Featured Story

FeaturedStory

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.Read More »

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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, Ph.D.

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 »

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 »

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