetown Law Center. Attendees were joined by John Monahan, senior advisor for global health at Georgetown University, and Howard Koh (alumnus-MA), professor of public health leadership at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School. The workshop covered a wide range of topics and offered practical tips on meeting with members of Congress, engaging governors’ offices, leveraging state Medicaid dollars for public health programs, and overcoming regulatory obstacles in state government.

Washington Week: OMB Dinner with ASTHO, NACCHO, NALBOH, and Big Cities Health Coalition

OMB Dinner with ASTHO, NACCHO, NALBOH, and Big Cities Health CoalitionOn Tuesday evening, March 12, ASTHO, NACCHO, NALBOH, and the Big Cities Health Coalition attended a combined dinner at the Washington Marriott Georgetown to illuminate the important public health work done across states, territories, and localities. The group heard a presentation from Marc Garufi, chief of the public health branch at the Office of Management and Budget, about the current budget environment.

Washington Week: ASTHO and NACCHO Host “Meet and Greet” at Russell Senate Office Building

ASTHO and NACCHO Host Meet and Greet at Russell Senate Office BuildingThe following morning, on March 13, ASTHO and NACCHO sponsored a “meet and greet” breakfast reception before their annual Hill Day. State and local health officials assembled in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room to network and prepare for the day ahead. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) shared opening remarks reinforcing the value of public health work and caught up with Rhode Island’s health official, ASTHO President Nicole Alexander-Scott.

Washington Week: 2019 Hill Day: ASTHO and NACCHO Members Meet with Members of Congress

2019 Hill Day: ASTHO and NACCHO Members Meet with Members of CongressOn March 13, ASTHO and NACCHO members took to Capitol Hill to share a unified message about the critical need to sustain investments in public health agencies that protect and promote the health of all Americans and prevent sequester cuts in the FY20 budget. The day consisted of meetings with members of Congress. Health officials discussed public health issues and priorities impacting their constituents, encouraging Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to support funding levels for CDC and other important public health programs. Check out #PublicHealthOnTheHill on Twitter for more coverage and photos from the day!


Washington Week: ASTHO Members Meet with HHS Leadership

Health officials meet with several HHS leaders during Washington WeekFollowing Wednesday’s meetings on Capitol Hill, health officials met with several HHS leaders, including Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, and Nafisa Jiwani, Deputy Senior Advisor for Value-Based Care at HHS. Giroir invited ideas and feedback on ways the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health can support work at the state level around several key priorities, including efforts to address the opioid epidemic, eliminate HIV, and counter anti-vaccine rhetoric. Kadlec spoke about the importance of maintaining a robust public health preparedness infrastructure to respond to a variety of incidents and threats, including measles, Ebola, and natural disasters. Jiwani outlined several of the HHS Secretary’s initiatives to transform healthcare into a more value-oriented system, citing opportunities related to health IT, interoperability, and data sharing.

Washington Week: ASTHO Meets with SAMHSA and HRSA Leadership

ASTHO Meets with SAMHSA and HRSA LeadershipOn March 15, ASTHO members convened with SAMHSA and HRSA leadership for a discussion on substance abuse trends, budgeting, and collaboration between state and federal agencies. Elinore McCance-Katz, SAMHSA’s assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, started the morning with a presentation on the latest national substance use and mental health data. HRSA Administrator George Sigounas followed with a discussion on how state and federal agencies can work together to stretch their budgets and maximize programmatic impact. Sigounas held a Q&A session, during which ASTHO members presented the needs of their states and inquired about the role federal agencies can play in solutions.

Washington Week: ASTHO Board of Directors Meets

ASTHO Board of Directors Meets March 2019On March 14, the ASTHO Board of Directors convened in Washington, D.C. The board heard a presentation from Steven Reynolds, MPH, deputy director of CSTLTS, and discussed several important operational items.

ASTHO Convenes PRISM Learning Community Policy Academy

ASTHO Convenes PRISM Learning Community Policy AcademyOn March 9, ASTHO’s maternal and child health team, in partnership with the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP), convened the Promoting Innovation in State and Territorial MCH Policymaking (PRISM) Learning Community Policy Academy. Six states and territories participated in cohort 1 of PRISM, including Arkansas, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Iowa, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Washington state. Gerd Clabaugh (SHO-IA) attended and provided invaluable guidance to the Iowa state team. Presenters included HRSA, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, and the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. The National Conference of State Legislatures presented on their new MCH database tool which tracks enacted state laws on fourteen different topics. Through facilitated sessions, teams identified priorities and drafted action plans they will use during the PRISM Learning Community to support public health policy implementation related to MCH mental health and substance misuse and addiction.

