Featured Story

FeaturedStory

South Carolina and Pennsylvania recently joined Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Alaska, Virginia, and Massachusetts in issuing statewide emergency declarations to address the opioid epidemic. While emergency declarations typically address natural disasters or infectious disease outbreaks, the growing trend of invoking emergency powers for opioids highlights the actions states are willing to take in response to an increasing number of overdose deaths. Read More »

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Engaging Communities and Healthcare Partners to Improve Heart Health: Progress and Opportunities for Public Health

February 15, 2018|2:38 p.m.| Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH

It seems fitting for Valentine’s Day to occur during American Heart Month, a national health observance that reminds Americans to focus on their hearts. Promoting heart health is an important duty for public health leaders, too. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in this country and a source of considerable suffering and disability. It’s also one of our success stories: Public health has made significant progress in reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease, mostly through tobacco control efforts and medical advances. However, following years of decline, these deaths rates are leveling off and additional action is needed to sustain progress and save countless lives—not just in February, but all year round. Read More »

An Early Look at Tobacco Legislative Trends in 2018

February 15, 2018|2:18 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Public health laws serve as a vital intervention to reduce the negative health effects and costs of tobacco use. Less than two months into 2018, ASTHO is already tracking close to 300 pieces of legislation that impact tobacco control efforts. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Alexia Harrist

February 15, 2018|1:26 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Alexia Harrist is state health officer and state epidemiologist of the Wyoming Department of Health’s Public Health Division. A board-certified pediatrician, Harrist entered public health after becoming an epidemic intelligence service officer assigned to the Wyoming Department of Health. She then worked as a medical officer in the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination at CDC prior to returning to Wyoming. Harrist earned her MD and PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Read More »

Menthol Cigarette Use Remains Issue Among African American Communities

February 13, 2018|2:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

State public health agencies play a key role in reducing the public’s use of all forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, and menthol cigarettes. Menthol, an organic flavoring compound found naturally in mint plants, is often used as an additive in consumer products such as lozenges, candies, and cigarettes. When added to cigarettes, menthol makes cigarettes more harmful by making smoke less irritating to inhale deeply, and changing how nicotine addiction impacts the brain. Since the 1960s, cigarette manufacturers have been marketing menthol cigarettes specifically to African Americans through culturally tailored messaging in television, radio, and print media advertising. As a result, cigarette smoking is now a key contributor to the increase in death and disease burdens among African American communities. Read More »

State Approaches to Treating Opioid Use Disorder With Medical Marijuana

February 08, 2018|3:51 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With the opioid overdose death rate continuing to rise and an estimated 2.1 million people with opioid use disorder (OUD), the effective treatment of opioid addiction and dependence remains essential. Research shows that medication-assisted treatment (MAT)—the combination of counseling and behavioral therapies with one of three medications approved by FDA (i.e., methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone)—is an effective treatment. However, even with the development of a successful treatment, barriers to MAT access (e.g., insurance coverage and provider availability) remain. While efforts to increase access to MAT are being made—by expanding the types of providers who can administer MAT (e.g., through physician waivers for buprenorphine and waivers for nurse practitioners and physician assistants) and ensuring health insurance coverage for OUD treatment (e.g., both private and public payers)—attempts to add OUD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana are taking place in some states. Read More »

ASTHO Profile Report Supports Population Health

February 07, 2018|12:28 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

José Montero, MD, MHCDS, is deputy director of CDC, as well as director of the Office for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support. In this position, Montero oversees support to the U.S. health departments, tribal nations, and insular areas, as well as activities designed to improve the public health system’s capacity and performance. Prior to CDC, Montero served as director of the Division of Public Health Services at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and as ASTHO President. Montero has extensive experience in public health leadership and in the prevention and control of infectious diseases. With this in mind, ASTHO spoke with Montero to discuss the ASTHO Profile report and its impact on public and population health. Read More »

Best Practices for States to Identify and Address Breast Cancer Disparities

February 02, 2018|12:46 p.m.| Josh Berry, MPH

To understand why the diagnosis is deadlier for some women, ASTHO was funded by CDC to create a breast cancer disparities learning community to help health departments in Arizona, Tennessee, and West Virginia identify and address the unique state and local disparities in breast cancer screening rates, the time it takes women to seek follow-up care after an abnormal test result, and cancer treatment quality. This work revealed many best practices, lessons learned, and resources to assist other health departments in addressing breast cancer disparities. Read More »

States Leverage Executive Authority to Address Severe Flu Season

February 01, 2018|3:34 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With this year’s flu season still going strong, activities to prevent the spread of flu remain key. From handwashing to limiting contact with others when you are sick, each individual plays a role in reducing spread. It is not too late to get a flu vaccine and important to recognize flu symptoms and know when to seek treatment. Governors in Alabama and New York addressed expanding access to treatment and vaccines when they recently issued emergency declarations to address the flu in their states. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Scott Harris

