ASTHO Policy Watch: E-Cigarettes and Flavored Tobacco Products

January 27, 2022|11:31 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each year, ASTHO notes the top public health policy issues to watch in the upcoming year. ASTHO has published a prospectus on several issues, with more coming later this month. ASTHO kicked off its top 10 public health state policy issues to watch in 2022 with Immunization the first week in January. This week, we are focusing on e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. Read More »

States Using Settlement Fund Legislation to Enhance Response to the Opioid Crisis

January 26, 2022|11:05 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

State and territorial health agencies continue to be challenged by the opioid epidemic, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing the opioid crisis requires a robust public health response, which could be helped by resources from pending and future opioid settlement funds. Read More »

ASTHO Policy Watch: Public Health Workforce

January 25, 2022|3:58 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Continuing ASTHO’s Legislative Prospectus series—which highlights the top 10 public health policy issues for 2022—we are focusing this week on mental and behavioral health as well as supporting the public health workforce. Read More »

A New Year, a New Plan

January 20, 2022|12:27 p.m.| Zarnaaz Bashir, MPH | ASTHO Deputy Chief Executive Officer

What better way to start the new year than with a new strategic plan! ASTHO’s Board of Directors approved the 2022-2024 Strategic Plan and launched it on Jan. 3, 2022, with a new set of priorities that reflect our ever-changing world and factors that influence the future of public health. Read More »

ASTHO Policy Watch: Polyfluoroalkyl substances

January 20, 2022|10:57 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each year, ASTHO notes the top public health policy issues to watch in the upcoming year. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that can migrate into soil, water, and air during production and use, and can accumulate in the blood of people and animals over time from exposure. Read More »

Joining Forces to Advance Resiliency to Complex Disasters

January 19, 2022|11:59 a.m.| Wayne E. Cascio, MD | Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Research and Development | EPA

In the face of a worldwide pandemic, an increase in natural disasters, and the unsettling specter of homeland security threats, it’s easy for public health and environmental officials to feel like the odds are stacked against us. But we have a powerful partnership to level the playing field: EPA has joined forces with ASTHO and the Environmental Council on States. Together, we are rising to meet the environmental and related public health challenges the nation faces today while increasing our capacity to help communities bounce back from adversity. Read More »

ASTHO Policy Watch: Ending the HIV Epidemic

January 18, 2022|11:12 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As part of ASTHO’s annual Legislative Prospectus series, we are taking time this week to focus on efforts to end the HIV epidemic. Public health officials across all levels of government have been working to end the HIV epidemic, exploring new partnerships and efforts to implement evidenced based policies that could eliminate HIV. Read More »

Seven Public Health Podcasts to Follow in 2022

January 12, 2022|10:40 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Public health is rapidly changing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health professionals are having to navigate their way through these changes all while remaining steadfast in their ability to help their communities. With new information emerging every day, it's essential to have a backlog of sources you can reference that are trustworthy, up-to-date, and easy to access. Read More »

ASTHO Policy Watch: Health Equity and Rural Health

January 10, 2022|11:33 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each year, ASTHO notes the top public health policy issues to watch in the upcoming year. ASTHO has published a prospectus on several issues, with more coming later this month. ASTHO kicked off its top 10 public health state policy issues to watch in 2022 with Immunization the first week in January. This week, we are focusing on health equity and rural health. . Read More »

ASTHO President Nirav D. Shah Looks Ahead to 2022

December 30, 2021|4:34 p.m.| Nirav D. Shah, MD, JD | Director, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and ASTHO President

Amid so much uncertainty, it might feel naïve to make any claims about what the future holds. But it is in these moments that it becomes more important than ever to have beacons to guide us and give us hope. As we look ahead to 2022, here are four priorities that must steer the public health course in the year to come. Read More »

Proposed Vaccination Laws to Watch in the New Year

December 29, 2021|11:30 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Vaccines are one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century, as well as some of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to prevent disease, disparities, disability, and death among children and adults. The COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented development and distribution of the vaccines against the novel coronavirus have generated much focus on state laws related to vaccinations. The increased attention means vaccine policy will be a closely watched issue during this year’s state and territorial legislative sessions as well as the impact any new laws may have on vaccine coverage. As state and territorial legislatures prepare to convene in the coming weeks, we can already identify several topics within vaccine law that policymakers across the country will consider. . Read More »

ASTHO’s Most Used Resources of 2021

December 22, 2021|11:38 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

ASTHO's mission is to support, equip, and advocate for state and territorial health officials in their work of advancing the public's health and well-being. To that end, here are the 12 most popular resources our members, partners, and email subscribers accessed in 2021. Read More »

HiAP Strategy Works in States, Locally to Meet Equity Challenges in COVID-19 Response

December 21, 2021|4:54 p.m.| ASTHO and NACCHO Staff

While governments have faced challenges in adopting a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to respond to COVID-19, the impact of the public health emergency across sectors such as housing, transportation, and employment has created a unique opportunity for stakeholders to build and strengthen collaborative systems to address the inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. To aid health departments in their HiAP efforts, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations (ASTHO) offer this overview of state and local experiences utilizing HiAP strategies to respond to the needs of their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

Forward Focus: The Urgent Need to Address Rising Cases of Viral Hepatitis

December 15, 2021|1:17 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of viral hepatitis continue to rise at alarming rates across the United States. Data from CDC highlights a 133% rise in cases of acute hepatitis C infection from 2012-2019 and new case counts four times higher than those seen a decade ago. Additionally, although the United States met annual targets for reduction in cases and deaths associated with chronic hepatitis B, continued efforts to increase awareness of testing and linkage to care remain necessary. Read More »

State Legislative Activity Supports Federal Evidence-Based HIV Prevention Initiative

December 15, 2021|10:56 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Across the nation, public health agencies have mounted herculean efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic while addressing a pre-existing HIV epidemic and an opioid crisis that is serving as a source for many new HIV outbreaks. Tackling these public health crises simultaneously presents significant challenges as overdose deaths have spiked in the past year while HIV resources have been diverted leading to lower testing rates, fewer prescriptions for as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and a decrease in HIV treatment, all of which will are likely to increase the number of acute HIV infections. Read More »

Embedded: When Disaster Strikes for People Living With Disabilities

December 14, 2021|11:36 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Over the past twenty years, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and natural disasters have increased and, by most accounts, this trend will continue. Disasters can impact anyone but past incidents highlight the particularly negative effects on people living with disabilities. Certain disabilities and activity limitations make it more difficult to prepare for and evacuate from an incident, underscoring the importance of planning in advance. Read about ASTHO’s specialists Erin Dotten (Michigan), Brooke Riester (New Mexico), and Stephen Heck (South Dakota), who have extensive experience understanding and responding to the needs of people living with disabilities during natural disasters. Read More »

Reflections From the Field: Pacific and Atlantic Jurisdictions Remain Resolute Amid Adversity

December 14, 2021|11:18 a.m.| Karl Ensign, MPP | ASTHO Vice President, Territorial Support

In the late fall of 2021, ASTHO leadership visited select jurisdictions in the Pacific and the Atlantic for the first time since COVID-19 curtailed travel to these regions. It was fantastic to reconnect with our leadership and dedicated staff! Unsurprisingly, we heard about the jurisdictions’ challenges, including chronic ones related to funding and infrastructure, as well as new challenges resulting from the global pandemic. Read More »

Transportation, a Destination in Itself

December 08, 2021|7:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Access to quality and reliable transportation is an indispensable aspect of American life. But for too many, social and economic conditions stand in the way. How do residents of Elk County, Kansas—where the nearest hospital is about 70 miles away—obtain necessary care in the face of transportation issues? How do residents of any medical desert bedeviled by transportation issues obtain care? These questions, among others, are difficult to answer for both the individuals who confront them directly and the experts and policy makers who confront them only indirectly. Read More »

Flu Activity Rising: It’s Time to Get the Vaccine!

December 08, 2021|6:15 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The 2020-2021 influenza season in the United States was historically quiet since so many people took steps to mitigate COVID-19 exposure (e.g., masking, hand washing, travel restrictions, and school closures). As a result, reduced population immunity could make this flu season more severe. Nationwide, both laboratory-confirmed influenza detection and outpatient visits for influenza-like illness have increased in recent weeks. Read More »

Factoring Housing Into Federal and State Policies to Improve Community Health

December 02, 2021|11:17 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Housing and overall neighborhood conditions significantly influence a community’s health. Housing quality, stability, and affordability also directly impact an individual’s opportunity and ability to be healthy. There are several policies and initiatives at the federal and state levels focused on improving four pathways connecting housing and health as discussed in this post. Read More »

Deciphering COVID-19 Clinical Trial Information for the Public Health Community

December 02, 2021|10:27 a.m.| Tina Dortch | Program Manager | Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health and Equity

As communities around the country continue to navigate the complexities of COVID-19 management and prevention this fall, reliable resources are needed for connecting public health leaders with the latest information on treatment. HHS's Combat COVID website provides information and tools for both the public and public health officials to learn about available COVID-19 treatments and clinical trial research underway to identify new treatments. Read More »

Embedded: One Year Review of Disability and Preparedness Specialists Project

December 01, 2021|12:33 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On Dec. 3, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, ASTHO is commemorating nearly 12 months of supporting disability and preparedness specialists in state and territorial health agencies. Throughout 2021, ASTHO embedded 20 full-time disability and preparedness specialists within state and territorial public health agencies to ensure an inclusive approach to emergency preparedness. Over the coming weeks, ASTHO will introduce each of the to share insights and best practices. Read More »

World AIDS Day 2021: Ending the HIV Epidemic

November 30, 2021|5:18 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On World Aids Day, commemorated each year on Dec. 1. This year's World Aids Day theme is Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice. Joining our conversation from the Health Resources and Services Administration are Laura Cheever, Associate Administrator for HIV/AIDS Bureau, and Heather Hauck, Deputy Associate Director. Read More »

The Historic Opportunity COVID-19 Presents to Address Health Equity

November 24, 2021|10:24 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

The disparities experienced during the COVID pandemic have brought a national focus to health equity in our nation. The attention and resources currently being provided to help address health inequities provide an opportunity that I have never experienced in my public health career. There are still challenges, but we have an opportunity to build momentum for the first time in decades if we can focus on implementing evidence-based strategies, demonstrating change and documenting our progress. Read More »

Recent Federal Actions Spur Changes to Children's Blood Lead Level Screenings and Response

November 21, 2021|3:58 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced new challenges for screening children’s blood lead levels, as screening rates across the country dropped during stay-at-home orders. A substantive federal policy change and provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are significantly changing the landscape for reporting and reducing childhood lead poisoning. Read what states are doing in this week’s health policy update. Read More »

Interagency Collaboration to Improve Business Processes in the U.S. Virgin Islands

November 19, 2021|6:10 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

A groundbreaking “all-of-government” approach is getting underway in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) to more efficiently manage and expend federal grant funding for social determinants of health and overall population health improvement. The initiative follows findings that public health agencies encounter redundant, multi-layered review and approval processes that hamper their ability to efficiently procure needed goods and services that address long standing and emerging public health needs. Moreover, such processes hinder the ability to quickly stand up critical programs and respond to public health emergencies. Read More »

Public Health Thank You Day: Thoughts From ASTHO Leadership

November 19, 2021|12:25 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Every year on Nov. 22, ASTHO—and countless other agencies and organizations worldwide—take a moment to acknowledge the public health workforce on Public Health Thank You Day. Like so many other days of recognition, it has become a blip on our yearly calendar. And, simply put, that’s just not enough. This year, ASTHO leadership took pen to paper to share some of our feelings, fears, and—yes, our thanks—for everything the public health workforce has always done to protect us. Read More »

Rural Health Perspectives: West Virginia and Montana Share Priorities

November 17, 2021|11:13 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

National Rural Health Day is a way to celebrate these rural or underserved communities and to highlight healthcare providers and recognize challenges that these communities face. In recognition of Rural Health Day, which falls annually on Nov. 18, we spoke with Ayne Amjad, MD, MPH (SHO-WV) and Maggie Cook-Shimanek, MD, MPH (SHO-MT) about the importance of public health in rural areas. Read More »

National Rural Health Day: States Investing in Rural Communities

November 16, 2021|12:05 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

November 18 is National Rural Health Day, a commemoration started by State Offices of Rural Health to recognize the power and resilience of rural communities. Twenty percent of the U.S. population lives in rural communities. Recognizing the needs of rural areas, states are introducing and enacting legislation that leads to focused investment in rural communities and expanded access to care. Read More »

Vaccinating Children: The Final Step

November 10, 2021|12:16 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer | Claire Hannan, MPH | Executive Director, Association of Immunization Managers

As we anticipate the likely approval of COVID-19 vaccination for children, our nation faces the final step to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control. If approved for children ages 5-11, the COVID-19 vaccine will dramatically improve our efforts to resume in-person learning in our nation’s schools and will help break the cycle of transmission from children to adults. Read More »

Update for Public Health Workforce About Federal Loan Forgiveness

November 09, 2021|10:11 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In addition to the countless hours worked during the COVID-19 pandemic, many public health workers are also grappling with how to repay outstanding federal loans. In response, the U.S. Department of Education recently announced temporary relief to current and future Public Service Loan Forgiveness program participants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

The Shifting Legal Landscape of COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements

November 03, 2021|11:00 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As governments and private entities adopt COVID-19 vaccine protocols to protect health and safety, legal challenges are mounting. In some states, policymakers have proactively attempted to limit or prohibit adopting COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The Network for Public Health Law identified at least 65 lawsuits against COVID-19 vaccine requirements and found that courts have upheld vaccination requirements in most cases, blocking a few requirements based on religious liberty concerns. On rare occasion, lawsuits are being filed challenging a state’s limitation or prohibition of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Read More »

Understanding the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Workforce

November 02, 2021|6:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The impact of the COVID-19 response on the public health workforce has been profoundly felt by employees and the agencies they serve. Across the country, unplanned leadership transitions, early retirements, and personnel scale-ups have all impacted who the workforce is and what they do day-to-day. Many of those who have remained are feeling depleted and battered. In order to support and build the public health system the country needs, we need data specific to governmental public health. Read More »

United for One Health

November 02, 2021|10:16 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Nov. 3, 2021, marks the sixth annual One Health Day, a global campaign to recognize and embrace how public health is connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. In this post, ASTHO talks about One Health with Wayne E. Cascio, MD, who serves as the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Research and Development at EPA. Read More »

Despite Major Benefits, Flavored Tobacco Regulations Face an Uphill Battle Led by Big Tobacco

October 28, 2021|10:09 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Flavored tobacco policy has changed rapidly over the past few months. In April, FDA announced their intention to implement rules prohibiting the sale of menthol e-cigarettes and flavored cigars, though it may take years until they implement a final rule. And in 2021, 15 states and Washington, D.C. considered legislation prohibiting the sale of some or all flavored tobacco products. However the tobacco industry has seen success recently in obstructing the legislative efforts of states in this area. Read More »

The Children COVID-19 Left Behind: A Public Health Call to Action

October 27, 2021|11:00 a.m.| Lindsey Myers, Vice President, Social and Behavioral Health

Researchers estimate more than 140,000 children in the United States experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. The study highlights disturbing disparities in caregiver deaths by race and ethnicity. Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native children were at 1.1 to 4.5 times higher risk of losing a caregiver than non-Hispanic White children. These inequities result from structural and social conditions such as discrimination, living in under-resourced neighborhoods, barriers to accessing healthcare, experiencing food insecurity, and economic instability. Read More »