House Subcommittee on Environment Hearing: Examining PFAS Chemicals and their Risks

House Subcommittee on Environment Hearing: Examining PFAS Chemicals and their RisksOn March 6, the House Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing on PFAS chemicals and their risks to human health. The hearing featured testimony from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Rep. Daniel Kildee, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, Dave Ross, as well as the Department of Defense (DoD) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment, Maureen Sullivan. Both Rep. Fitzpatrick and Rep. Kildee focused their testimony on the urgent need for DoD, EPA, and other federal public health agencies to address PFAS contamination in drinking water and protect the public from future exposures. Rep. Kildee underscored the need to focus on contaminated site cleanup, while Rep. Fitzpatrick urged EPA to set legally enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund Act. Ross discussed EPA’s newly released PFAS Action Plan, noting that designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA and moving forward with the MCL process as outlined under the Safe Drinking Water Act are both included in the plan. EPA will soon release interim groundwater clean-up recommendations. Sullivan outlined DoD’s actions to reduce exposures to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at the 24 DoD installations that tested above EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory level of 70 parts per trillion combined for PFOA and PFOS, as well as their efforts to clean up contamination at the 401 military installation sites with known or suspected releases of PFOA or PFOS into the environment. More information on the hearing, including a video archive and links to written witness testimonies, can be found here.

ASTHO and CDC Host Meeting on Strengthening Community-Clinical Linkages to Improve Health Outcomes

ASTHO and CDC Host Meeting on Strengthening Community-Clinical Linkages to Improve Health OutcomesOn March 6-7, ASTHO, in partnership with CDC, hosted a convening that showcased examples of successful and innovative collaborations between healthcare and community-based partners to address health-related social needs, with a particular focus on transportation and food insecurity. Public health officials, Medicaid directors, CMS Accountable Health Communities bridge organizations, federal partners, philanthropies, and private insurance providers discussed their roles in strengthening multi-sector partnerships. Pictured below is Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of CDC, who spoke at the meeting.

ESOOS Partner Meeting

ESOOS Partner MeetingOn Feb. 27-28, ASTHO, in partnership with CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, convened the Enhanced State Opioid Overdose (ESOOS) Partner Meeting in Atlanta. The meeting featured presentations on CDC’s response to the opioid epidemic, as well as an in-depth look into the ESOOS program and upcoming funding. The meeting focused on how CDC ESOOS strategies interact with and complement other organizations’ current opioid work and how information might be used synergistically to achieve goals. Attendees discussed challenges faced related to mortality and morbidity surveillance data and brainstormed solutions.

Arkansas’ Nate Smith Attends Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

Nate Smith AK Attends ACIPOn Feb. 27-28, Nate Smith (SHO-AR) attended ACIP in Atlanta as a representative on behalf of ASTHO. ACIP develops vaccine recommendations for children and adults in the United States. Recommendations include the age when the vaccine should be given, the number of doses needed, the amount of time between doses, precautions, and contraindications. Before recommending a vaccine, ACIP considers many factors, including vaccine safety and efficacy. During the session, ACIP voted on recommendations for Japanese Encephalitis and anthrax vaccines. There were also several informational sessions on influenza, human papillomavirus, pneumococcal, meningococcal, zoster, and hepatitis vaccines.

ASTHO CEO Discusses State and Territorial Public Health at Harvard

ASTHO CEO Discusses State and Territorial Public Health at Harvard On Feb. 26, ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser spoke to students at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, providing an overview on state and territorial public health, then presented at an all-school lecture on “Threats and Opportunities to State and Territorial Public Health.” The presentation focused on the people, programs, policies, and priorities of ASTHO members and ASTHO’s work in Washington, D.C. Both lectures were opportunities for students to learn more about the work of state and territorial public health and consider careers in government in the future.

ASTHO and Partners Host 4th Texas Opioid Workshop

ASTHO and Partners Host 4th Texas Opioid WorkshopOn Feb. 13, ASTHO, with funding from CDC’s Opioid Crisis Jurisdictional Support program and in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, hosted a regional workshop in Austin, TX, to discuss access and analysis around state and local opioid-related data. Thirty-six participants attended from state, local, and tribal governmental agencies, along with healthcare organizations and providers. Participants were trained on how to analyze data from a public health perspective, access and use the state’s data visualization website, and how to use the state’s syndromic surveillance reporting system.

ASTHO Hosts Public Health Leadership Roundtable

Public Health Leadership Roundtable attendeesOn Feb. 14, ASTHO convened the first meeting of the Public Health Leadership Roundtable at ASTHO’s headquarters in Arlington, VA. The roundtable, which included 40 partner organizations with an interest in state and territorial public health, discussed common concerns and challenges around national and federal policy for public health agencies. The assembled organizations shared legislative agendas, with the goal of strengthening communication and coordination around state and territorial public health leadership and policy.

ASTHO Emphasizes the Role of Public Health at the HIMSS19 Global Conference

ASTHO attendees at the HIMSS19 Global ConferenceOn Feb. 11-15, ASTHO attended the Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) 2019 Global Conference in Orlando. State health officials in attendance included Mylynn Tufte (SHO-ND), Gerd Clabaugh (SHO-IA), and Shereef Elnahal (SHO-NJ), all of whom participated on several educational sessions, learning labs, and roundtable events. On Feb. 12, ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser delivered the keynote address during the HIMSS State and Local Policy Luncheon, describing how to build a national public health informatics and IT infrastructure through people and processes. On Feb. 13, ASTHO hosted an ignite session and lunch to learn more about burning issues, success stories, and key priorities from state health officials, informatics directors, national partners, and federal representatives. ASTHO’s presence at HIMSS represents a great leap forward in elevating the role of public health, as we continue to communicate public health’s role in connecting systems and data across multiple sectors.