Featured Story

FeaturedStory

Aptly designated, September is National Preparedness Month, established in 2004 to promote family, community, and business disaster and emergency planning and readiness. As we all know and should continually reaffirm, disasters can happen anywhere at any time; come in various sizes, shapes, and forms in that they are both manmade and naturally occurring, can be somewhat predictable as well as “no-notice”; and can have a local, regional, national, or global societal impact. This year’s theme is “Prepared, Not Scared” with an emphasis on encouraging parents, teachers, and caregivers to teach our youth what to do when a crisis occurs, and how we all can take preparedness actions together.Read More »

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Business Process Improvement: A Territorial Public Health Agency Perspective

October 21, 2019|4:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Catherine de la Cruz-Duran, RN, BSN, MS, is Puerto Rico’s Territorial Health Official Designee and Secretary of Planning, Development, and Federal Affairs. She was born in Buenos Aires Argentina and grew up in Lima, Peru until the age of sixteen when her family immigrated to the United States. She recently retired after 30 years in the U.S. Army, serving in multiple locations during her military career. She was stationed in Puerto Rico at the time of Hurricane Maria and worked as a liaison between the Comfort Naval Hospital and the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH) to evacuate critical care patients from damaged hospitals on the Island to the naval hospital ship. Her experience during Hurricane Maria was a significant event that led her to stay and work for the people of Puerto Rico. Her goal is to advocate for health equity and create opportunities for everyone in Puerto Rico to feel empowered to achieve the highest level of health. Read More »

States Employ Wide Array of Policy Options to Address the Risks of Vaping

October 17, 2019|4:27 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Several states are taking swift action to address the rise of vaping among youth and the nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries. Earlier this month, ASTHO reviewed some of the recent state executive orders, emergency rules, and state legislation aimed at restricting the sale and distribution of flavored vaping products. Read More »

States’ Food, Housing, and Transportation Initiatives Aim to Reduce Health Disparities

October 10, 2019|2:25 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The environments in which people live, learn, work, play, and worship directly impact health. Considerable evidence supports the connection between housing, food security, and transportation and health outcomes. Further, systemic and structural barriers have created disparities among groups in terms of their ability to be healthy and to live in healthy environments, which has subsequently stymied the opportunity for all communities to achieve optimal health. States are advancing place-based initiatives and implementing policies to build healthy environments that improve health and ensure equitable opportunity for wellness. Read More »

Using the Icelandic Model to Prevent Teenage Substance Use

October 09, 2019|4:26 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Harvey Milkman, DPhil, is psychology professor emeritus at Metropolitan State University in Denver and principal consultant for the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program serving at-risk youth. He has devoted his life to researching youth substance abuse prevention and has published numerous articles and co-authored the book Pathways to Self-Discovery and Change: Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents. Read More »

States Take Executive and Legislative Action to Address Vaping and Flavored E-cigarettes

October 03, 2019|10:35 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Youth electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use is a growing concern among state and federal policymakers and a public health issue that FDA claims has “hit epidemic proportions.” E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco products among youth and young adults, with e-cigarette use growing 900 percent among middle and high school students from 2011 to 2015. An estimated 3.6 million middle- and high-school-aged youth reported using e-cigarettes in 2018. Read More »

Statewide Banning of Flavored E-Cigarettes and Other Strategies to Reduce E-Cigarette Use

September 19, 2019|3:11 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

The use and regulation of e-cigarettes continues to be a major news item across the country as federal agencies take strong action to regulate e-cigarette products. Following public comments from HHS Secretary Alex Azar and President Donald Trump, HHS issued a press release on Sept. 11 announcing that the agency intends to remove all flavored e-cigarette products from the market until manufacturers of those products file premarket tobacco product applications with FDA. This comes at the heels of preliminary findings from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), which indicate that over one quarter of U.S. high school students report using an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days, an increase from 2018 when the rate of past 30 day use was 20.8 percent. Read More »