Courts Considering Challenges to States Blocking School Mask Requirements

October 21, 2021|9:13 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Recent state laws and governor emergency orders prohibiting universal school mask protocols are complicating the implementation of CDC’s evidence-based guidance for COVID-19 mitigation measures for in-person school. Ten states have enacted laws (Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah) or issued executive orders (Florida, Tennessee, and Texas) to limit or prohibit issuing universal face mask protocols for schools and in eight of these states the law or order now faces a legal challenge. Read More »

ASTHO and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing Address Public Health Workers

October 18, 2021|5:16 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The executive leaders of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing take a moment to collectively acknowledge the incredible efforts that public health workers have taken to address the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

Member Spotlight: Tomás J. Aragón

October 14, 2021|3:21 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Tomás Aragón, MD, DrPH serves as the director of the California Department of Public Health and the State Public Health Officer, since January 4, 2021. Prior to coming to CDPH, he was the health officer for the City and County of San Francisco and director of the public health division. In this post we discuss how COVID has impacted the Latino community. Read More »

What December Means for a Beloved Nutrition Program

October 14, 2021|2:04 p.m.| Carolyn McCoy, MPH | Brian Dittmeier

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is a targeted public health nutrition program designed to support nutrition and health behaviors that reach low-income families. The program is funded through discretionary funds to the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by each state’s health or public health department. The department then contracts with county health departments, local health centers, hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and private nonprofits to deliver community-based clinic services. Read More »

Building Capacity and Dedicating Field Staff to Address Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19

October 14, 2021|1:15 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated barriers to care and treatment for individuals experiencing opioid use disorder. Experts estimate a record-setting 90,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2020. Additionally, as the pandemic continues, it has understandably diverted attention, funds, and personnel usually focused on the opioid crisis. State and local public health departments are experiencing an all-time low in staffing, especially among Maternal and Child Health programs. Read More »

Long COVID Causes Health Policy Shifts Across States

October 06, 2021|4:35 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Data reveals that nearly one third of COVID-19 patients experience one or more post-COVID conditions that linger for weeks or months after infection. The cause, duration, and potential treatments for these conditions are still being investigated. As more information emerges, federal and state policies are beginning to support “long-COVID” patients by clarifying how post-COVID conditions correlate to disability benefits, workers compensation and protections, and supporting further research into the conditions. Read More »

States Explore the Relationship Between Partner Violence and Substance Use Disorders

September 30, 2021|1:43 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a critical moment to address intimate partner violence as a major public health threat. Intimate partner violence associated with substance use disorders and mental health challenges, and numerous studies indicate that people who are abused are more likely to use or become dependent on substances. The risk for all of these outcomes has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and COVID-19 Vaccines: Seven Things to Know

September 30, 2021|12:48 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On Aug. 11, CDC updated its guidance on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. We’ve answered seven common questions about the new guidance and what it means for state and territorial health officials as they push to vaccinate more Americans. Read More »

Partner Spotlight: Q&A with Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories

September 27, 2021|11:37 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Scott Becker is the CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). He has taken APHL from a modest nonprofit focused on public health laboratory training to a center for quality laboratory systems with a budget of $75 million, a global reach, and wide-ranging programs and services. Becker is active in national and international public health initiatives. He chairs the Governance Working Group for the Global Laboratory Leadership Program, a collaboration with the World Health Organization, CDC, and others to develop a competency-based curriculum for laboratory leaders. Additionally, Becker is a member of the Affiliate Council of ASTHO, which he formerly chaired. Read More »

Health Policy Tackles Joint Challenges of Pandemic and Natural Disaster Preparedness

September 23, 2021|3:19 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each September marks National Preparedness Month. This year, public health emergency preparedness professionals look back on 20 years since the 9/11 attacks—the event that effectively launched the preparedness field—while actively responding to COVID-19. Read More »

Pharmacies Are Critical to Pandemic Planning, Not Just Response

September 22, 2021|11:38 a.m.| Joanne Roth, Community Preparedness, Planning, and Response Section Manager at the Pennsylvania Department of Health | ASTHO Staff

Pharmacies have long been instrumental partners in providing lifesaving vaccines nationwide. As state and territorial health officials evaluate their COVID-19 response, planners must include input from the pharmacy community when identifying areas for improvement, as well as best vaccination practices in advance of future public health emergencies. Read More »

Scarce Medical Resources Caused by COVID-19 Lead to Difficult Allocation Decisions

September 16, 2021|12:14 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the Delta variant spreads across the country and increases the number of COVID-19 cases, the strain it is placing on the nation’s health system continues to grow. The surge of COVID-19 patients is contributing to a shortage of the medications and equipment used to treat the disease. As these limitations grow, decisions will need to be made as to which patients receive resources and care and which patients don’t. To guide these decisions, policies called crisis standards of care are often established to maximize resource benefit and ensure they are distributed equitably. Read More »

Public Health Preparedness: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Where We’re Going

September 09, 2021|12:35 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each September, the United States observes National Preparedness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of public health preparedness. Preparedness—a field that readies our nation to respond to a range of emergencies—is a newer public health discipline, advanced by lessons learned from each response to a public health threat. While significant progress has been made over the past 20 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need to strengthen state and local capabilities to address future emergencies. The history of public health preparedness is worth understanding, as each current and future response is impacted by lessons from the past. Read More »

The Youth Mental Health Crisis: States Invest in Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention Strategies

September 01, 2021|5:43 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Following disruptions to daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency departments saw an increase of mental health-related visits. A June 2021 study showed a significant increase of mental health-related visits among 12–17-year-olds compared to the previous year. States and territories that implement a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention across all domains of life—an approach known as the socio-ecological model—can reduce contributing risk factors. Read More »

FDA’s Approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine: Five Things to Know

August 31, 2021|3:17 p.m.| Meredith Allen, DrPH, MS | ASTHO Vice President, Health Security

On Aug. 23, the FDA announced full approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. ASTHO has answers to five key questions about the approval and what it means for state and territorial health officials: What does the FDA’s approval approve; what did we learn from the FDA’s safety and efficacy review; How long did the approval process take, and when could we see more FDA-approved vaccines; What does FDA approval mean for vaccine confidence; What does FDA approval mean for employer and university vaccine mandates. Read More »

The Importance of Family Engagement in Breastfeeding Programs

August 27, 2021|5:01 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Every August, national, state, and local breastfeeding stakeholders celebrate National Breastfeeding Month by engaging each other and the public in conversations about changes needed to build a landscape of breastfeeding support. The 2021 theme for National Breastfeeding Month is “Every Step of the Way,” which envisions a world in which all families are supported at every step along the infant feeding journey. Given evidence showing the crucial role of family members in influencing breastfeeding decisions, efforts to support breastfeeding must engage family members in addition to birthing people. Read More »

State Actions on COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements and Verification

August 26, 2021|3:50 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the COVID-19 Delta variant surges across the country, public and private employers have started instituting COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and masking protocols for their employees. On July 29, 2021 the White House announced that all federal employees would be required to be vaccinated or would have to comply with new masking rules, undergo weekly testing, and adhere to other mitigation measures. The administration also announced that nursing homes that fail to vaccinate staff will risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. Additionally, many private businesses—such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Tyson Foods—have announced that they will require employees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo routine testing as part of employment. Read More »

Taking the Smoke Out of COVID-19

August 23, 2021|3:22 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

While COVID-19 remains a top public health priority, the pandemic has also intensified the need for strong tobacco control policies and marketing campaigns. CDC recognizes current or former tobacco users as one of several groups at higher risk of severe illness, including hospitalization and death, after contracting COVID-19. It is distressing to see signs that our success in encouraging tobacco users to quit has been slowed over the past year-and-a-half. Fortunately, amid these challenges, many tobacco control groups have stayed focused. Read More »

States Address Pandemic-Linked Learning Loss Among Students With Disabilities

August 18, 2021|12:43 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

One of the major disruptions to daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was the rapid shift from in-person K-12 education to virtual learning. While necessary for social distancing and slowing the spread of disease, there is a concern that time away from traditional classroom environments has slowed student’s anticipated learning trajectory and milestones, resulting in what is referred to as learning loss. If left unmitigated, learning loss may result in lower educational achievement and poorer health outcomes in the future for current students, particularly students with disabilities. Read More »

The Changing Guidance and Requirements on Masks in Schools

August 10, 2021|1:50 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

This month, as children across the country return to classrooms, preventing COVID-19 outbreaks will be top of mind. Strategies to prevent infection, as recommended by CDC, include vaccination promotion, physical distancing, improved ventilation, contact tracing, COVID-19 screening and testing, handwashing reminders, as well as correct and consistent mask use. Of these recommendations, mask use in schools has become a hotly contested issue, especially as to whether masks should be required for students, teachers, and school staff. Read More »

Insular Areas Consider Variety of Public Health Related Legislation

August 05, 2021|11:39 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each year, ASTHO tracks and analyzes key legislation that impacts public health, and highlights the emerging trends for our members. While the bulk of the tracked legislation arises in state legislatures, ASTHO also follows legislation from the territories and Freely Associated States, jurisdictions collectively referred to as the insular areas. The insular areas often face different challenges than the states, while also sharing many common concerns. This post contains a brief look at some of the public health related legislation introduced in the insular areas during their current legislative sessions. Read More »

Braiding and Layering Funding to Address Supportive Housing

August 02, 2021|4:04 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the intersections of social determinants of health, such as transportation, education, and housing, and their impact on the health of individuals and communities. As the moratorium on evictions ends in many parts of the United States, housing in particular looms as a potential public health crisis. Research has found that stable, affordable, and accessible housing has a direct and well-documented impact on physical and mental health outcomes, leading many public health professionals to raise the alarm that the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges surrounding housing—which may become more critical in the coming months. Braiding and layering funding is when government agencies and non-traditional partners collaborate and coordinate to combine different streams of funding to address social determinants of health. This post lists three examples where funding has been successfully braided or layered to support housing needs. Read More »

Youth Sports as a Protective Factor to Promote Resiliency

July 27, 2021|4:59 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Every year in mid-July is National Youth Sports Week—in 2021 it falls on July 19-23. It’s an important health observance because youth sports create strong connections with peers and caring adults, as well as promote socio-emotional skills and positive well-being. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s National Youth Sports Strategy outlines policies and strategies that support access to youth sports. NYSS Champions, including ASTHO, work to promote participation and recognize the positive health outcomes sports can have on youth, such as limiting the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and building resiliency. Read More »

How States are Using Policy to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

July 21, 2021|7:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Approximately 700 women die annually in the U.S. between 2007-2016 as a result of pregnancy or its complications, according to CDC data. This is one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. On top of that, there are stark disparities along racial lines, with Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women having higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths compared to white women. Read More »

The Impact of Broadband Redlining on Health Equity

July 21, 2021|6:20 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Access to quality internet may not be the first thing you think of when you think about health equity, but it is something that impacts many communities. The Federal Communications Commission reports that 19 million Americans still lack access to high-speed internet. As the COVID-19 pandemic proved, having access to a healthcare provider over your computer or phone is important if physically getting to your doctor’s office isn’t an option. Communities of color, older adults, people with lower educational levels, and families of low-income are more likely to experience limited digital access. Read More »

Inclusive Contracting: Successes to Advance Breastfeeding Equity

July 14, 2021|11:22 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Though now an illegal practice, government contracts, policies, and practices have generally excluded women, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Still, practices and existing structures continue the inequitable distribution of all contracts. Governmental and non-governmental grants and funding should benefit the communities they serve while being proportionate to the communities' demographics. This is where inclusive contracting comes in. It creates an environment for organizations owned and run by women and people of color to participate in a contract fully. To address institutional and structural barriers and to acheive sustainable change, funding announcements and contracts should recommend or, if possible, require a health equity focus, equitable funding opportunities, data collection, and evaluation and process measures. Implementing these recommendations or requirements can support multi-level, multi-sector transformational change to advance health equity. Read More »

The Importance of Preparing for Future Pandemics

July 13, 2021|10:56 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As we enter COVID-19 recovery mode, we are in a moment of reflection on how we got here. However, lesson number one is that the COVID-19 pandemic was foreseeable and predictable. Yet, we found ourselves less than prepared as a country and global community. Fortunately, the best and brightest in the world are working toward improving our stance for the next, foreseeable, and predictable public health emergency, including ASTHO and its members. Read More »

2021 ASTHO Summer Reading List

July 12, 2021|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Last summer, we published our 2020 summer reading list to give your brain a break from the reality of 2020. Whether you needed to get lost in a piece of fiction or stay sharp with a work of non-fiction, we had your back. Now, as the world starts to open back up, we’re back with more recommendations. Are you finally heading out for that long-awaited vacation? Did quarantine ruin your attention span and now you finally have the bandwidth to pick up a book? No matter the occasion, here is our list of 10 books ASTHO staff loved this past year. Read More »

Resiliency, Communication, and Partnerships: Insights From the de Beaumont Foundation

June 30, 2021|11:07 a.m.| Mark Miller | Vice President of Communications, de Beaumont Foundation

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the de Beaumont Foundation has worked closely with organizations like ASTHO to support and strengthen public health. The foundation has produced several publications and guides to support public health leaders in their efforts to inform the public about COVID-19 and help build confidence in vaccines. Mark Miller, vice president of communications with the de Beaumont Foundation, shares insights into the foundation’s response efforts to COVID-19, and its partnership with key stakeholders. Read More »

Ending the HIV Epidemic: 40 Years of Progress

June 29, 2021|10:47 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

This June marked the 40-year anniversary of the first five cases of what later became known as AIDS reported in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Since then, more than 32 million people have died from the disease worldwide and nearly 38 million currently live with the HIV virus (including 1.2 million people in the United States). Over that period, tremendous strides have been made in HIV testing, prevention strategies, and treatment of individuals living with the virus to ensure that they can lead healthier and longer lives. While these advancements have led to significant progress in reducing HIV/AIDS-related deaths and new infection rates, HIV/AIDS continues to be a persistent problem in the United States. The federal government and state legislatures are taking significant steps toward ending the HIV epidemic, including steps to reduce new infections, combating stigma, and advancing access to care and HIV prevention. Read More »

Taking Care of the Public Health Workforce Post-Pandemic

June 25, 2021|10:03 a.m.| Amber Williams | Senior Vice-President, Leadership and Organizational Performance

More than half of public health workers have experienced a mental health condition this year, according to a new CDC study. The report, released Friday, describes the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce. Other studies have shown that there has been a considerable impact on the psychological wellbeing of front-line healthcare workers, as well as the general population, so it is not a surprise that COVID-19 has negatively impacted the mental wellbeing of public health workers. Read More »

States Consider Role of COVID-19 Vaccination for School Enrollment

June 23, 2021|10:22 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

This week might have marked the beginning of summer, but many policymakers and health officials have their eye on the upcoming school year and what that might mean in terms of getting students vaccinated against COVID-19. According to a recent MMWR, COVID-19 related hospitalizations among adolescents increased in March and April 2021, potentially related to increased circulation of new COVID-19 variants, changes in physical distancing, and a larger number of children returning to school or other in-person indoor activities. This increase indicates an urgent need for vaccination against COVID-19, which is currently authorized for use in youth as young as 12. Read More »

Increasing Naloxone Accessibility to Prevent Opioid Overdoses

June 16, 2021|4:38 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With data showing the number of the opioid overdose deaths escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, continues to be an important topic for policy makers. The number of laws and policies to increase access to naloxone have grown over the past several years. Policy makers across the country have expanded access to naloxone by allowing third-party prescriptions for friends, family, and other people who may encounter those at risk of an opioid overdose. Read More »