February 01, 2018|3:17 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Scott Harris, MD, is acting state health officer of the Alabama Department of Public Health. Harris joined the department of public health in 2015 after practicing medicine for more than 20 years. He is one of the founding members of the Community Free Clinic of Decatur-Morgan County, a nonprofit that provides free medical care to the uninsured. Harris served as the clinic’s medical director from 2004-2015. He continues to serve on the clinic’s board. Read More »

How Family Physicians Are Addressing the Social Determinants of Health (and Where Public Health Leaders Can Engage)

January 31, 2018|3:41 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Health outcomes are inextricably linked to the social and physical environments in which we are born, live, work, play, and age. The Healthy People 2020 framework reflects key categories of social determinants of health, encompassing economic stability and income, the neighborhood and built environment, education, the social context, and access to healthcare services. Read More »

Report indicates e-cigarettes may have benefits for individuals but an overall negative impact on society

January 30, 2018|7:17 p.m.| Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH

On Jan. 23, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that has important implications for public health practice. The report is the first to systematically address a number of important scientific and health questions that have emerged as use of electronic cigarettes has become widespread. Read More »

Telehealth is an Innovative Population Health Strategy

January 29, 2018|11:57 a.m.| Emily Moore

Telehealth is a growing innovation used by healthcare providers and state health agencies to increase access to healthcare and public health services, address health disparities affecting vulnerable populations, and reduce healthcare costs. Telehealth is defined as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. For rural and underserved areas in particular, telehealth can reduce transportation barriers and address workforce shortages. Read More »

Supporting and Integrating Community Health Workers: Leadership Opportunities for State Public Health Agencies

January 26, 2018|11:57 a.m.| Anna Bartels

Improved population health lies at the intersection of clinical healthcare delivery and community-focused public health. Community health workers (CHWs) have a unique ability to bridge these two fields and address both individual and community health. Read More »

State Marijuana Legislation – The Landscape After Attorney General Policy Shift

January 25, 2018|2:17 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded several Department of Justice (DOJ) memoranda which set guidance for the enforcement of federal marijuana prohibitions. In doing away with the Cole memo (adult-use marijuana), the Ogden memo (medical marijuana), and the Wilkinson memo (tribal issues), Sessions is leaving the federal investigation and prosecution of marijuana activities to the discretion of the various U.S. attorneys across the country. Since state and territorial health agencies are often legislatively delegated key roles and responsibilities in medical marijuana programs the reaction to the rescission is being closely watched by state public health. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Kristina Box

January 25, 2018|11:38 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Kristina Box, MD, is state health commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health. Prior to this, Box worked as a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Indianapolis, starting her career at Community Hospitals of Indianapolis as a private practitioner with Clearvista Women's Care. Since 2015, Box has served as the physician lead for Community Health Network's Women's Service Line. In addition, Box has served on the Indiana Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative, an advisory council to the Indiana State Department of Health comprised of more than 300 statewide community professionals working to reduce infant mortality. Box earned her undergraduate degree at Indiana University in Bloomington and her medical doctorate at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Indiana State Medical Association, and serves on many hospital committees. Read More »

CMS Announces New Policy Guidance for States on Medicaid Work Requirements

January 24, 2018|4:21 p.m.| Emily Moore

On Jan. 11, 2018, CMS announced new policy guidance allowing states to test participation in work or other community engagement as a requirement for continued Medicaid eligibility or coverage for certain Medicaid adult beneficiaries through demonstration projects authorized under section 1115 of the Social Security Act. Read More »

As Flu Season Intensifies State Public Health Leaders Offer Advice

January 18, 2018|4:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On Jan. 17, ASTHO hosted a media call with the press, as well as state public health leaders from California, Colorado, and Rhode Island, to discuss this year’s deadly flu season and what individuals can do to protect themselves and their families. Influenza is now widespread throughout the country, with pediatric deaths and flu-associated hospitalizations reported at much higher rates than the previous two flu seasons. According to CDC’s Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report for the week ending on Jan. 6, a total of 6,486 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations and 20 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Karen McKeown

January 18, 2018|2:29 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Karen McKeown is the state health officer and administrator of the division of public health in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. As an oncology staff nurse and leader for 11 years, McKeown previously oversaw the clinical operations of inpatient and outpatient oncology departments. McKeown’s health policy experience includes a student fellowship with the U.S. Senate finance committee and a graduate fellowship with the Heritage Foundation. McKeown holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in Tyler, as well as a master’s degree in nursing management, policy, and leadership from Yale University. Read More »

Member Spotlight: John Wiesman

January 11, 2018|4:09 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

John Wiesman is president of ASTHO and secretary of health for the Washington State Department of Health. The department of health in Washington is a cabinet-level agency in a decentralized state, with 35 local, independent health departments governed by their own boards of health and more than 1,700 employees overseeing public health areas such as: disease control and epidemiology, health promotion, vital statistics, environmental public health, state public health laboratories, health professions and facility licensing, rural health, and emergency preparedness and response. Read More »

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