ASTHO Recognizes Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia with 2017 Vision Awards

September 20, 2017|5:22 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On Sept. 20, ASTHO presented four state health departments with 2017 Vision Awards during an Innovation and Leadership Awards Reception at the 2017 ASTHO Annual Meeting. Created in 1990, the awards honor outstanding state and territorial health department programs and initiatives that use creative approaches to address public health issues and challenges. The Vision Awards promote awareness and provide peer recognition to successful state and territorial health programs.

“ASTHO’s Vision Awards highlight the creative and innovative work states and territories are doing to address public health issues in their jurisdictions,” says Joan Duwve, chair of ASTHO’s Senior Deputies Committee and chief medical officer at the Indiana State Department of Health. “I encourage everyone to look at these incredible programs and adapt them; use programs that are relevant to the work you are doing and apply them in your state.”

The Vision Awards are presented in in two categories: programs with budgets greater than $250,000 and programs with budgets less than $250,000. Applications were judged on innovation, program effectiveness, and potential for replication. 

Category A: Budgets Greater than $250,000

  • First Place: Tennessee Tobacco Settlement Program
    The program was designed as a three-year demonstration to test the Tennessee Department of Health's capacity to use primary prevention strategies to reduce smoking across Tennessee and the related medical care costs. The department used a three-pronged approach, focusing on three populations: 1) pregnant women who smoke, (2) adults who smoke around young children, and (3) school-age children. All 95 Tennessee county health departments and a multitude of local partners participated. The program used a three-year county goal-setting process linked to local decisionmaking authority to create a statewide framework and structure. A simplified allocation and distribution process provided funds to each of the 95 counties over a three-year period.

    Multiple counties adopted the “Baby and Me Tobacco Free” program to reduce smoking during pregnancy. The success of this program was definitively shown by matching enrolled smoking mothers’ names with birth certificates. An interdisciplinary writing team published a program effectiveness study documenting high cessation rates (35%) and 60 percent fewer low birthweight births for participants retained for prenatal counselling visits compared to statewide smoking mothers not enrolled in the service. A three-year statewide project return on investment calculated over $6.7 million in low birthweight hospital inpatient charges were prevented. Results were presented to the governor and TennCare (state Medicaid agency). TennCare’s managed care organizations have agreed to begin direct reimbursement to county health departments for these cessation services beginning in 2017.

  • Second Place: Zika Surveillance, Prevention, and Control in Texas
    The Texas Department of State Health Services’ (TDSHS) Zika surveillance, prevention, and control program is pursuing a novel approach to prevent the spread of emerging infectious disease. TDSHS established multidisciplinary teams to identify populations at high risk, surveil mosquito populations, test pregnant women and others who may be infected, empower local jurisdictions to rapidly respond and contain disease spread, and educate the public on self-protection. This effort requires partnership of TDSHS executive leadership and subject matter experts with local, regional, and federal health departments and laboratories; Mexican National Institute of Public Health colleagues; medical and healthcare associations; local and state elected officials; public health educators; the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality; and the Health and Human Services Commission.

Category B: Budgets Less than $250,000

  • First Place: Virginia Partners in Prayer and Prevention
    The major purpose of Virginia Partners in Prayer and Prevention is to increase the capacity of faith leaders and community members to engage multi-sector partners to identify strategies to advance health and health equity. The program places an emphasis on partnership and community empowerment to achieve health and well-being in all of Virginia's communities for all persons in Virginia. The innovation in this program is taking a proven model from clinical medicine and applying it to community engagement and health education. The principles of the Project Echo model were translated and customized to the needs of community health champions using a curriculum that incorporates best practices from a number of successful faith-based community health efforts.

    The program utilizes video technology as a tool to disseminate knowledge and connect prevention resources and partners directly to the communities at increased risk for disparate health outcomes. In just one year, the program has engaged over 200 faith-based organizations, distributed more than 29,000 pieces of health education material, and reached an additional 24,651 individuals through electronic and in person communications. The program now intentionally trains a cohort of 25 health champions who are provided with an intensive five-week training which provides them with the essential knowledge to continue to have community conversations and create community level hubs in their respective regions.

  • Second Place: SC CAN Quit
    A public-private partnership was created to pilot a project to assist cancer centers in adopting tobacco cessation as a standard of care in South Carolina. During this planning phase, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network developed Clinical Practice Guidelines for Smoking Cessation, encouraging all cancer patients be screened for tobacco use, advised to quit, provided evidence-based cessation support, and receive follow-up. State partners launched SC CAN Quit using quality improvement learning collaboratives to test the change in three cancer centers.

    The goal of establishing a standard of practice for routine tobacco use screening and cessation service was achieved, with the added bonus of having developed a variety of approaches that can assist additional cancer centers of various characteristics. All three cancer centers have developed a formal, sustainable process for delivery of cessation services. Overall 97 percent new cancer patients across the three centers were screened for tobacco use; 18 percent were current tobacco users; 73 percent of those were advised to quit; and 64 percent were referred to the SC Tobacco Quitline for services. Throughout the project, the confidence and efficiency of the cancer center staff to address patient tobacco use grew exponentially. Effectiveness of the centers in the program also led them to develop best practices for cessation program delivery.

ASTHO congratulates all of the 2017 Vision Award winners for their innovative programs and exemplary public health leadership.