Featured Story

FeaturedStory

May is Mental Health Month, a time to recognize the ways mental health is tied to state health agency priorities, such as chronic disease, substance misuse, and suicide prevention. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is a strong link between mental illness and chronic disease with, for example, depression increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.Read More »

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Ensuring Vaccine Coverage with School Vaccination Requirements

June 19, 2019|3:51 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With the number of measles cases across the country reaching a level not seen in nearly three decades, policymakers continue to explore a variety of ways to increase vaccine coverage and prevent future outbreaks. When enough people are vaccinated against a communicable disease, such as measles, the spread of the disease is limited and exposure to the disease decreases. This is particularly important for those who, because of age or a medical condition, cannot be vaccinated. This community-wide vaccine protection is known as herd immunity. The amount of coverage needed to reach herd immunity varies with the disease and often depends on the disease’s contagiousness. For example, measles, a highly contagious disease, requires a high rate of vaccination, between 93-95 percent by some estimates. Read More »

Recognizing 25 Years of Tobacco Control Success and Collaboration

June 19, 2019|10:37 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

This year, the Tobacco Control Network (TCN), an ASTHO peer network, celebrates the 25th anniversary of its successful work supporting state and territorial tobacco control programs in their common pursuit of working towards a nation free from the health and disease burdens of tobacco use. TCN was formed in 1994 as an information sharing initiative between CDC, the National Cancer Institute, and the tobacco control programs in each state and territorial health agency. Following CDC’s creation of the National Tobacco Control Program in 1999, the network reorganized, with a focus on increasing the importance of tobacco control in state and territorial health agencies and fostering collaboration and communication among state and territorial tobacco control and cessation programs. With the support of ASTHO and funding from CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, TCN continues to facilitate education, information sharing, and collaboration among state and territorial tobacco control stakeholders across the country. Read More »

State Policy Approaches to Address Healthcare Workforce Shortages

June 12, 2019|3:08 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Healthcare workforce shortages can reinforce or contribute to health disparities. Rural communities tend to have fewer physicians, nurses, specialists, and other healthcare workers, while also facing higher rates of chronic disease, mental illness, and obesity than their urban counterparts. Retaining adequate healthcare personnel in shortage areas is a contributing factor, especially as healthcare personnel working in shortage areas often experience isolation from their peers and burnout from seeing a greater number of patients and working longer hours than those in non-shortage areas. An essential element to ensuring an adequate healthcare workforce is to improve the reach of provider recruitment programs, which can build a strong and diverse healthcare workforce that represents the population served. Read More »

States Authorize Pharmacists to Prescribe and Dispense Contraceptives

June 06, 2019|12:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

An increasing number of states have adopted laws setting out conditions under which pharmacists may prescribe and dispense contraceptives. Allowing pharmacists this role can increase access to contraceptives which, when used properly, can help avoid unintended pregnancies and delay subsequent pregnancies. Research shows that 45 percent of U.S. pregnancies are unintended and almost one-third of U.S. births occur within too short a time period from a previous birth (i.e., 18 months). Both of these circumstances are associated with higher rates of later access to prenatal care, premature birth, and low-birth weight. With women often facing economic, informational, and systematic barriers to contraceptive access, expanding the role of pharmacists in providing such care could be viewed as a way to improve maternal and child well-being and health outcomes. Read More »

Four Strategies to Help New Health Officials Become Successful Leaders

June 06, 2019|11:03 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Terry Dwelle (alumnus-ND) served as the state health officer for the North Dakota Department of Health from 2001-2016. A North Dakota native, Dwelle worked previously at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, CDC, and the Indian Health Service. Looking back on these professional experiences and his 15-year tenure as North Dakota’s top health official, Dwelle reflects on four strategies that helped ensure successful leadership, as well as the support ASTHO offers new state health officials as they develop the skills and competencies necessary to run a public health agency. Read More »

A Patchwork Quilt of State Approaches to CHW Training

May 30, 2019|10:25 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Community health workers (CHWs) are front-line public health workers who have a unique understanding of the communities they serve through shared and lived experience. CHWs provide a wide range of services including advocacy, health education, patient navigation, as well as social-emotional support. According to NIH, some of the key outcomes of CHWs’ services include improved access to and use of healthcare services, better understanding and enhanced communication between community members and the health and social services systems, improved adherence to healthcare provider recommendations, and reduced utilization of emergency and specialty services. Read More »

Emerging Trends in State Lyme Disease Legislation

May 23, 2019|10:51 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize those impacted by the disease and increase awareness about one of the most common vector-borne diseases in the United States. Lyme disease, caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium and transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, has been a nationally notifiable disease since 1991, with health agencies reporting approximately 30,000 Lyme disease cases to CDC each year. Reported cases may only be the tip of the iceberg, however, since additional studies of disease diagnoses estimate that approximately 300,000 cases occur annually. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Abinash Achrekar

May 23, 2019|10:40 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In 2019, Abinash Achrekar, MD, became deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health after serving as interim chief of cardiology at the University of New Mexico. He is immediate past-president of New Mexico’s American Heart Association. As deputy secretary, Achrekar participates in ASTHO matters on the department’s behalf. In this interview, Achrekar discusses his move from cardiology to state government, policy goals for the agency, and how a mobile unit is connecting asylum seekers along the U.S. southern border with health services. Read More »