Public Health Highlights of President’s FY22 Budget Proposal

June 09, 2021|1:22 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In May 2021, President Biden released full details of the fiscal year 2022 budget. Overall, the budget request combines President Biden's American Jobs Plan, his American Families Plan, and funding priorities for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, for a projected total of $6 trillion. Read more about what the president is proposing in this post. Read More »

How Medicaid Can Bounce Us Forward Into Equitable Healthcare

June 08, 2021|7:56 p.m.| Lindsey Browning | Program Director for Medicaid Operations at National Association of Medicaid Directors

One in three individuals who contract COVID-19 will experience lasting mental health impacts, according to a recent study. This startling discovery underscores the reality facing our nation: the challenges of this last year—the public health and economic ramifications of COVID-19, coupled with the longstanding racial and ethnic inequities that it highlighted—will be felt for years, if not decades, to come. Read More »

Strengthening Protective Factors in ACEs Prevention With Medicaid 1115 Waivers

June 02, 2021|4:58 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic events that can disrupt a child’s sense of safety, stability, and bonding, leading to long-term developmental issues and negative health outcomes. State and territorial health agencies can address this public health issue by enhancing protective factors and reducing risk factors that address structural inequities (e.g., access to basic needs, housing, food, mental/behavioral, and primary healthcare). By promoting systems-level prevention strategies, like strengthening economic support and improving affordable housing approaches for families, state and territorial health agencies can prevent adverse childhood experiences. Read More »

Showing Gratitude to Our Public Health Workers

May 27, 2021|4:07 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend and honor the members of our armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and its freedoms, it is also important for us to give thanks to public health workers for being a shining example of what it means to lead in the face of a crisis. Read More »

Putting Menthol on Ice

May 26, 2021|4:06 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated public health over the past year, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 480,000 deaths each year. State public health agencies have played a significant role in reducing tobacco-related disparities by supporting efforts to ban the sale of mentholated tobacco products. In April, FDA announced it would start taking steps to ban menthol flavored cigarettes and all flavored cigars within the next year. A ban on mentholated tobacco products is certainly a positive shift in favor of years of state and local efforts by tobacco prevention and control programs. Read More »

Promoting Mental Well-Being in a Post-Pandemic World

May 26, 2021|12:09 p.m.| Colleen Carr | Director of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention at Education Development Center

Although suicide was a critical public health issue in the U.S. long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Americans are now reporting increased mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and suicidal behaviors. In addition, millions have experienced financial hardships, social isolation and loneliness, and increased stress—all of which are shared risk factors for mental health conditions, suicidal behaviors, and substance misuse. State public health officials have taken bold action over the past 12 months to mitigate the physical impacts of COVID-19, and the same swift action should be applied to mitigate the acute and potential long-term mental health, suicide, and substance use impacts. The National Response’s "An Action Plan for Strengthening Mental Health and Prevention of Suicide in the Aftermath of COVID-19" provides a roadmap for addressing the mental health, suicide prevention, and substance misuse prevention needs spurred by COVID-19. Read More »

COVID-19 and Beyond: Improving Youth Mental Health Outcomes and Disparities

May 25, 2021|12:22 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted both the physical and mental health well-being of youth. Disruptions in both their home and school life have put youth at risk for poor mental health outcomes that include increased anxiety, depression, and risk of suicide. This Mental Health Month we examine state and territorial legislation that addresses youth mental health. Read More »

Shifting Legal Landscape of Public Health and Places of Worship

May 20, 2021|10:40 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Reconciling the tension between public health and civil liberties is one of the most significant challenges of public health law and ethics. The Supreme Court of the United States historically upheld state authority to enact and enforce public health laws that temporarily limit a person’s civil liberties, such as quarantine and isolation powers that restrict a person’s freedom of assembly in order to prevent the spread of contagious disease. There have been many legal challenges to the public health orders issued to slow the spread of COVID-19—many of the claims asserting violations of First Amendment rights of assembly, association, and expression—but they’ve largely been rejected by the courts. However, courts have treated claims asserting violations of the free exercise of religion more favorably, which may indicate an impending shift in how courts analyze the impact state and territorial actions may have on religious organizations. Read More »

7 Things to Know About Recent Federal Actions and Opportunities to Improve Maternal Health

May 12, 2021|11:53 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

While the Biden Administration and Congress have no shortage of immediate health issues to focus on, improving maternal health outcomes—particularly Black maternal morbidity and mortality—have become a priority for federal lawmakers. To make sense of what’s going on, ASTHO staff partnered with the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) to outline the seven things to know happening on the federal level right now. Read More »

Building a More Equitable Food and Nutritional Assistance System Post-Pandemic: Perspective From Feeding America

May 10, 2021|12:57 p.m.| Jadi Romero | Feeding America Senior Manager of Public Policy & Governmental Relations

The need for food and nutritional assistance is growing. Based on Feeding America’s food insecurity projections released in March, it is anticipated that 42 million people may experience food insecurity this year—up from 35 million pre-pandemic. The job loss in communities as businesses had to shut down or reduce capacity has left many families across the country relying on food banks. In fact, food banks in the Feeding America network distributed 6.1 billion meals to individuals and families during this pandemic, an increase of 43% from 2019. Many of the people who have fallen into food insecurity are experiencing it for the first time in their lives, as our food pantry partners across the country report that 35% or more of the people they’re serving today had never received charitable food prior to the pandemic. Read More »

State Actions on COVID-19 Vaccine Verification

May 06, 2021|11:40 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

With the number of COVID-19 vaccinations growing, some states are looking at their vaccination rates in determining when to loosen measures that mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as venue capacity limits, business closure times, and masking requirements. As vaccinations allow businesses to reopen and customers to return, questions are arising about whether venues or services—especially those that bring people in close contact for long periods of times—such as retail stores, concert venues, entertainment venues, air travel, cruise ships, etc., can require patrons or customers to verify that they received a COVID-19 vaccine. So far, state policy makers have had mixed views on the issue. Read More »

Stronger Together: Six Strategies to Enhance Your State’s Suicide Prevention Infrastructure

May 06, 2021|11:33 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

This May, we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month and the importance of continued mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we address the physical effects of COVID-19 through social distancing, mask wearing, and vaccination, we still need to prioritize mental health and wellbeing during and after the pandemic. A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found increases in adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression (36.4% to 41.5%) and unmet mental health care need (9.2% to 11.7%) between Aug. 2020 to Feb. 2021. Read More »

Building More Equitable Health, Housing and Human Services Systems Post-Pandemic

May 05, 2021|10:33 a.m.| Frank Alexander, MPA

All too often, work in health, housing, and human services systems is siloed. However, when you move upstream and work together, these industries can address the root causes of health and social issues. If we continue to operate our systems in silos, responding with a crisis orientation, we will be unable to fundamentally improve the challenging conditions our communities face. We may be able to create the conditions for strong, thriving families and communities if we focus on strengthening community leadership and working across systems. Read More »

Supporting Infant & Child Immunizations During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Q&A with Dr. Michael Warren

April 29, 2021|3:51 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In recognition of National Infant Immunization Week, ASTHO and AMCHP interviewed Michael Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP, and Associate Administrator of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), for his thoughts on how we can protect our infants and children from vaccine-preventable diseases during this extraordinary time. Especially now, as COVID-19 vaccination expands across the country—including the hope for a vaccine for children (five years and older), and with the promise of a return to in-person education, families and communities must quickly catch up on missed vaccinations. Read More »

What’s Next for Telehealth: States Try to Make COVID-19 Telehealth Options Permanent

April 29, 2021|2:59 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, temporarily expanding the use of telehealth technologies by removing various requirements and waiving certain restrictions. Many states also expanded telehealth access through changes to state Medicaid laws. These temporary policy changes created an uptick of telehealth use that improved access to care for millions of Americans—but questions remain about which policy changes will stick around beyond the pandemic. Currently, states are making decisions about what temporary policies to permanently implement and which policies to end without disrupting the delivery of care and further exacerbating health disparities. Read More »

STD Awareness Month Highlights a Rise in Rates for Sixth Straight Year

April 28, 2021|4:41 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Though COVID-19 has dominated public health over the past year, other communicable diseases are still occurring at troubling rates. The CDC recently released data in their Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2019 report, showing that the reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continued to increase for the sixth consecutive year and are among the most reported diseases in the United States. As STD Awareness Month comes to a close, below is a breakdown of key takeaways from CDC’s surveillance report and tips for how state health officials can address rising STD rates through leadership, communications, and policy. Read More »

Partnerships for Environmental Health Challenges Show the Way Forward

April 28, 2021|10:05 a.m.| Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, PhD | Acting Assistant Administrator| EPA Office of Research and Development

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining ASTHO’s Vice President for health security, Meredith Allen, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, and the president of the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) Patrick McDonnell at the ECOS Spring Meeting. The event marked the start of a strong state-federal relationship under the new EPA leadership, highlighted by the extension of a formal Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) reaffirming a partnership between our three organizations to advance cooperative initiatives in pursuit of environmental health. Read More »

Who Are the Vaccinators? A Look at the Vaccination Workforce

April 21, 2021|1:35 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the U.S. continues to undertake the largest vaccination campaign in almost a century, it has required government at all levels to surge workforce capacity. The federal government, states, territories, and local jurisdictions are acting to meet the immediate demand for vaccination as well as expand the long-term vaccination workforce. Looking ahead, expansion of the vaccination workforce long-term will help support potential COVID-19 booster shots and expand vaccine access broadly. Read More »

Public Health Infrastructure Proposals Gain Steam in Congress

April 15, 2021|1:56 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the consequences of decades of underfunding. To ensure we are better prepared for future pandemics and biological threats, we must consider the long-term investments required to bolster our public health infrastructure and workforce. Read More »

Equity as a Pillar in Our Vaccine Rollout

April 15, 2021|11:28 a.m.| Monica Bharel, MD, MPH | Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

A year ago, it was unthinkable that we would have 600,000 cases and more than 17,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the state of Massachusetts. Many of us know someone who has become ill or has died from COVID-19 and the toll in suffering is immense. I am hopeful that the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine will be a light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel. In Massachusetts, the three pillars of our vaccine effort are to preserve life, preserve our healthcare system, and prioritize equity by focusing on reaching our hardest hit communities. So, equity is at the core of our vaccine allocation work. Read More »

Building Bridges to Better Health the ASTHO Way

April 08, 2021|10:09 a.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

“Building Bridges to Better Health,” the theme for the 2021 National Public Health Week, resonates with me for two main reasons. First, ASTHO is committed to building and maintaining the partnerships and connections needed to achieve our shared vision of state and territorial health agencies advancing health equity and optimal health for all. These relationships are bridges that connect us to others and to work that amplifies and complements our own. Second, we are deeply rooted in our mission to support, equip, and advocate for state and territorial health officials in their work of bettering health by providing technical assistance and capacity building in areas that advance our collective health and well-being. Read More »

States Work to Support Rural Hospitals Despite Pandemic Challenges

April 07, 2021|11:01 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

When rural hospitals close, it increases the distance people must travel for essential healthcare services. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and magnified the factors leading to rural hospital closures across the country. Many healthcare facilities suspended elective procedures to conserve critically needed personal protective equipment and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by patients and hospital staff. For many rural hospitals, however, the suspension of elective procedures with the reduced the use of non-urgent services by apprehensive patients meant a loss of revenue and the furloughed healthcare staff. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of all rural hospitals are experiencing negative operating margins due to reduced outpatient revenue. The rate increases in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Unfortunately, these kinds of challenges are not new to rural hospitals. Read More »

Regulating and Remediating PFAS in States

March 31, 2021|3:29 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

A once obscure public health issue that’s gotten more attention in recent years, polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals used in products such as nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics, cosmetics, and firefighting products. During production and use, PFAS can migrate into soil, water, air, where they persist. Because they remain in the environment, PFAS can accumulate in humans and animals and can be found at low levels in many food products. Exposure to PFAS can lead to harmful health effects, including an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer and a decreased vaccine response in children. Read More »

Financing Community Health Workers Through Medicaid

March 23, 2021|3:11 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the nation grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, community health workers are being recognized for the role they play in improving health outcomes of our most vulnerable communities. In fact, the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allocates funding for the recruitment, hiring, and training community health workers by public health departments. Read More »

How Can Public Health Data Take a Lead Role? Find Out at the COVID-19 TechXpo

March 17, 2021|3:19 p.m.| J.T. Lane, MPH | ASTHO Chief Population Health and Innovation Officer

While COVID-19 has shown some of the best attributes of the U.S. public health system, it has exposed the weaknesses of our data systems—wrought by chronic underfunding and further exacerbated by siloed, categorical funding and planning. Yet, even with our pandemic weariness and persistent, systemic inequities, this historic event has revealed resiliency across the country. It has also yielded new innovations, along with promising practices and partnerships in how we leverage technology and data to better respond and mitigate public health threats. To build further momentum and support the ongoing modernization efforts of our partners, ASTHO is hosting its first-ever TechXpo. Read More »

Modernizing State HIV Laws: Legislation to Prevent and Decriminalize HIV

March 16, 2021|11:09 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Though we’ve made progress on the number of HIV cases in the U.S, tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with HIV each year—a disproportionate number being people of color. In 2019, the federal government launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE) with a goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030. EHE leverages four strategies to reduce the prevalence of HIV: diagnosis, treat, prevent, and respond. State efforts to reduce the incidence of HIV align with the federal plan, with many states passing legislation to enhance prevention and harm-risk reduction efforts. Read More »

ASTHO Addresses Insular Areas Health Equity Through Federal Engagement

March 09, 2021|3:46 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, ASTHO is committed to the T in our name. The health officials from the territories and freely-associated states are valued members and we are committed to advocating for the unique policy needs and priorities of the Pacific and Atlantic jurisdictions. The insular areas face unique challenges locally but also require a specific strategy here in Washington, D.C. Funding approaches and requirements set for states do not always translate to the unique context of the insular areas. Read More »

What to Know About the American Rescue Plan

March 04, 2021|10:07 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

One of President Biden’s first actions just before being sworn into office was to draft up the American Rescue Plan, a sweeping proposal that ASTHO has committed to working with the Biden Administration on. The proposal offers a national vaccination plan, a promise to address COVID-19 health disparities, and efforts to prioritize the expansion the public health workforce. This post details some of the high-level takeaways, as they relate to public health. Read More »

Maternal Mortality in the U.S.: How States Are Working to Reverse the Rate

March 03, 2021|10:17 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Two rising health trends are negatively affecting women’s health across the United States: maternal mortality (death from pregnancy or delivery complications) and severe maternal morbidity (mental and physical health consequences from a pregnancy or delivery.) Maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) are one of the best ways to gather information on why pregnancy-related deaths occur and how to prevent them. Studies show that MMRCs can reduce maternal mortality by 20-50% since they examine the underlying causes of maternal mortality, use data to identify gaps in care, and inform a focused approach to prevent deaths and reduce disparities. Read More »

Reflections on Black History Month: A Q&A with Gail Christopher and Michael Fraser

February 25, 2021|2:11 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As Black History Month comes to a close, we wanted to reflect on racial equity and how it is intrinsically connected to the work ASTHO does every day in public health. We spoke to our CEO Michael Fraser and Gail Christopher, DN, the executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, to get their thoughts on the month and how we can prioritize diversity and inclusion year-round. . Read More »

