Featured Story


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 »

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States Consider Expanding Scope of Flu Vaccines

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 »

2021 CEO Look Ahead: What is Our Next Normal?

January 06, 2021|1:09 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD

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 »

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