Health Official Offers Update From the Frontlines and Outlines Public Health Needs

March 10, 2021

ARLINGTON, VA—Today, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) member and public health leader Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health, State of Washington, testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions the hearing “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines.”

Shah testified about immediate public health needs in the COVID-19 response, along with short-term needs, long-term needs, and the overall road that lies ahead for public health. Shah described the short-term needs of updating our public health data systems and hiring a 21st-century public health workforce, and the long-term needs of a strong national emergency preparedness system and public health infrastructure.

“More than anything else, it is my fervent hope this pandemic is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change to improve the health of all Americans,” says Shah. “Everyone, everywhere, in all communities, should be able to rely on a strong public health system that is able to support them when emergencies strike.”

“Public health activities and services must be delivered efficiently and effectively, making the best use of innovation, technology, science, expertise, and rely on a qualified and dedicated public health workforce that is truly valued and supported. While there have been so many uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: this pandemic would have played out very differently if the capacity of the nation’s public health system was better able to support the needs of communities everywhere and if this capacity was adequately built and in place before the crisis unfolded this past year,” Shah said.

For more information and to read the state health official’s testimony, visit the committee’s website.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.