Improving Access to Oral Healthcare: A Snapshot of State Initiatives

May 09, 2019|10:31 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental insurance coverage for children, adults, and seniors dropped by approximately 4-5 percent from 2010 to 2015. In 2016, dental care was found to have the highest level of cost barriers compared to other healthcare services, with 8.9 percent of the population reporting that they needed but did not obtain dental care in the past year due to cost. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Lisa Piercey

May 08, 2019|5:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP, is commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. Preceding her public service, Piercey spent a decade in health systems operations, most recently as executive vice president of West Tennessee Healthcare, a public, nonprofit health system. Piercey is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in both general pediatrics and in child abuse pediatrics. . Read More »

Legal Challenges to Public Health Orders During the Recent Measles Outbreaks

May 02, 2019|1:25 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Courts can play a big role during outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. While state and local public health authorities are established legislatively and exercised by the executive branch through state and local health agencies, the judicial branch is sometimes called upon to review the use of public health authority. Recent legal challenges to public health orders in New York reveal some of the issues public health can face before a court during a disease outbreak and illustrate the ever-present need for public health agencies to exhibit legal preparedness. Read More »

States Enact Tobacco 21 Laws

April 24, 2019|1:53 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

CDC recognizes tobacco use as the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States and estimates that each day, approximately 2,000 people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, with more than 300 becoming daily cigarette smokers. In 2015, the Institute of Medicine projected that if the age of sale for tobacco products was set at 21 years of age across the country, there would be 249,000 fewer premature deaths. Since the report was published, several jurisdictions have increased the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. By the end of 2018, laws to increase the age of sale, also known as tobacco 21 laws, were enacted in six states—California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon—as well as Washington, D.C. and Guam. Read More »

Women, Syphilis, and Drug Use: A Renewed Convergence

April 24, 2019|11:57 a.m.| Hazel D. Dean, ScD, DrPH (Hon), FACE

Women’s health is again threatened by the convergence of syphilis and drug use. In 1988, the health risk was driven by the co-epidemics of crack cocaine and syphilis. Today, the threat again comes from syphilis, this time combining with the epidemics of methamphetamine, heroin, and other injection-drug use. To protect women’s health, we should rethink how we can address this syndemic (i.e., two or more health problems interacting synergistically) while drawing on the lessons learned from prior syphilis increases and from the longitudinal relationships between healthcare providers and people living with HIV. Read More »

Public Health and Interoperability: A State Perspective

April 17, 2019|7:38 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Karen Smith, MD, MPH, is state health officer for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Formerly a public health officer for Napa County Health and Human Services Agency, Smith brings a wide array of knowledge as a physician specializing in infectious disease and public health. ASTHO recently spoke with Smith about the department’s capacity to address population health outcomes through informatics, analytics, and interoperability. Read More »

States Propose Raw Milk Legislation to Prevent Milk Borne Disease

April 17, 2019|6:06 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria and can carry dangerous germs, such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Raw milk and raw (unpasteurized) dairy products such as soft cheese, ice cream, and yogurt cause serious foodborne illnesses. From 2007 to 2012, 26 states reported 81 outbreaks linked to raw milk, which resulted in 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations. Infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk. Fifty-nine percent of outbreaks involved at least one child younger than five years. Read More »

States Take Action to Address Food Insecurity

April 10, 2019|5:52 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In 2017, one in eight Americans experienced food insecurity. Food insecurity has a direct impact on physical and mental health status, educational attainment, and life expectancy. Public programs are in place to help families access foods, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. States are also exploring strategies to more effectively leverage these resources, increase enrollment, and ensure there are vendors and locations available to dispense these resources. Read More »

State and Federal Actions to Protect Communities from Toxic PFAS Chemicals

April 10, 2019|4:36 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In recent years, the public health community has focused more attention on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. After several high-profile lawsuits in Minnesota and West Virginia thrust environmental PFAS contamination and human exposure issues into the national spotlight, the public became understandably concerned, demanding action from elected officials and governmental public health agencies. Environmental PFAS contamination is a complex issue that requires leadership and input from multiple stakeholder groups, including local, state, and federal public health agencies, elected officials, the public, and industry. Read More »

Building Healthy and Safe Communities by Understanding and Preventing Suicides

April 03, 2019|5:08 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With this year’s National Public Health Week, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and its partners are highlighting key issues towards creating the healthiest nation. To achieve this goal, APHA stresses the importance of building safe and healthy communities, which includes such things as reducing risks to pedestrians and bicyclist, increasing access to healthy foods, and preventing violence and suicides. Over the past few years, several states have begun to address and tackle the issue of suicide through law and policy. Below are a couple of examples of how states are using laws to promote suicide awareness and prevention. Read More »

State Earned Income Tax Credits as a Prevention Strategy for ACEs

March 28, 2019|10:09 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Evidence shows that exposure during childhood to negative events, also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), can increase a person’s likelihood of encountering long-term chronic or behavioral health issues, such as heart disease, violence, suicide, and substance use. ACEs, such as child abuse, neglect, or household deprivations (e.g. parental incarceration, substance use, or separation) are often clustered, with individuals who experience at least one ACE being more likely to experienced multiple ACEs. With data indicating the prevalence of ACEs extending to almost half of children nationwide, policymakers in many states are exploring ways to prevent them, as a result reducing the negative health impacts associated with them. Read More »

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