Featured Story


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 »

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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 »

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