Advocacy Over Zoom: A New Frontier for ASTHO’s Hill Day

February 24, 2021|10:58 a.m.| Carolyn Mullen | ASTHO Senior Vice-President of Government Affairs and Public Relations

Every government affairs professional in Washington, D.C. looks forward to the one day each year when their members and stakeholders fly-in to conduct in-person meetings with members of Congress and advocate for top priorities. When the global pandemic struck it completely changed the way hill days are conducted—moving from in-person meetings to virtual platforms, potentially altering this tradition forever. Acknowledging that Zoom meetings are the new frontier for advocacy, the ASTHO team sprung into action, researching best practices, talking to other non-profit organizations and Congressional staff. After an abundance of research and thoughtfulness, we decided to completely flip the script and chart our own path for ASTHO’s Hill Day this year. Read More »

How States Are Addressing the Public Health Crisis of Racism

February 23, 2021|10:45 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

An increasing body of research finds racism can have a significant impact across one’s lifespan. Research shows that persistent exposure to racial discrimination may result in premature aging, poor health outcomes, and increased prevalence of certain chronic diseases. At every level of government, policymakers are seeking to acknowledge the systemic oppression of people of color that persists and to elevate racism as an urgent public health crisis comparable to other public health emergencies. Read More »

More States Consider Restricting Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products

February 16, 2021|12:01 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

A pressing public health issue before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the need for public health interventions to reduce tobacco use is heightened with a strong association between tobacco use, in all forms, with severe COVID-19 outcomes. Additionally, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., claiming approximately 480,000 deaths each year. Evidence-based policies to reduce tobacco use like raising the age of sale to 21, increasing tobacco pricing, and prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products are common public health strategies enacted through state legislation. As anticipated in ASTHO’s 2021 Legislative Prospectus on E-Cigarettes, states are considering many of these evidenced-based tobacco reduction strategies during the 2021 legislative sessions. Read More »

Community Health Workers and the Heart of Public Health

February 11, 2021|12:13 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

Over the years evidence has expanded on community health workers (CHWs) improving outcomes and even reducing disparities in heart disease and many other public health priority areas. However, their presence in state and local public health workforce is still modest. A number of efforts have sought to expand the role of CHWs in medical care settings by developing reimbursement through third party payers, along with including them in managed care contracts and incorporating them in state Medicaid plans. The experience and lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic could substantially change the way we practice public health in the future, and provides opportunities to expand the role and presence of CHWs in the state and local public health workforce. Read More »

How State and Territorial Health Departments Can Navigate Recent Executive Actions

February 10, 2021|12:33 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

One of tools presidents have to implement and drive their strategy—particularly as they settle into the job—are executive actions. However, not all executive actions are the same and may or may not change how the federal government operates. Executive orders (E.O.) and presidential memorandums carry the force of law and allow presidents to move quickly, deliver a clear message, organize the functioning of the executive branch, and spotlight critical issues with declarations of commemorative observances. Read More »

Building a More Equitable Economy Post-Pandemic

February 08, 2021|2:54 p.m.| Ann Flagg | Senior Director, Policy and Practice, American Public Human Services Association (APHSA)

Economic security and well-being, job stability, access to safe and affordable housing, access to healthy and nutritious foods, and access to resources to manage mental and physical health—all of these things impact individual, family, and community health. The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally impacted each of these social determinants of health for many Americans. Furthermore, some communities and industries have faced harder economic impacts than others, including households with low incomes, non-white households, and households with children. Human services and public health leaders can collaborate to make sure we are rebuilding systems and programs in a way that creates healthier, more resilient families and communities. Read More »

New Executive Orders Shine Spotlight on Health and Racial Equity

February 04, 2021|3:25 p.m.| Mary Ann Cooney, RN  |  ASTHO Vice-President for Health Equity

COVID-19 has revealed the stark reality of racial and ethnic health disparities that exist nationally. Black and Hispanic Americans were nearly three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans. Black and Hispanic Americans experience a greater prevalence of underlying risk factors such chronic disease and co-morbidities, access to health care, lower socioeconomic status, and others. The root causes of these disparities can be attributed to structural racism and the legacy of policies that perpetuates health inequities. As we commemorate Black History Month throughout the month of February, it is imperative that we work to correct the wrongs of the past and address structural racism and health inequities to build a healthier future. Read More »

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: State Considerations for 2021

February 03, 2021|11:07 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) has become more prevalent in the United States, with the hospitalization rate increasing from 2.9 to 7.3 hospitalizations per 1,000 newborn births between 2009 and 2017. NAS occurs in newborns who experience withdrawal from substances they were exposed to during pregnancy. While NAS is most often associated with exposure to opioids (e.g., Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome), it can also be caused by exposure to other drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, or barbiturates. Infants with NAS experience withdrawal symptoms including tremors, irritability, poor feeding, vomiting, dehydration, and increased sweating. These symptoms usually appear within 72 hours of birth. Read More »

How States are Preparing for Opioid Settlement Funds

January 27, 2021|12:32 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The opioid crisis continues to claim the lives of thousands across the United States and has cost the economy billions in health care, mortality, and criminal justice costs. In 2018, it’s estimated that 67,367 people died of overdose, with opioids (prescription opioids, heroin, and other synthetic opioids other than methadone) made up almost 70% of overdose deaths. Provisional data for the twelve-month period ending December 2019 shows that there were 71,130 overdose deaths, with 50,178 overdose deaths attributed to opioids. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the drug overdose crisis. Data shows that in the time of continued lockdowns and social distancing that overdose rates have increased, indicating a sustained need to support people with substance use disorder (SUD). Read More »

Lessons Learned from the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands COVID-19 Response

January 25, 2021|1:11 p.m.| Karl Ensign, MPP | ASTHO Vice-President of Territorial Support

As COVID spread throughout the country and infection rates rose in every state, the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) received media attention as remaining relatively COVID-free, apart from Guam. And most recently, the USAPI received renewed attention as they led the nation in vaccination rates. The USAPI’s unified response in the face of a global pandemic is a history-making tale of collaboration, communication, and partnership. The successes of public health leaders provide important lessons for preventing, preparing for, and responding to future public health emergencies. Read More »

A Wondrous World: A Week of Unity, Reflection and Renewal

January 21, 2021|3:37 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

This week has been both exhilarating and poignant. Almost surreal. We started the week by pausing to celebrate and reflect on the life and legacy of one of America’s greatest sons, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Tuesday, ASTHO participated in the National Day of Healing, which provided opportunities for our staff to engage in conversations with one another, seeing one another’s humanity, as well for individual mediation, reflection and learning. On Wednesday, we were honored to witness the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris—the first woman, first Black and first Asian American to serve in this role. This week also marked one year since we learned of the first known case of COVID-19. Despite these challenges, I am more optimistic now than ever that our collective impact and commonsense recovery response will help guide our successful return to safety and normalcy. Read More »

States Consider Expanding Scope of Flu Vaccine Policies

January 19, 2021|11:43 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The 2019-2020 flu season had approximately 5 million fewer illnesses than the previous year. Thanks to COVID-19 mitigation efforts like social distancing and increased handwashing—coupled with a higher rate of flu vaccinations among the public this year—this all likely led to a milder end to the 2019-2020 flu season and start of the 2020-2021 flu season. Although there were fewer flu illnesses overall last year, the rates of infection, hospitalization, and death were more severe for children aged 0-4. There were 80 deaths of children under the age of 5 last season, however due to underreporting the CDC estimates that as many as 254 children under age 5 died over the course of the 2019-2020 season. Read More »

What ASTHO Expects from the Incoming Biden Administration

January 14, 2021|11:13 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the country prepares for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Wednesday, the incoming administration has highlighted several priorities over the next four years. Below is a summary of priorities that are closely aligned with the work and interests of state and territorial public health, including continued COVID-19 recovery and response, racial equity, and climate change. Read More »

ASTHO’s Public Health Resolutions for 2021

January 13, 2021|4:39 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Every year, ASTHO performs an annual environmental scan to identify these policy and programmatic priorities. The most recent scan occurred from June 2019 to May 2020. Through ongoing collection of data from a variety of sources—including state and territorial health improvement plans and strategic plans, documentation of discussion topics from ASTHO’s weekly calls with state and territorial health officials (S/THOs), requests for technical assistance that ASTHO receives from S/THOs and agency staff, and subject matter expert input on trends and issues emerging in the field—ASTHO accumulated a catalogue of issues facing S/THAs and identified those most commonly experienced among jurisdictions over the year. These priorities will be ASTHO’s “2021 resolutions” as we enter a new year. Read more about these priorities below. Read More »

Public Health Policy Issues to Watch in 2021

January 07, 2021|2:08 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With many of the state and territorial legislatures reconvening over the next few weeks, we can look forward to new (and not-so-new) legislation start to crop up that will impact public health. To help navigate the new legislative sessions, ASTHO’s "2021 Legislative Prospectus" series highlights eight priority policy areas jurisdictions will address during this year. Each prospectus in the series provides a brief overview of the issue, the issue’s impact on health, and recent legislative trends aimed at addressing the issue. This year, ASTHO developed prospectuses on COVID-19, e-cigarettes, HIV, influenza, maternal mortality and morbidity, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and rural health. Read More »

2021 CEO Look Ahead: What is Our Next Normal?

January 06, 2021|1:09 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

I think we all welcomed 2021 with open arms as we look to put the worst of 2020 behind us. I know I sighed a huge sigh of relief at 12:01am and embraced this new year with more anticipation than many others. We have all been through a lot—we have lost family members and friends to COVID-19, we have seen public health officials harassed and maligned, we sheltered-in-place, stayed home, and radically altered our day-to-day schedules, we have witnessed protests over police brutality and racial discrimination, and we have lived through (and still are living through it) a presidential transition unlike any other. Despite all the challenges, turmoil, and changes wrought by 2020, the work of state and territorial public health continues. What is on our ASTHO horizon as we greet this new year and the opportunities and challenges it presents? Here are a few things on my mind as I look toward the future. Read More »

A Public Health Milestone: COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A With Meredith Allen, ASTHO’s Vice President for Health Security

December 17, 2020|2:47 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The delivery of the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to hospitals across the country this week is a major moment in United States public health history. We sat down with Meredith Allen, ASTHO’s vice president for health security, to contextualize the significance of this achievement and what it means for the pandemic response moving forward. Read More »

The Legal Framework for Administering COVID-19 Vaccines

December 17, 2020|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

After a deadly year, a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infections is finally here. Earlier this month, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and will be considering a similar authorization for a vaccine developed by Moderna later this week. Anticipating a rapid deployment of COVID-19 vaccines as they are authorized, the CDC developed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Operational Guidance in collaboration with state and local jurisdictions to outline how each jurisdiction will make an authorized vaccine widely available. In addition to the operational plans, there is a legal framework of federal and state laws supporting the distribution and administration of the FDA-authorized vaccines. Read More »

Ending the HIV Epidemic Through Community Engagement

December 16, 2020|10:24 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the federally-funded “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” enters its second year, it is apparent that community engagement is paramount in reaching those that are out of care and making sure resources are available to the communities who need them most. Community engagement involves meaningful participation of non-traditional partners, elevating their voices and empowering communities to improve their own health. The federal government is affirming its commitment to community engagement and keeping a health equity lens front and center, and states are following suit in their own HIV planning. Read More »

The Seven Biggest Public Health Policy Issues on the Hill in 2020

December 09, 2020|1:15 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As a truly historic year comes to an end, many public health policy issues received a considerable amount of attention in 2020. From the pandemic that will live on in infamy, racial health disparities, and the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these are just a few of the major health issues that took center stage on Capitol Hill this year. Read More »

Emphasizing Seasonal Flu Vaccination Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

December 07, 2020|12:44 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each year the U.S. battles seasonal influenza, leaving millions of people sick, hospitalized, or worse. CDC estimates 35 million illnesses, 490,000 hospitalizations, and 34,000 deaths were attributable to the flu during the 2018-2019 flu season. It’s critical to increase flu vaccination coverage in order to prevent the spread of disease and keep communities healthy. An objective of the Healthy People 2030 initiative is to increase the proportion of individuals 6 months and older who get the flu vaccine annually to 70%. While the U.S. has made great strides, flu vaccine uptake remains less than optimal. The overall flu coverage estimate for the 2019-2020 flu season was 48%. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it is crucial for all eligible individuals to receive a flu vaccine to help reduce the likelihood of contracting both flu and COVID-19. Read More »

Examining the Americans With Disabilities Act in Emergency Responses

December 02, 2020|10:28 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

On Dec. 3, the International Day of People with Disabilities commemorates disability rights and brings awareness to essential issues for those with disabilities by promoting the “well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society.” This year’s International Day of People with Disabilities is notable in the United States, as it coincides with the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the ADA laid a critical foundation for disability rights, the work to ensure equitable access to services and needs continues, including access to state and local emergency preparedness and response activities like crisis communication, access to resources, allocation of vaccine and other medical countermeasures, and transportation. Read More »

A World AIDS Day Unlike Any Other: Resiliency During the COVID-19 Pandemic

December 01, 2020|10:15 a.m.| J.T. Lane, MPH | ASTHO Chief Population Health & Innovation Officer

This World AIDS Day is unlike any since the first in 1988. Today, we are celebrating the progress we have made, and the work we have remaining, in HIV/AIDS efforts for the first time during a global pandemic. The federal government’s theme for World AIDS Day 2020 is Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact, and while that’s especially meaningful, it is also distressing for too many in both our country and global community. For nearly a year, state and territorial health officials and their agencies, in partnership with local health departments, providers and emergency responders, have been mounting our nation’s best defense against COVID-19, while also endeavoring to maintain our decades-long national progress in Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE)—a major priority of the Trump Administration. Read More »

The Importance of Collecting Data on Pregnant Women and Infants During Public Health Emergencies

November 30, 2020|4:57 p.m.| Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP | Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of life, every demographic, and every geographic region, and key components of the historic response have been understanding who is at greatest risk for severe illness and death, along with the long-term consequences of infection. We’ve learned from previous emergency responses that pregnant women and infants can be disproportionately affected by emerging infectious diseases, like Zika virus and H1N1 influenza. New data available underscore the importance of monitoring pregnant women and their infants during the COVID-19 pandemic to better inform public health action and clinical guidance and protect their health. Read More »

Domestic Holiday Travel Pandemic Restrictions and Recommendations

November 23, 2020|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The 2020 holiday season is coinciding with a nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases. With great concern that holiday travel to see loved ones may exacerbate community spread of the virus, many states are increasing public health measures before the winter holiday season. As of Nov. 16, 13 states and D.C. had a quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers. The U.S. territories also have instituted travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Read More »

An Unprecedented Public Health Thank You Day

November 20, 2020|6:31 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

If there is any word to describe 2020 it is “unprecedented,” with the work of health agencies front and center since COVID-19 emerged in the U.S. But as we approach Public Health Thank You Day and the Thanksgiving season, ASTHO wants to send a special appreciation to our entire state and territorial public health workforce. We have been so impressed by your tireless work to address COVID-19 in your jurisdictions and you have wowed us all with your dedication and commitment to the work of health protection and improvement. Thank you all for all you do to keep your communities healthy!. Read More »

Harnessing the Power of Rural: Expanding Access to Telehealth

November 18, 2020|3:38 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As we celebrate National Rural Health Day this year, we are reminded of how important telehealth can be for public health and healthcare. Telehealth, the use of telecommunications technology to provide clinical healthcare, public health program services, or health education, can minimize challenges faced by rural patients and communities—such as transportation, provider shortages, etc.—manage volume, increase the quality of healthcare, and lower overall costs by reducing readmissions and avoidable emergency department visits. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that access to reliable broadband is still a challenge and is a key social determinant of health for rural Americans. Read More »