State Policies Aim to Improve Sepsis Prevention and Treatment

September 19, 2019|11:59 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, a time to highlight a serious, life-threatening condition. Sepsis occurs when a body’s immune system overwhelmingly responds to an infection and triggers widespread inflammation, leading to blood clots and leaky blood vessels, which can result in organ damage and death. Sepsis can be caused by a wide range of infections, but is most commonly linked to infections of the lungs, kidneys, skin, and gut. Sepsis occurs in patients across the lifespan, but most commonly in infants and individuals over 65. People with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease, or with weakened immune systems are also at risk for sepsis. While sepsis is cause for daily concern, it is also a national security issue as those who survive in the aftermath of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear event are at a high risk of also developing sepsis. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Jill Hunsaker Ryan

September 16, 2019|9:39 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Jill Hunsaker Ryan, MPH, is a public health professional with nearly 25 years of experience in the field. In January, she was appointed by newly-elected Colorado Governor Jared Polis to become the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Prior to her appointment, Director Ryan was a two-term county commissioner, where she focused on determinants of health like affordable housing, healthcare, early childhood development, transit-oriented development, environmental justice, climate action, and mental health services. Director Ryan has a background in health planning and epidemiology, and in 2001 she wrote the state’s first assessment of health disparities, which subsequently led to the creation of an Office of Health Disparities, now called the Office of Health Equity. Director Ryan previously served as manager of the Eagle County Public Health Agency and as vice president of the Colorado Board of Health as a governor's appointee. Read More »

Policymakers are Prioritizing Diabetes Management Given Soaring Insulin Prices

September 12, 2019|10:58 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Over 30 million Americans live with diabetes, and diabetes accounts for $330 billion in healthcare spending annually. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and number one cause of kidney failure and adult blindness. All fifty states and the District of Columbia offer chronic disease prevention and management programs, including those that utilize evidence-based lifestyle change programs and build community-clinical connections. Read More »

State Legislation Encourages Healthy Food Choices

September 04, 2019|5:36 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The environment in which we live, work, and play contributes to our eating habits making “you are where you eat” just as important as the more familiar adage. Our surroundings can make healthy eating choices difficult, especially when nutritious foods are costly and unavailable and unhealthy foods are abundant and accessible. Over 23 million people in the United States live in “food deserts,” or low-income neighborhoods that are more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store and often home to less nutritious, inexpensive food choices such as fast-food restaurants. Read More »

Infection Prevention and Outbreak Control in Dialysis Settings

August 28, 2019|10:27 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

End-stage renal disease patients are at an increased risk for acquiring infections related to their healthcare. Working with home care providers and other partners, state and territorial public health departments can support infection prevention and control practices in all settings where patients receive dialysis treatment. ASTHO spoke with Jeanne Negley, healthcare-associated infection program surveillance director at the Georgia Department of Public Health and member of the Making Dialysis Safer for Patients Coalition, about the role health departments can take in making dialysis settings safer, as well as her experience in addressing infection control and outbreak response in dialysis settings. Read More »

The Impact of Rural Hospital Closures and State Responses

August 27, 2019|4:25 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Since 2010, 113 rural hospitals have closed. An additional 21 percent of rural hospitals—a total of 430 facilities—are at high risk of closure. Further complicating matters, 64 percent of those hospitals are considered essential to their communities—a designation made based on a hospital’s trauma center status, its service to vulnerable populations, its distance from other hospitals, and the economic impact it has on a region. Research indicates that access to healthcare and economic vitality are severely reduced following a rural hospital closure. Read More »

Severe Pulmonary Illness Connected to Vaping

August 22, 2019|12:38 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

ASTHO is closely following the current respiratory disease clusters associated with vaping. As part of these efforts, we are in regular contact with CDC regarding updates on their findings and response. We are also working with CSTE and affected states to support response. The following is an overview of what ASTHO currently knows about the present situation and anticipated future action. . Read More »

