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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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, 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 »

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