The Light at the End of the (Long) Tunnel

November 16, 2020|9:58 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

As state and territorial leaders of the nation’s pandemic response, health officials’ focus now is how we can provide effective public health guidance through these next few months. And although there are hopeful new interventions on the horizon, clear direction-setting in every state and territories is vital to assure our planning and implementation is fair and focused on those most at need. These are not entirely unprecedented times. The 1918 pandemic flu killed almost 700,000 Americans. Even then, despite increasing understanding of respiratory disease transmission, many leaders—including public health leaders—downplayed the pandemic and refused to take effective steps to limit large gatherings and encourage mask wearing. Changing behavior, or introducing new social norms, was as difficult then as it is now. We have to learn from history if we are to effectively respond to our present reality. Read More »

Voters Decide on Health-Related Ballot Proposals

November 12, 2020|10:38 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In last week’s election, voters in several states cast their ballots on proposals related to the use of legal and illicit drugs. These ballot proposals influence key public health issues such as tobacco control, substance use prevention and treatment, and mental health—with many of them implemented by state health agencies. Below is a brief summary of the proposals to increase tobacco prices, reallocate the use of tobacco settlement funds, allow the medical and non-medical use of marijuana, decriminalize and re-prioritize certain drugs offenses, increase addiction recovery services, and establish the use of psilocybin (i.e., a hallucinogenic chemical obtained from certain plants and fungi) for mental health conditions. Read More »

What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

November 05, 2020|12:47 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Many pharmaceutical companies urgently began developing a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year to reduce the spread of the virus as the threat of a pandemic loomed. Fast forward several months and millions of COVID-19 cases later, states and territories are preparing to distribute a potential vaccine with preliminary plans for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine due to the CDC in October. Read More »

Rebuilding a More Equitable Housing System Post-COVID

November 04, 2020|1:51 p.m.| J.T. Lane, MPH | ASTHO Chief Population Health & Innovation Officer

Well before COVID-19 hit, an increasing share of American households faced housing challenges. Last year, 18.2 million American households (renters and homeowners alike) were considered severely burdened, paying more than half their incomes for housing. This is a public health concern because stable, affordable, and accessible housing has a direct and well-documented impact on physical and mental health outcomes. The window to act is now. Further, the high number of households with unstable housing and accumulating debt—as well as the stark racial disparities present—mean we must rethink how our systems and institutions operate. Read More »

State Public Health Authorities Face COVID-19 Legal Challenges

October 29, 2020|1:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 spread across the country, governors and health officials invoked their emergency powers to order physical distancing measures designed to reduce social interactions and slow the spread of the disease. Several of these measures, such as stay-at-home orders, business and school closures, public gathering limits, face covering requirements, and others, are being challenged in federal and state courts. Many of the legal challenges include claims of executive overreach and misuse of emergency power as well as allegations of violating individual rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. Read More »

The Importance of Voting in a Pandemic

October 29, 2020|12:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

You may be wondering why we should vote in the middle of a pandemic, when there are so many stresses on our lives and the process feels so polarized. But voting has a direct impact on health. It is one way that we care for our family, our community, and one another. In fact, the issues we vote on have a bigger impact on our health than our personal choices because our community conditions define the choices available to us. Policy decisions on housing, education, infrastructure, climate, jobs, and healthcare are directly linked to our health and the well-being of our communities. Read More »

State Policy Actions to Support Long-Term Care Facilities During COVID-19 Response

October 21, 2020|5:16 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 emerged and spread in the U.S., those working and residing in long-term care facilities (LTCF) have experienced a significant burden of COVID-19 cases and deaths. As of Oct. 8, deaths associated with LTCF account for 40% of total COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. LTCF are at increased risk for outbreaks due to limited infection prevention and control capacity, staff who travel to work at multiple facilities—and during the COVID-19 pandemic—limited access to PPE. Additionally, residents at LTCF are more susceptible to infectious disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19, due to aging, high rates of underlying chronic diseases, and congregant living environments. Read More »

Creating a 21st Century Legacy Toward Thriving Families

October 21, 2020|3:53 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | CEO of ASTHO | Tracy Wareing Evans | CEO of APHSA

States grappling to ensure continuity of services amid the COVID-19 pandemic highlight a stark reality: the welfare of our nation’s children falls short of our collective aim to eradicate structural inequities among communities of color and low-income families. Swift action from public health and human services leaders to advance a collective vision that encompasses a prevention focused child welfare model is a critical opportunity for collaboration between public health and human service partnerships. Read More »

Education and Public Health: Supporting Youth Through COVID-19 and Beyond

October 15, 2020|3:05 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Toxic stress contributes to a variety of negative outcomes for children. And unfortunately, COVID-19 has increased the likelihood of children experiencing childhood trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and toxic stress. States and territories should have programmatic, and policy mechanisms to both prevent and mitigate the lifelong effects. A CDC Vital Signs Report found that preventing or mitigating ACEs could reduce depressive disorder by 44%, smoking by 33%, and unemployment by 15%. Read More »

A Conversation With José Romero to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 14, 2020|12:34 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place annually from September 15-October 15 to celebrate the history, culture, achievements, and influence of the Hispanic and Latinx community in the U.S. In recognition of this month, ASTHO interviewed one of our newest members, José Romero, MD, Secretary of Health at the Arkansas Department of Health. In this blog post, he speaks with us about how his experiences as a Hispanic working in healthcare have impacted him and his leadership style. Read More »

The Need for Modernizing Public Health Data in Responding to COVID-19

October 08, 2020|12:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Public health data collection and surveillance systems by health departments are in dire need of modernization. Though the public health community began developing a path to modernization over the last decade, attention to this issue from policy makers has sharply increased with the current response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are current systems siloed, they rely on labor intensive processes to detect and facilitate a response to various public health threats. Read More »

Tick-Borne Disease Warning Signs in State Parks

October 01, 2020|3:57 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Though late spring and summer is considered “tick season,” ticks are still a threat in the fall as many areas of the country continue to see temperatures that ticks can thrive later and later in the year, and as people continue to get outdoors and enjoy their state parks. Read More »

How States are Handling School Vaccination Requirements in a Pandemic

September 23, 2020|10:10 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Conditioning school attendance on student vaccinations is an evidence-based way of maintaining and increasing vaccine coverage. State law establishes school vaccination requirements which apply not only to public schools but often to private schools and childcare facilities as well. All states allow an exemption for those where a vaccine poses a medical risk. Several states also allow non-medical exemptions, often based on an asserted religious, philosophical, or personal belief of the parents or child opposing vaccinations. However, a few states have recently abolished all non-medical exemptions. Read More »

Prepping for Dual Disasters of COVID and Extreme Weather Events

September 22, 2020|12:52 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In a year of unprecedented events, these past few months have already shown that they do not exist in a vacuum. While the country continues to respond and cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, many extreme weather events have already occurred and will continue for the next several months. Some have been widely publicized, like Hurricanes Isaias, Laura, and Sally, and the wildfires along the Pacific Coast. Other less publicized events have been equally devastating to the impacted communities. These include the Derecho in Iowa, wildfires across the Mountain West, heat and drought throughout the Midwest, and earlier than anticipated frosts, freezes, and snowstorms. There are also additional infectious disease challenges including the vector-borne Eastern Equine Encephalopathy in the Midwest and the looming flu season. Responding to these events in the current circumstances presents unique challenges to responders and communities, and due to the continued changes to our environment, we will have longer hurricane seasons and longer wildfire seasons in the future. Read More »

COVID-19 Pandemic Underscores Need for Tobacco Control Policies

September 16, 2020|4:20 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified the need for strong tobacco prevention and cessation policies. Research indicates that tobacco use is associated with increased rate of COVID-19 disease progression and increased likelihood of death among hospitalized patients, and that e-cigarette use is associated with a greatly increased risk of COVID-19 diagnosis in youth and young adults. Read More »

A New Approach to Breaking the Cycle: Creating a Shift in Emergency Medical Services to Address Substance Use Disorder

September 15, 2020|1:00 p.m.| Timothy Seplaki, BS, NRP, CPM

If EMS can change the perception of patients with Substance Use Disorder, they will see that building rapport and encouraging the patient to seek help from resources they provide can be mutually beneficial. For EMS, it reduces the call volume, and often the financial cost, of repeated responses for the same patient—and the patient gets the help they need to break the cycle of substance dependence. Read More »

The Role of Public Health in Reducing Suicide Risk During COVID-19

September 10, 2020|11:23 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

COVID-19 has elevated our nation’s stress level. When not managed properly (or without any buffers like social support) stress is associated with increased depression and anxiety. Because COVID-19 impacts risk factors for suicide, such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and unemployment, the implications for suicide prevention are many. And with September being Suicide Prevention month, it’s a good time to take stock of how public health leaders can reduce suicide risk during this pandemic. Read More »

States Take Action to Expand Access to PrEP Through Telehealth

September 08, 2020|5:27 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

State and local jurisdictions are developing Ending the HOV Epidemic plans. The EHE initiative has largely focused on four key strategies: Diagnose, Treat, Prevent, and Respond to potential outbreaks. The EHE initiative set a goal to increase the estimated percentage of individuals with indications for PrEP who have been prescribed PrEP to 50 percent by 2025, as the national average as of 2018 is 18.2 percent. Several states have proposed and/or passed legislation to ensure insurance coverage of PrEP and/or to allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense it. In addition to efforts addressing cost-related challenges, states can also employ innovative approaches—such as telehealth—to expand access to PrEP services to those in need. Read More »

What is Nootkatone? A Primer on the New Tool to Defend against Mosquitoes and Ticks

September 03, 2020|4:20 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Every state and US territory are at risk of vector-borne diseases. This year, dengue cases are on the rise in Puerto Rico. Florida has also reported locally transmitted cases of dengue this year. We are already seeing record numbers of cases in the Americas and the Caribbean, with 2019 seeing the highest number of cases on record in the Americas. Numbers of tickborne diseases continue to climb this summer, with Lyme disease continuing to be the most reported vector-borne disease in the US. Read More »

Health in the 2020 Political Party Platforms

September 02, 2020|10:16 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In anticipation of the upcoming presidential election in November, the Republican and Democratic National Committees released their platforms. These platforms provide an overview of values, policies, positions, and principles on various domestic and foreign issues deemed most important to the two political parties. For the upcoming 2020 elections, delegates of the Republican National Committee (RNC) approved a resolution that renewed support for the platform adopted in 2016 and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) approved a 2020 platform. Although both platforms touch on a diverse list of issues, there are several that are of interest to health and public health. Read More »

Updated Rundown of State and Territorial COVID-19 Mask Requirements

August 26, 2020|3:53 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Several states and territories, as well as many local governments, are going beyond recommendations and requiring individuals to wear face coverings when they are in public settings and spaces (i.e. grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, public and private transportation services, parks, etc.). Ongoing research and evidence suggests the relationship between mandatory face coverings and declines in daily COVID-19 growth rates is statistically significant. Read More »

Behind the PSA: Making the #MaskUp Campaign

August 20, 2020|9:58 a.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD, CEO of ASTHO | Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Executive Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition

Last week, the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) released a co-produced public service announcement to support public education in our members’ communities. The call to action in the PSA is straightforward: Americans need to put aside our respective differences and, simply, #MaskUp. Read More »

States Seek to Protect the Workers Who Feed America

August 19, 2020|6:26 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Responsible for planting, growing, harvesting, processing, and preparing the food we eat, agricultural workers are essential workers during the COVID-19 response to keep the U.S. food supply chain operating efficiently. But farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to lack of physical distancing, lack of access to health insurance and sick leave, and poor access to clean water for handwashing throughout the work day. Read More »

What Gets Measured Gets Done: Using Data to Improve Child Health and Well-Being

August 19, 2020|1:45 p.m.| Reem Ghandour, DrPH, MPA

As policy makers, program directors, health care providers, educators, researchers, and families, we know the intrinsic value of optimizing the health of our country’s youngest members. Most of us can also agree that monitoring the health and well-being of our nation’s infants, children, and adolescents is an important component to maximizing health across the lifespan—we have to know what’s affecting these populations in order to improve and meet both our short—and long-term health goals as a nation. It is critical that we can closely track trends in children’s health over time, and to explore data across subpopulations to identify disparities. These data sets help assess the health impacts of emerging threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and longstanding challenges, such as systemic racism. Read More »

4 Lessons From Planning an All-Virtual All-Staff Week

August 12, 2020|5:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The importance of having designated time for staff to connect, grow, develop and share has always been the driving force behind the decision to host “ASTHO Week,” a three-and-a-half daylong all-staff convening every quarter. Given our current work environment, having this time together seems necessary now, more than ever. So in the midst of the pandemic and our full-time telework, here’s what our team learned about planning a 100 percent virtual ASTHO Week. Read More »

State Legislation to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis and Address Institutional Racism

August 12, 2020|2:03 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The movement to address racism through policy change in the U.S. is receiving significant political support at every level of government. Government institutions are acknowledging the systemic oppression of people of color that persists in the United States and elevating racism as an urgent public health emergency comparable to other public health crises. Read More »

ASTHO 2020 Summer Reading List

August 06, 2020|4:05 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Deciding what book to read is a task in itself. To make things easier, ASTHO’s staff curated a list of page-turning and thought-provoking books guaranteed to be worth your time. There’s something for everyone on our list, whether you're looking for an escape or working on personal and professional growth. Read More »

Congress Convenes Sectors on School Reopenings

August 06, 2020|3:03 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, increased attention has been given to how schools, colleges, and universities can safely reopen for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year. To note, many schools and institutions closed in March and April of 2020 to reduce exposure of the virus among students, teachers, and related personnel, and there has been discourse at all levels of government about the feasibility of in-person academic instruction this Fall. At the center of these discussions have been state, local, and territorial health officials, who are providing their expertise through constant communication and consultation with education officials. Read More »

States Ensure Safe and Accessible Elections During COVID-19

July 29, 2020|11:33 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In 1965, while signing the Voting Rights Act into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated that “a man without a vote is a man without protection.” However, voting is a bit more complicated this year as it can increase the chance of COVID-19 exposure and spread of infection. However, the COVID-19 pandemic should not prevent registered voters from being able to cast their votes in the upcoming election. In an election year, it is important that state and territorial health agencies and their legislative and executive counterparts provide different forms of protection as citizens exercise their right to vote this November. Read More »

Transformational Leadership: A Vaccine for Rural Healthcare Delivery

July 23, 2020|9:54 a.m.| Benjamin Anderson, MBA, MHCDS

During the early spread of COVID-19, the National Rural Health Association senior vice president Brock Slabach stated: “Before the pandemic, rural hospitals were struggling for survival. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the fractures that already existed within rural communities in terms of their healthcare delivery.” These fractures also exposed the desperate need for ethical transformational leadership within rural healthcare delivery systems. The time to build these capacities is now. Read More »

Why Public Health Officials Should Make Voting Accessible for Everybody

July 15, 2020|12:12 p.m.| Edward P. Ehlinger, MD, MSPH, Past-President of ASTHO

The 2020 election will be here before we know it, and our country is in the midst of cascading and interconnected crises: an infectious disease pandemic, nationwide protests against racial injustice, and catastrophic economic strain for millions out of work. Read More »