Measles Resurgence Makes for Busy Year in Vaccination Policy

August 22, 2019|12:05 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an opportunity to highlight the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages. Vaccination can prevent certain deadly diseases in infants, children, teens, adults, and travelers of all ages. When enough people are vaccinated against a disease, the spread of the disease is limited and exposure decreases. When too many people remain unvaccinated, perhaps due to a lack of access to vaccines or because they are hesitant, vaccine-preventable diseases remain a threat. For example, 2019 saw the greatest number of measles cases reported in the United States since 1992 and since measles as an endemic disease was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. Read More »

Fungus Among Us: Three Fungal Diseases that Cause Pneumonia in the United States

August 22, 2019|11:42 a.m.| Tom Chiller, MD, MPHTM, chief of the Mycotic Diseases Branch, CDC

With Fungal Disease Awareness Week beginning next month, on Sept. 23, it is critical that we educate the public about endemic fungal diseases and work to better understand these diseases. Many people are familiar with common fungal diseases like ringworm and athlete’s foot. These are usually mild illnesses that improve with treatment. Our small but mighty team at CDC works on the fungal diseases that can cause severe disease and even death. In the United States, three main types of fungi—coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, and blastomycosis—can cause lung infections like pneumonia when people breathe in fungal spores from the air. Depending on where you live, you may be more likely to come in contact with one of these fungi. Read More »

Increasing Number of States Require Naloxone to be Co-Prescribed with Opioids

August 15, 2019|1:22 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

This month’s "Vital Signs" report from CDC examines the prescribing and dispensing of naloxone by retail pharmacies. The availability of naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, has been identified by the U.S. Surgeon General as a key component in the public response to the opioid epidemic. The CDC report reveals that the prescribing and dispensing of naloxone has increased over the last few years while acknowledging additional room for improvement. For example, in 2018, only one naloxone prescription was dispensed for every 69 high-dose opioid prescriptions (i.e., prescriptions for opioid dosages equal to or greater than 50 morphine milligram equivalents, or MME, per day). Read More »

State Legislative Approaches to Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality

August 08, 2019|2:35 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The United States is the only developed country with an increasing rate of maternal mortality. The maternal mortality rate has doubled over the past two decades, with evident racial and ethnic disparities. According to data from CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, non-Hispanic black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications compared to their white non-Hispanic counterparts. In fact, reports show that a higher proportion of African American women do not receive the recommended number of pre-natal visits, which is a factor in pregnancy-related deaths. African American women are also more likely to die from pregnancy-related deaths, even after controlling for factors such as age, pre-natal care, and income, according to recent studies. Data from CDC indicates that nearly 60 percent of maternal deaths in the United States are preventable and most occur within 42 days of the postpartum period. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Alexander Billioux

August 08, 2019|2:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Alexander Billioux, MD, DPhil, is assistant secretary of health for the Louisiana Department of Health's Office of Public Health. Billioux is an internal medicine physician focused on improving individual and community health through innovative public health approaches, including cross-sector population health strategies, business and community engagement, and sharing data to foster coordinated learning health systems. Prior to his current appointment, he served as a senior advisor to the director of the CMS Innovation Center and director of the Division of Population Health Incentives and Infrastructure. Billioux was a 2015-2016 White House Fellow, serving at HHS under former HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Read More »

States Look to Address the Impact of Postpartum Depression

August 01, 2019|12:51 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Seven percent of pregnancy-related deaths are associated with underlying mental health conditions. As the United States continues to see increasing rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, it is critical that we focus on improving the mental health of mothers. One of the better known maternal mental health conditions is postpartum depression, a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult to care for themselves, their children, and others. Data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), a CDC surveillance project that collects state-specific, population-based data on maternal attitudes and experiences before, during, and shortly after pregnancy, show that one in nine U.S. women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Read More »

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