Rundown of State and Territorial COVID-19 Mask Requirements

July 09, 2020|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In describing one author’s choice of pseudonyms, Oscar Wilde observed, “A mask tells us more than a face.” Today, the masks we so often see tell us some of what we know about the coronavirus. Since the coronavirus is passed from person to person through sneezes, coughs, talking, and even singing and cheering, covering one’s nose and mouth with a mask or other face covering can reduce the amount of virus that is spread to people who are in close contact. With this understanding, the CDC recommends that people wear face coverings and masks when they are in public and unable to properly physically distance themselves from others. Read More »

How to Support Youth Post COVID-19 With More Flexible Policies

July 08, 2020|12:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has highlighted how current policies and funding do not support an equitable approach to health. However, states and territories have begun to leverage statutory and regulatory flexibilities to improve health outcomes for the disproportionately affected during this pandemic. One of the ways that states and territories can support these groups and maximize these flexibilities during and post-COVID-19 is by deploying a Shared Risk and Protective Factor (SRPF) Framework to address negative health outcomes. Read More »

The New Frontier of Digital Proximity Tracing

July 01, 2020|11:27 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As state, local, territorial, and tribal (SLTT) health departments continue to cautiously reopen parts of their economy, they also continue to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A major component of this work is traditional contact tracing, a staple of public health surveillance where public health workers track down and notify anyone who might have contact with someone who tested positive for an infectious disease. However, new strategies that would supplement traditional tracing have been gaining momentum. Read More »

States Support Rural Hospitals While COVID-19 Highlights Challenges

June 24, 2020|4:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and magnified the factors leading to rural hospital closures across the country. In many parts of the country, elective procedures were suspended to conserve critically needed personal protective equipment and to reduce COVID-19 exposure by patients and hospital staff. But for many rural hospitals, the suspension of elective procedures—combined with the reduced the use of non-urgent services by apprehensive patients—meant a loss of revenue and the furloughing of healthcare staff. Unfortunately, these kinds of challenges are not new to rural hospitals. Read More »

Ensuring Safe Access to Oral Healthcare During COVID-19

June 24, 2020|9:27 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

June is Oral Health Month, and it’s important to remember that dental care and the oral health workforce have also been tremendously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of stay at home orders, nationwide closures, and related employment loss, people have largely put their oral health on the back burner. Read More »

Avoiding Lyme Disease as Americans Get Outdoors this Summer

June 17, 2020|4:37 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As states begin relaxing stay at home orders and implementing phased processes of reopening public establishments and parks, more Americans are enjoying the outdoors. In order to maintain recommend distance from others, many people are likely to spend time in public or state parks. While these activities may help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it does increase individuals’ exposure to Lyme disease, one of the most common vector-borne diseases in the United States. Read More »

Why Routine Immunizations are a Must—Even During a Pandemic

June 11, 2020|3:54 p.m.| Angela K. Shen, ScD, MPH

The public health response to COVID-19 is vital to saving lives. However, among the many disruptions of this novel virus as we practice social distancing is the disruption of important, "everyday" health services, including declines in immunization coverage. While receiving a routine vaccination last month, it made me think about the many provider practices that have not been able to stay open, and the health systems scrambling to temporarily transform their practices into functional telehealth machines—even though some services, like immunizations, require face-to-face visits. Read More »

The Importance of Addressing Breastfeeding Policies in Health Equity Work

June 11, 2020|12:35 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Breastfeeding has long been considered the gold standard in postnatal care for both mom and baby. Health benefits of breastfeeding include reduced risks of asthma and obesity for babies and a lower risk of high blood pressure and breast cancer for mothers. Unfortunately, systematic barriers can make it difficult for some women to initiate and continue breastfeeding through their infant’s first year. These barriers include lack of support from a woman’s partner, family, hospital, or workplace. Read More »

Leading Health Equity in a Time of Upheaval

June 04, 2020|4:15 p.m.| Mary Ann Cooney, MPH, MSN | Chief of Health Equity

As a lifelong public health professional, I am troubled by the opportunities I missed to better address racial injustice. How could I have better described the impact that racism has on health? What programs did we develop that could have been more focused on health equity? Were the policies we created more harmful than helpful from an equity standpoint?. Read More »

I Can't Breathe

June 04, 2020|3:45 p.m.| Ed Ehlinger, MD | Past-President of ASTHO

Having millions of people in our country feeling that they don’t belong is an existential threat to our society. In response, public health efforts must foster meaningful participation by everyone in the design, creation, and implementation of our political, social, and cultural structures and policies. Community engagement and community organizing must become core public health functions with individuals and institutions being accountable to each other. Sharing of power, having community members at decision-making tables, and effective inclusion of a wide range of voices, opinions, and ideas will be key to success. Our new way of doing public health work must begin immediately and we should all hold our breath until everyone can breathe. The healthy air of belonging, equity, and social justice will be our tribute to the memory of George Floyd, the elder choking on particulates, the asthmatic girl missing school, the immigrant meatpacker, the lynching victims, and all the protesters demanding to be part of an equitable, just, and healthier future. Read More »

How to Address COVID-19 in Communities of Color

June 03, 2020|10:46 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The statistics of who is dying from COVID-19 paint a glaring picture and highlight the ever-growing health disparities that exist in communities of color. The mortality rate for African Americans is 2.4 times higher than whites and 2.2 times higher for Asians and Latinos. In addition, although African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 25 percent of the deaths. This health disparity is also becoming more prevalent among Latinos, particularly in states and localities where a predominant number of "essential workers" are Latino. As it pertains to the Native American population, the effect on those communities is also troubling because local tribes suspended the services—like casinos and other private enterprises—that often fund vital community programs. Read More »

How States are Bolstering a Contact Tracing Workforce

May 27, 2020|12:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As summer gets underway, some states are beginning to ease their community mitigation efforts for COVID-19 and allowing the cautious and partial reopening of social spots such as restaurant dining rooms, beaches, amusement parks, and summer camps. But more social interaction provides the coronavirus with the conditions it needs to continue its person-to-person spread. To help break the chain of infections, state and local health departments are conducting disease investigations and contact tracing, core tools of public health practice used to combat the spread of communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections. These techniques are used to identify individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 and gives them a chance to self-isolate or self-quarantine before passing it on to others. Read More »

Health Equity During COVID-19: Top Strategies for an Equity-Focused Recovery Strategy

May 21, 2020|11:25 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the depth of health inequities in our country. Low-income and marginalized communities are experiencing a disproportionate burden in terms of both health outcomes and economic impact. At the same time, COVID-19 has reinforced the message that disease impacts entire communities and that we are all interdependent on one another. The pandemic has generated awareness of the importance of building community resiliency and brought about an influx of federal funding, which offers an opportunity to advance equity in prevention, social determinants of health, and healthcare. Read More »

How States are Housing the Homeless During a Pandemic

May 20, 2020|12:56 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On a single night in 2019, roughly 568,000 Americans experienced homelessness. Of those, two-thirds were staying in emergency locations or transitional housing and more than one-third were unsheltered according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. At the state level, policymakers have sought to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by focusing on non-congregate sheltering and alternative housing for homeless populations, restricting the use of hotels and other lodging specifically for homeless individuals. States have also proposed legislation to provide economic assistance, funding, and grants to address homelessness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

A New Normal for Public Health Agencies

May 19, 2020|10:55 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

As states and territories prepare to reopen many of the functions of their economies and communities, it is also time to pivot to a new normal at health departments nationwide. COVID-19 has been the most substantive threat facing public health in decades and required an urgent mobilization and redirection of resources for all public health programs. A crisis of this proportion would stress any agency, but following a steady decrease in workforce over the past decade, public health has been hit particularly hard. We cannot expect health departments to continue pre-COVID work and continue to sustain the COVID-19 response without adequately scaling up our resources. Read More »

Getting Creative to Keep Americans Fed During COVID-19

May 13, 2020|1:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated challenges around access to nutritious and affordable foods—and impacted communities that were already food insecure prior to the pandemic. Feeding America estimates that an additional 17.1 million Americans will experience food insecurity as a result of COVID-19, with 98 percent of food banks reporting an increase in demand for food, and 59 percent reporting less inventory. In response to the pandemic, the federal government has taken action to increase funding and access to programs to strengthen food security. At the state level, policymakers have extended waivers and expanded eligibility for benefits programs, continued school meal programs, and increased safe delivery services for socially vulnerable populations. Below is an overview of state legislative activity to support populations at an increased risk for food insecurities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

Congressional Efforts to Bolster Contact Tracing Workforce

May 06, 2020|12:15 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Last week, ASTHO—in partnership with the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Coalition of STD Directors—urged Congress to provide $7.6 billion in emergency supplemental funding to ensure sufficient national capacity for a robust contact tracing workforce that builds on existing state, territorial, local, tribal, and federal health agency disease investigation programs to quickly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases. Read More »

The COVID-19 Impact on our Mental Health System

May 04, 2020|5:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As we commemorate Mental Health Month in May, state health departments are tasked with a monumental public health crisis that includes the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and suicide. The U.S. experienced a 19 percent increase in screening for clinical anxiety at the beginning of February and a 12 percent increase at the beginning of March. Children, the elderly, frontline healthcare workers, and people with preexisting mental health and substance use disorders are particularly vulnerable. Read More »

States Offer Flexibility to Shore Up Healthcare Workforce

April 29, 2020|12:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, it was inevitable that it would significantly strain our healthcare workforce. While social distancing measures have been implemented to “flatten the curve” and reduce the burden on the health system, increasing the availability of skilled healthcare providers to treat COVID-19 patients and deploying them to hard-hit areas is important. Also key is allowing healthcare providers to work within the broad capacities appropriate to their education, training, and experience. Read More »

COVID-19’s Impact on Pregnancy and Childbirth Policies

April 22, 2020|2:01 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, hospital systems are implementing heightened safety precautions to reduce risk of transmission, and obstetric wards are no exception. There is currently limited information on how COVID-19 affects pregnant people, resulting in a variety of restrictive safety measures and hospital protocols. Read More »

Why We Need Race and Ethnicity Data to Beat COVID-19

April 22, 2020|10:10 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, shows no bias—it has infected people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. However, racial and ethnic disparities in rates of infection and deaths have emerged. There is growing evidence that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color, although not all jurisdictions report race as part of their surveillance. State and territorial health officials can and must emphasize the necessity for data on racial disparities as this pandemic unfolds. Read More »

What is Needed for Community Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 17, 2020|11:30 a.m.| Michael Fraser | Jim Blumenstock | Marcus Plescia

Glimmers of hope for recovery from the COVID-19 response started to shine this month when several thought leaders and policy experts shared recommendations on what is needed to move from the mitigation phase of COVID-19 to community recovery in four different papers and reports. Each report outlines the major steps and the public health capacities needed to effectively control and prevent COVID-19 transmission both here in the United States and around the globe. The requisites to community recovery include universal COVID-19 testing capacity, public compliance with stay-at-home and physical distancing regulations and recommendations, and a public health and health care system with the capacity to respond to hotspots and outbreaks of COVID-19 as restrictions on movement and gathering are gradually lifted. Read More »

Avoiding ACEs by Helping Families During COVID-19

April 15, 2020|11:00 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood and can have negative, lasting effects on health, wellbeing, and opportunity. These exposures can disrupt healthy brain development, affect social development, compromise immune systems, and can lead to substance misuse and other unhealthy coping behaviors. Examples of ACEs include experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Read More »

States Leverage Telehealth to Respond to COVID-19

April 08, 2020|9:47 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

To enhance social distancing and reduce healthcare worker and patient exposure to COVID-19, there have been unprecedented expansions in the use of telehealth in recent weeks. The federal government has expanded telehealth benefits in Medicare and loosened previous restrictions to address COVID-19. States have been quick to follow suit, with many implementing policy changes through emergency declarations, proposing new laws or modifying existing laws, and issuing guidance from relevant state agencies, including Medicaid, departments of insurance, and state medical boards. Read More »

Celebrating Public Health in a Time of Crisis

April 07, 2020|9:45 a.m.| Georges C. Benjamin, MD | Executive Director of the American Public Health Association

We celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Public Health Week (NPHW) at a time when we are confronting the biggest public health crisis of our time. Not since the HIV/AIDS pandemic has the entire world been so impacted by a new infectious disease. After a series of near misses—from years of planning and pandemics that never fully arrived—the pandemic we have been concerned about is here. It comes at a time of great political division in our country but NPHW affords us the opportunity to come together and conquer this serious health threat together. We can help lead the way through public health practice grounded in science with ethical and principled leadership. Read More »

COVID-19: One Step Ahead

April 03, 2020|3:42 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

As we brace ourselves for large numbers of seriously ill COVID-19 patients to test the capacity of our healthcare system, we must not lose sight of the primary role that public health departments play in responding to any outbreak: preventing community-wide transmission of disease. The news is full of stories of personal protective equipment and ventilator shortages, and while those are certainly urgent needs in states and territories today, public health departments must continue taking action to mitigate and ultimately contain this epidemic by motivating widespread public participation in physical distancing and building capacity to contain the virus in the foreseeable future. Public health leaders can accomplish this by enacting the behavior change strategies, surveillance, and disease control practices that are—and have always been—at the core of the agency’s mission and expertise. Read More »

What You Need to Know About Federal Emergency Supplemental Funding for COVID-19

April 02, 2020|9:28 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

To prepare and respond to COVID-19, Congress and the Administration approved three emergency supplemental bills for the federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governmental agencies. Emergency supplemental bills are not unique to public health emergency response efforts-- Ebola, Zika, H1N1, and various natural disasters all saw Congress approve multiple emergency supplemental funding bills to ensure resources were allocated to address those threats. Here are some key things to keep in mind about this money and the upcoming efforts to provide financial relief. Read More »

COVID-19 Highlights Need to Fund State Public Health

April 01, 2020|9:38 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

If the current COVID-19 pandemic can teach us anything, it’s the importance of having a strong public health infrastructure. State and local health agencies maintain core capabilities critical to promoting and protecting the public’s health, in both times of crisis and calm. Read More »

Social Distancing: How States are Handling Business Closures

March 25, 2020|4:32 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states are using their emergency powers to authorize a variety of social distancing measures designed to reduce social interactions and slow the spread of infectious diseases. A common type of social distancing measure being implemented by governments at all levels is the closure of businesses. While these measures are effective in “flattening the curve,” they can have a major impact on the financial stability of the business and its employees. Below is a summary of executive orders that have led to the closure of many businesses and nonprofit organizations. Read More »

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

March 19, 2020|11:00 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

The refrain from the popular Police song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” takes on new meaning in the current era of COVID-19 infection and control. While there are many things we do not know about the spread of COVID-19, we do know is that it is an infectious disease transmitted person to person. We also know there are three actions we can all take to control the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of infection nationwide: isolate, quarantine, and social distance. Read More »

16 Key Considerations for Drive-Through or Mobile Testing

March 19, 2020|9:43 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The outbreaks of COVID-19 across the country have forced the health-care workforce to think more creatively. As cases of the virus continue to climb upward across the country, it’s imperative to get people tested in an efficient and safe manner. To prevent hospitals from getting overrun, several states and health-care facilities have implemented drive-through or mobile testing units to minimize the surge of individuals at healthcare settings such as local emergency department. However, providing a satellite setting to get tested requires a bit of planning. This post outlines key considerations for state health departments that are exploring drive-through or mobile testing options for COVID-19. Read More »

States Tackle the Climbing Maternal Mortality Rate in the U.S.

March 18, 2020|4:25 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

There are two alarming health trends on the rise affecting women across the United States: maternal mortality, a death resulting from pregnancy or delivery complications, and severe maternal morbidity-- characterized as short- or long-term mental and physical health consequences resulting from a woman’s pregnancy or delivery. The U.S. is the only developed country with an increasing rate of maternal mortality. Data from the CDC indicates that nearly 60 percent of maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable and most occur within 42 days of the postpartum period. Read More »

States Seek to Strengthen Tobacco 21 Laws

March 11, 2020|1:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Youth e-cigarette use is a public health issue the FDA and Surgeon General claim has “hit epidemic proportions.” It is also a growing concern among state and federal policymakers. E-cigarettes are now the most popular tobacco products among youth and young adults. Between 2017 and 2018, there was almost a 78 percent increase in use among high schoolers. The percentage of high schoolers who reported using e-cigarettes rose to 20.8 percent in 2018. More recently, results from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) found that more than 27.5 percent of high schoolers use e-cigarettes. Read More »

State Emergency Declarations and COVID-19

March 05, 2020|12:49 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As the spread of COVID-19 continues at an almost breakneck pace in the U.S, three governors have declared a state of emergency to free up resources and funds to slow and stop the spread of the virus. More are likely to follow in the coming day and weeks. Read More »

Creating Incentives to Improve Lifestyle for a Healthier Heart

February 27, 2020|1:31 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

February is Heart Month, a time to not only celebrate our love for others but also the organ that pumps us full of life. According to CDC, heart disease-related deaths continue to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. High blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity are key risk factors for developing heart disease. These risk factors are often related to lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy diets, a lack of physical activity, and tobacco use. These behaviors are often influenced by one’s environment, whether they have access to healthy and fresh foods, and opportunities to engage in safe, physical activity. Read More »

Health Equity and Healing Hate: A Conversation with Norman Oliver

February 20, 2020|9:39 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s important to take stock of how far we still have to go in achieving health equity and optimal health for all across racial lines. The reality is African Americans still lag behind other races across many health outcomes: maternal mortality, obesity, hypertension, to name a few. To get a better understanding of this, ASTHO staff spoke with Norman Oliver, MD, MA, the state health official for the Virginia Department of Health. Oliver is an expert on health inequities and was the keynote speaker for a recent conference at the University of Virginia called "Healing Hate: A Public Health Perspective on Civil Rights in America.". Read More »

States Take Legislative Action to End the HIV Epidemic

February 19, 2020|10:32 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with HIV. In February 2019, the federal government announced a goal to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. Meanwhile, states are taking things into their own hands by introducing and implementing evidence-based policies to prevent HIV cases. Policy trends include improving access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and establishing programs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, like syringe services programs. In 2020, ASTHO expects states will continue to adopt laws aimed at preventing new HIV cases. Read More »

Taking Tobacco Cessation to Heart

February 11, 2020|2:43 p.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

February is American Heart Month, and Friday is Valentine’s Day, so it’s a time to reflect on the people we love and care about. It is well-known that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country, but many are surprised at the toll it takes on young and middle-aged adults. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now reports that one in three of the life-changing cardiovascular events that took place in 2016 happened to adults aged 35 to 64. Heart disease is a surprisingly common cause of disability and even death in an age group that is frequently overlooked for public health interventions. If we want to lead long lives for our loved ones, our heart health should be a priority. Read More »

Stronger Together: ASTHO and NACCHO Team Up for Public Health Advocacy

February 11, 2020|10:37 a.m.| Adriane Casalotti, Chief of Government and Public Affairs, NACCHO | Carolyn Mullen, Chief of Government Affairs and Public Relations, ASTHO

The work of public health is often invisible. It is only when there is a disaster or outbreak that the safety net of public health becomes apparent. In our daily lives, we rarely consider the safety of the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the water we drink. But our nation’s public health system is, at its core, a partnership between federal, state, and local governments. That is why again ASTHO and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) will host a joint public health advocacy day to bring these messages to elected officials from across the country on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. this month. Read More »

Public Health Workforce Continues All-Hands Approach to Coronavirus, Risk to Public Low

February 06, 2020|2:39 p.m.| Jim Blumenstock | ASTHO Chief of Health Security

Under the technical and scientific leadership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an aggressive layered approach is being implemented in strong partnership with state, local, and territorial public health departments to delay the entry and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This containment strategy is driven by prudence, not panic. The temporary measures put in place provide precious time to allow us to enhance and mobilize our readiness efforts and, as of now, this virus is not spreading in the community in the United States and the vast majority of Americans have a low risk of exposure. Read More »

States Consider Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Prevention and Treatment

February 04, 2020|10:49 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

States are adopting a variety of policies to address neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). In 2019, state legislation trended toward standardizing screening and treatment for mothers and newborns, adding the diagnosis of NAS to the list of notifiable conditions, reporting requirements and safe care plans for infants with NAS and their caregivers. Read More »

Flavored Tobacco Products Dominate State Legislatures as 2020 Kicks Off

January 30, 2020|11:21 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As state legislatures return to session, legislation to regulate the sale and distribution of flavored e-cigarettes is ramping up. Many of the proposals go beyond the federal policy by prohibiting the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and/or flavored tobacco products within the state. Below is an overview of current state legislative proposals to address flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco. Read More »

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus: What We Know

January 23, 2020|4:55 p.m.| Jim Blumenstock | ASTHO Chief of Health Security

This week, the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was confirmed in the United States. The current outbreak of this new coronavirus began last month in Wuhan, China and is rapidly evolving and escalating. Hundreds of cases in China have been confirmed, including cases outside Wuhan, with additional cases being identified in a growing number of countries, including the United States. While many cases have reported some link to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan City, there are a growing number of patients who are not linked to any markets, suggesting limited person-to-person transmission in addition to animal-to-person transmission. Read More »

Regulating Toxic Compounds: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

January 23, 2020|11:06 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Even if you aren’t familiar with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), you are likely familiar with the materials this family of man-made chemicals is used in: water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics, paints, firefighting foams, and cookware. During production and use, PFAS can migrate into the soil, water, and air. But because of their wide use and the fact that they do not easily breakdown in the environment, PFAS can accumulate over time in people and animals. In some instances, exposure to and absorption of certain PFAS has been associated with harmful health effects such as, low infant birth weight and increased risk of certain types of cancers. Read More »

Getting to Work: ASTHO’s Federal Policy Priorities in 2020

January 15, 2020|10:36 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The band U2 once said, “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” That may be the case for some, but at ASTHO there are a few important things that begin anew as the year clicks over--namely, the effort to implement our 2020 Federal Legislative Agenda. This agenda is a trusted map for ASTHO’s government affairs team, as it keeps us on track and in line with our members’ priorities. Each year, in close partnership with the ASTHO Government Relations Committee and Board of Directors, we prioritize our advocacy activities by three tiers. The programs and issues that we will lead on are considered tier one, issues we’ll partner to support are tier two, and issues we’ll continue to monitor are tier three. Read More »

Beyond Opioids: Tobacco and Other Substance Use Among Pregnant Women

January 14, 2020|1:54 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Perinatal substance use is not only a serious public health issue resulting in detrimental and even life-threatening fetal outcomes, but it’s one that continues to grow. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found an increase in both tobacco and alcohol use among pregnant women from 2016 to 2017, with 22.6 percent of pregnant women reportedly using alcohol or tobacco. Read More »

State Health Policy Issues to Watch in 2020

January 08, 2020|4:23 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The promise of a new year means that many state legislatures will soon reconvene, which also means a new (and not-so-new) set of health policy bills will start cropping up. To help navigate, ASTHO has a forthcoming ‘2020 state legislative prospectus’ series that will highlight seven different priority policy areas states will address during this year’s legislative session. Each prospectus in the series provides a brief overview of the issue, the issue’s impact on health, and trends in state legislation to address the issue. This year, ASTHO developed prospectuses on e-cigarettes, HIV, influenza, maternal mortality and morbidity, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and rural health. Below is a summary of our first prospectus on policy initiatives to increase flu vaccination rates, as well as previews of the remaining six prospectus series topics to be featured and released in future ASTHO health policy updates. Read More »

Top Nine Public Health Highlights of 2019

December 19, 2019|10:52 a.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO CEO

Working with state and territorial public health leaders is always exciting and incredibly rewarding: every day there’s a new development, a new solution, a new headline that impacts the health of all Americans. Of course, that also has its downside – some of those things that make public health challenging come at a tremendous cost to our nation’s health: measles outbreaks, rising STD rates, growing burden of chronic diseases, and illnesses like EVALI. And that’s just scratching the surface. Read More »

Reflecting and Looking Ahead: Federal Health Policy in 2019 and Beyond

December 18, 2019|1:07 p.m.| Carolyn Mullen | ASTHO Chief of Government Affairs and Public Relations

As we rolled into 2019 we saw the dawn of a new Congress: Elected officials were sworn in and pledged to uphold the constitution, all while the U.S experienced one of the longest partial federal government shutdowns in modern history. And yet, this was just the beginning of highs and lows throughout the year. As 2019 comes to a close, it is important to reflect back on the numerous public health accomplishments and acknowledge the ongoing challenges we’ll face in 2020. Read More »

States Lead the Way in Regulating CBD-Infused Products

December 17, 2019|11:18 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

These days it’s almost impossible to walk by a pharmacy or retailer without seeing an advertisement for CBD products. As cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products (such as oils, pet treats, and food) continue to grow in popularity, this has prompted states to introduce oversight of CBD products. Issues around CBD products became murkier after the 2018 federal farm bill allowed the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products, while also explicitly preserving the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate products containing CBD. Read More »

The Impact of Medicaid on Public Health: A Conversation with Georgetown’s Joan Alker

December 16, 2019|4:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As a public health official, it is important to understand the dynamic role Medicaid plays in your jurisdiction. This includes the interactions between governmental agencies, perspectives of multiple payers, and the impact on those receiving care. Medicaid and public health shouldn’t operate in silos – but instead in closer partnership to achieve optimal health outcomes. This post discusses how state health officials can work with their Medicaid programs to improve overall health. Read More »

States Act to Ensure Access to Care with Affordable Care Act in the Courts

December 11, 2019|12:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Access to quality and affordable health insurance is necessary to protect and improve the public’s health at large. State and territorial health agencies recognize the importance of access to health services-- including access to health insurance coverage--as a key component of health and wellbeing. The U.S. saw significant decreases in the percentage of uninsured residents in the last decade: the percentage of uninsured non-elderly adults decreased from over 44 million in 2013 to just below 27 million in 2016, due in large part to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read More »

Six Tips for Sustaining Accreditation

December 05, 2019|11:52 a.m.| Joanne Pearsol, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Health, and Susan Ramsey, former director of Washington State Department of Health’s Office of Performance and Accountability

Initial public health agency accreditation demonstrates that a state, territorial, local, or tribal public health agency has the capacity to provide the 10 Essential Public Health Services, develop and manage an effective health department, and maintain strong communications with the governing entity. Reaccreditation builds upon a health department’s initial accreditation efforts. It focuses on how health departments maintain capacity, ensure accountability, and support continuous quality improvement so that they continue to evolve, improve, and advance. Working with public health agencies to sustain success and momentum from accreditation and prepare for reaccreditation, we identified six key strategies for success. Read More »

States Seek to Increase HPV Vaccine Coverage Through School Immunization Requirements

December 04, 2019|2:53 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that can lead to certain types of cancer later in life. The virus is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact and can be transmitted by having sex with someone who has HPV. Almost 80 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and about 14 million become infected each year. While 90 percent of HPV infections go away within a couple of years, they sometimes last longer and can cause 6 types of cancer. Each year, approximately 20,700 cancer cases in women and 14,100 cancer cases in men are caused by HPV. In 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine to prevent HPV infection. The CDC currently recommends that all children at ages 11-12 receive the HPV vaccine and that anyone through the age of 26 who is not vaccinated also be vaccinated. Giving the vaccine at an early age can protect a person long before he or she is ever exposed to the virus. Read More »

With Cottage Food on Their Plate, States Serve Up Legislative Changes

November 25, 2019|9:39 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Local and small-scale food production has grown in popularity in the United States over the past several years. As of August 2019, there were 8,771 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, a six percent increase since 2014. With the growth in demand for local foods and the increased availability of venues to purchase these foods, individuals are producing and selling more food and beverages made in home kitchens, commonly referred to as cottage foods. Cottage foods are typically those considered low risk for microbial contamination, which could still cause foodborne illness, and do not require time or temperature safety measures for their production or storage. This can include baked goods, candies, condiments, preserves, and dry mixes. Meanwhile, state and local health agencies are often responsible for enforcing food safety laws and regulating food production. By licensing and monitoring food production, health agencies can prevent, reduce, and mitigate outbreaks of foodborne illness. Read More »

State Legislatures Take Action to Restrict Flavored E-Cigarette Sales

November 21, 2019|3:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Youth 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. The latest 2019 findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey indicate that over 5 million middle- and high-school-aged youth reported using e-cigarettes in 2019, including nearly 1 million daily users. Youth e-cigarette rates continue to grow, with 27.5 percent of high school students and 10.5 percent of middle school students reporting that they’ve used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Read More »

Time for a Great American Vape Out?

November 21, 2019|1:03 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD, MS

Today is the Great American Smokeout, an event that has been hosted by the American Cancer Society for over 40 years on the third Thursday of November. The event began in the 1970s, when smoking and secondhand smoke were common. It has helped dramatically change Americans’ attitudes about tobacco. Today we should celebrate that high school cigarette use is at an all-time low of 5.8 percent, dropping from 8.1 percent between 2018 and 2019. That is great news. Read More »

Despite Some Prevention Successes, Antimicrobial Resistance Remains a Global Challenge

November 14, 2019|11:46 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

For the past 80 years, antibiotics have allowed doctors to treat bacterial infections and control infectious disease outbreaks that would previously have become wide-scale epidemics. However, much of this progress could be undermined by the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance. Although some antibiotic resistance is a natural result of normal antibiotic use, widespread antibiotic use—often for inappropriate reasons—has escalated this process. Nov. 18-24 is U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week, an annual observance to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance. Read More »

Every State Puts Forward Legislation Addressing Prescription Drug Affordability

November 14, 2019|10:58 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

High-cost prescription drugs have a clear budgetary impact for public and commercial payers and consumers alike. Prescription drug costs represent approximately 9.8 percent of total healthcare expenditures, and accounted for $333.4 billion spent on prescription drugs in 2017 (compared to $236 billion only a decade prior). In addition, Medicaid spending on outpatient drugs increased by 21 percent between 2014 and 2015, from $45.9 million to $55.6 million, and by a further 11 percent to $61.9 million in 2016 and is expected to continue growing. Read More »

States Maintain and Increase Vaccine Coverage Through Legislative Action

November 07, 2019|11:35 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Increasing and maintaining vaccine coverage is an important way to prevent the spread of disease and keep communities healthy. Vaccines have greatly reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once killed or harmed infants, children, and adults. Not only can vaccines prevent certain diseases in vaccinated individuals, they can also lower the chance of spreading disease to vulnerable populations such as infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems who are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases and may not be able to be vaccinated. Each year, thousands of adults in the U.S. become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines help prevent. Read More »

How Do We Protect Future Generations from Adverse Childhood Experiences?

November 05, 2019|10:50 a.m.| Debra Houry, MD, MPH, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC

As a physician, I know firsthand the importance of preventing injuries and violence. While working in the emergency department, I often saw patients after an acute traumatic event, but just as frequently would see patients with longer term health issues from prior trauma. This helped me better understand the consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and childhood trauma as well as the importance of primary prevention. ACEs are traumatic events that occur in childhood. Examples include witnessing or experiencing violence, having a family member attempt or die by suicide, and growing up in a household with substance abuse. ACEs can lead to risky behaviors, chronic health problems, and diminished life opportunities. Read More »

Governance Policies for Strategic Management of Data

October 31, 2019|4:25 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The amount of data available to public health leaders continues to increase at a rapid pace further emphasizing the need for reliable and secure data management. State and territorial health agencies (S/THAs) receive massive amounts of disparate data from various sources and must find ways to manage, store, analyze, and use this information. Agencies typically house and maintain hundreds of data surveillance systems, each with its own purpose for monitoring disease outbreaks or trends and requiring subject matter expertise and funding resources to maintain. Read More »

Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model: A Conversation with the Secretary of Health

October 28, 2019|9:45 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Rural communities across the nation are experiencing a significant number of hospital closures. Nationally, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and an additional 21 percent of rural hospitals are at high risk of closure. ASTHO spoke with Rachel Levine, MD, Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to learn how the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model is addressing the sustainability of rural hospitals by redesigning the payment and delivery of care. Read More »

States Take Action to Create Better Health Outcomes for Incarcerated Women

October 24, 2019|10:52 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The health concerns of incarcerated women are often left out of conversations related to health equity and optimal health for all. Women are incarcerated at an increasing rate; there are nearly eight times as many women in state and local prisons today as there were in 1980. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 75 percent of incarcerated women are between 18 and 44, an age range during which women have specific health concerns surrounding reproductive, prenatal, and postpartum care. Read More »

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 »

Public Health Responds to Hurricane Dorian

September 05, 2019|3:23 p.m.| James S. Blumenstock, ASTHO's Chief Program Officer for Health Security

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 »

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 »

Care and Cure: Hepatitis C

July 25, 2019|4:05 p.m.| Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH | Chief Medical Officer, ASTHO

On July 28, we recognize World Hepatitis Day, with the World Health Organization urging all countries and partners to “Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis.” The prospect of doing so in the United States is realistic. When antibiotics were first introduced with the discovery and mass production of Penicillin in the early 20th century, our ability to treat bacterial infections that once devastated communities and populations changed dramatically. The recent development and production of antiviral medications is a similarly historic and seminal event in modern public health. The development of multi-drug antiretroviral combinations in the 1990s curtailed the HIV epidemic by inhibiting the spread of the virus and preventing progression to AIDS. But the introduction of highly effective antiviral treatments for hepatitis C in 2014 marks the first time we have been able to cure a major and highly-infectious virus. Read More »

State Legislation to Increase Access and Fund HIV Prevention Strategies

July 25, 2019|3:39 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In 2017, 38,739 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States. While the annual number of new HIV diagnoses has remained stable in recent years, annual new diagnoses have increased among some groups. For example, between 2012 and 2016, HIV diagnoses increased 12 percent among Hispanic and Latino gay and bisexual men. Building on these successes in reducing the spread of HIV, as well as facing the challenges of such an undertaking, President Trump announced during the 2019 State of the Union address the new “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America,” a ten-year initiative to reduce new HIV infections to less than 3,000 per year by 2030. Read More »

State Seek to Address PFAS Exposure Through Food Packaging

July 18, 2019|11:09 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Over the past few years, rising health concerns related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have resulted in state policymakers taking action to reduce and regulate PFAS exposure. PFAS are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used for decades in industrial and consumer products such as water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics, paints, firefighting foams, and cookware. During production and use, PFAS can migrate into soil, water, and air. Because of their wide use and the fact that they do not easily breakdown in the environment, PFAS can accumulate over time in people and animals. In some instances, exposure to and absorption of certain PFAS has been associated with harmful health effects. Read More »

Alexander Billioux: Public Health’s Role in Screening for Health-Related Social Needs

July 16, 2019|5:18 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Alexander Billioux, MD, DPhil, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, has a vision that moves beyond screening for health-related social needs toward investments in upstream improvements to SDOH in Louisiana. Having previously served as the Director of the Division of Public Health Incentives and Infrastructure at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), Billioux has dual expertise in the federal and state-level policy landscapes. His work illustrates the role public health agencies play in leading healthcare delivery system efforts to address both individual health-related social needs and community-wide SDOH. . Read More »

Legislation to Increase Access to Narcotics Testing Products

July 11, 2019|10:25 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and approved for treating severe pain. While pharmaceutical fentanyl can be diverted for misuse, most recent fentanyl overdose deaths involve illicitly-manufactured fentanyl (IMF), which is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effects and often mixed with heroin or cocaine with or without the user’s knowledge. Confiscations, or seizures, of fentanyl increased by nearly seven-fold from 2012 to 2014 and in 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving IMF surpassed heroin and prescription opioid deaths in the United States for the first time. . Read More »

Delaware is Improving Birth Outcomes with Support from ASTHO

July 10, 2019|2:58 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Karyl Rattay, MD, MS, is director of the Delaware Division of Public Health. Since joining ASTHO’s Increasing Access to Contraception Learning Community in 2015, Delaware has focused on developing a sustainable plan for improving access and choice around effective contraception for all women of reproductive age. ASTHO spoke with Rattay about these efforts and Delaware’s statewide plan to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes. . Read More »

Summer Reading List: ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser

July 02, 2019|2:33 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to choose just one book to read. As the July 4 holiday approaches and we gear up for a much-needed vacation, here’s what I currently have on my summer reading list. It’s an eclectic list, but that’s the fun of it. I hope there’s something on here for everyone. Read More »

Public Health Research and Practice Should Coexist

June 27, 2019|11:55 a.m.| Wendy Braund, MD, MPH

Practice-based research is the investigation of a topic of interest in a real-world setting and (ideally) the application of the findings in relevant programs, settings, or populations. It is commonly conducted in public health agencies and can take many forms. According to the 2016 ASTHO Profile, almost all state health agencies (SHA) participate in research, with 90 percent of SHAs reporting “collecting, exchanging, or reporting data for a study,” and “disseminating research findings to key stakeholders.” More than 80 percent of SHAs report “analyzing and interpreting study data and findings,” “applying research findings to practices within [their] organization,” or “identifying topics and questions relevant to public health practice.” . Read More »

Section 1332 Waivers: An Opportunity to Increase Access to Health Services Through Affordability

June 27, 2019|11:04 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The individual commercial health insurance marketplaces are significant sources of insurance coverage that make access to healthcare services possible for thousands of individuals in the United States. Section 1332 waivers allow states to test new approaches to these marketplaces by waiving certain federal rules, as outlined in Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There has been a flurry of activity at the state and federal levels about these waivers in recent months. Amid this activity, state and territorial health agencies (S/THAs) have an opportunity to play an important role in ensuring continued access to healthcare services by contributing to the development of 1332 waivers. Read More »

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 »

Recent State Legislative Activity to Ensure Mental Health Parity

May 16, 2019|11:10 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

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. To include mental health as part of a continuum of care with behavioral health, prevention, and physical care, policymakers at the federal and state levels have sought to increase the parity between the accessibility of mental health services and other care. 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 »

States Consider a Wide Array of Paid Family Leave Legislation

March 21, 2019|11:20 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Paid family leave allows employees to take paid time off during pregnancy, after the birth or adoption of a child, or when a family member needs care. Only an estimated 13-14 percent of workers in the United States have access to employer-based paid family leave. Evidence shows that paid family leave provides health-related benefits for mothers and children including increases in health benefits associated with breastfeeding, better mother-child interactions, and decreased maternal and marital stress. Read More »

Innovative Approaches for Overdose Prevention

March 20, 2019|4:07 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

For several years, state opioid overdose prevention efforts have focused on a narrow set of strategies and policies such as morbidity and mortality surveillance, prescription drug monitoring programs, provider education and guidelines, and increasing access to naloxone. According to Martha Yeide, ASTHO’s senior director for social and behavioral health, “States have focused on implementing the strategies with the most available evidence or data suggesting efficacy in addressing the opioid epidemic. At this point, now that states have several years of experience in addressing these issues, we are realizing that we need to expand our focus to continue stabilizing and driving down overdose rates.”. Read More »

State and Federal Telehealth Policy Activity

March 14, 2019|1:32 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With access to health services becoming an increasingly important issue, states are looking to telehealth as a mechanism to increase access and remove access barriers in 2019 legislative sessions. Telehealth uses electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. Telehealth modalities include live videoconferencing, store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health. Read More »

Public Health on the Hill: A Coalition for Sustained Support

March 07, 2019|1:36 p.m.| Adriane Casalotti, Chief of Government and Public Affairs, NACCHO | Carolyn Mullen, Chief of Government Affairs and Public Relations, ASTHO

Our nation’s public health system is, at its core, a partnership between federal, state, and local governments. While these partnerships are clear on the ground in communities, many members of Congress are unaware of the important work being done each day to keep their states and communities safe and healthy. Read More »

States Move Toward Regulating CBD Products

March 07, 2019|1:01 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With the enactment of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, the federal government removed industrial hemp, as well as its derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids, from the definition of marijuana. It will now be lawful to grow and process industrial hemp as long as it and any resulting products do not contain more than 0.3 percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Industrial hemp contains a number of cannabinoids, chemical compounds that act on receptors affecting such things as appetite, learning, memory, anxiety, depression, and pain. One of the most widely known cannabinoids is cannabidiol or CBD. Read More »

Ensuring Schools Remain Tobacco-Free

February 28, 2019|1:37 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

According to CDC and FDA, e-cigarette use increased 78 percent among high school students between 2017 and 2018, resulting in 1.5 million more young e-cigarette smokers in the United States over the course of the past year. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams (alumnus-IN) described the increase in e-cigarette use among young people as an epidemic, releasing a public statement and an advisory. Read More »

ASTHO Member Spotlight: Thomas Dobbs

February 21, 2019|3:15 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Thomas Dobbs, MD, MPH, is state health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health. Formerly state epidemiologist and deputy state health officer, Dobbs is an infectious diseases physician by training, with experience in public health, private practice, hospital administration, and academics. In addition to his role at the health department, Dobbs is currently an associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Population Health, where he teaches courses in epidemiology and health policy. Read More »

States Move to Eliminate Non-Medical Exemptions for Vaccinations

February 21, 2019|12:44 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

With the increased use of non-medical vaccine exemptions leading to more outbreaks of measles and other easily preventable diseases, ASTHO expects more states to eliminate non-medical exemptions. ASTHO will continue to keep its members and the public health community informed about this important policy area. Read More »

As Awareness Around the Importance of Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity Increases, State Legislation Follows Suit

February 14, 2019|10:37 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Policymakers are increasingly recognizing evidence regarding the role that the social determinants of health play in shaping individual and community wellness, health outcomes, and healthcare spending. Public health officials are well positioned to advance population health by creating policy, building partnerships across sectors, and advocating for community-defined priorities. State legislatures are also becoming increasingly active in this space. Read More »

Matters of the Heart and Mind

February 14, 2019|10:24 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

Many of the activities that protect our hearts also protect our minds. This is particularly true for heart health. We’ve known for some time that preventive and medical interventions can reduce the risk of strokes. However, recent studies have shown that lifestyle modifications and medical treatments are associated with slowing cognitive impairment and lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Read More »

Measles Outbreaks and School Exclusions: Public Health’s Authority to Protect Children and Stop the Spread of Disease

February 07, 2019|1:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As they work to improve the health of tomorrow, today’s public health officials are increasingly occupied with the diseases of yesterday. For example, cases of measles, a highly contagious disease that was once a constant presence in the United States, have increased over the past several years, despite the ready availability of a highly effective vaccine (i.e., the MMR vaccine). Read More »

Preparedness in the Caribbean: A Conversation with Danny Staley

February 07, 2019|9:06 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Danny Staley (alumnus-NC) is chief of ASTHO’s Caribbean Operations. He previously served as director of the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Staley began his career in public health in 1992 after graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in health education, followed by a master’s degree in community health administration and wellness promotion. Read More »

State Legislation Aimed at Preventing Hepatitis A Outbreaks Linked to Illicit Drug Use

January 31, 2019|4:56 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Since 2017, several states have experienced hepatitis A outbreaks. Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease that can be spread through close personal contact with an infected person (e.g., via sexual intercourse, or sharing of personal items) or when a person eats food that is contaminated with the virus. In 2016, the last year with available data, there were an estimated 2,007 hepatitis A cases in the United States. However, even though the data for 2017 and 2018 cases are not yet available, CDC expects the incidence of hepatitis A to increase due ongoing outbreaks. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination and good hygiene (i.e. thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food). Read More »

ASTHO Speaks to CDC’s Stephen Redd as Atlanta Prepares for Super Bowl LIII

January 31, 2019|4:11 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Stephen Redd is CDC's Deputy Director for Public Health Service and Implementation Science and director of the Center for Preparedness and Response. He served as CDC’s acting principal deputy director from January to March 2018. Prior to this, Redd served as director of CDC’s Influenza Coordination Unit. During the H1N1 pandemic, he served as Incident Commander for the nearly yearlong response. Redd is a Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General in the United States Public Health Service. . Read More »

Three Things to Know About the Governmental Public Health Workforce: PH WINS 2017 Results

January 29, 2019|3:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

State health agencies and local health departments serve a critical role in promoting and protecting the health of all people in their jurisdictions and the communities in which they live, learn, work, and play. The workforce in state and local health departments is essential in preventing disease, promoting health and well-being, protecting communities, and building partnerships with other sectors to advance health. Read More »

Improving Public Health Surveillance Through Interoperability, Data Standards, and Legislation

January 24, 2019|2:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Emerging infectious diseases and natural disasters, as well as the ever-increasing prevalence of chronic disease, greatly increases the need for public health agencies to have more comprehensive knowledge of patients’ health coupled with an understanding of how to appropriately use technology. As patients move around the healthcare ecosystem, information from electronic health records (EHRs) must be available and understandable to help public health agencies identify threats to the health and safety of the population, as well as individuals. EHRs have also afforded patients better access to their own information and provided them with the opportunity to exercise some independence when making decisions for their own healthcare. Read More »

Using Evidence to Improve Public Health Outcomes

January 24, 2019|12:08 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As public health practitioners strive to achieve optimal health for all, they seek to implement proven and cost-effective policies and practices that maximize scarce resources. One method for determining what is effective entails assessing the evidence base for a particular approach. Because accessing and understanding research literature can require technical expertise in research methods, access to the literature, and considerable time investments, multiple registries have been developed that assess the research evidence and translate the findings so that policymakers and practitioners can identify evidence-based approaches—that is, programs, practices, and policies with evidence of favorable effects. Read More »

Improving Population Health by Modernizing the Implementation of Clinical Guidelines

January 24, 2019|11:48 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

ASTHO worked with Maria Michaels, public health advisor for CDC’s Deputy Director of Public Health Science and Surveillance, to capture key considerations for state and territorial public health agencies to improve population health by modernizing their implementation of clinical guidelines. Michaels’ background has covered a variety of perspectives, including research, federal health IT regulatory policy, national health IT program implementation, health system health IT program implementation, and public health strategies related to health IT. Below Michaels and ASTHO staff outline how public health agencies can better intersect with healthcare to help ensure that clinical guidelines are implemented as intended and result in the desired health actions and outcomes. Read More »

State Legislation Supporting Increased Breastfeeding Duration

January 17, 2019|12:03 p.m.| ASTHO Staff