ASTHO’s 75th Anniversary: A Retrospective

December 21, 2017|10:16 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

This year, ASTHO celebrated its 75th anniversary and the significant achievements of its members, who have been on the frontlines of protecting and promoting the public’s health for decades. In 1935, following the enactment of the Social Security Act, state and territorial health officials recognized the need to organize and unify as a single voice. Seven years later, on March 23, 1942, ASTHO was incorporated, with the core mission of helping public health officials improve health and wellness in states and territories. Since then, ASTHO has been involved in nearly every significant public health crisis this nation has faced, including supporting response to the H1N1 pandemic, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, threat from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and, more recently, providing decisive leadership as the nation makes great strides against the threat posed by Zika virus and we continue to combat the national opioid epidemic.


To commemorate its 75th anniversary and the many moments that have defined its rich history, ASTHO kicked things off with a special 75th anniversary logo that was included on all publications, as well as a 75th Anniversary National Symposium held on March 23 with a discussion focused on building consensus around difficult public health issues. This panel featured a distinguished panel of public health leaders, conversation explored effective ways to promote health and prevent disease over the next 75 years while also addressing controversy, conflict, and disagreement.

 ASTHO 75th Logo White

Accompanying this yearlong effort, ASTHO launched a “75 Days | 75 Ways” social media campaign showcasing successful public health initiatives and outcomes from every state, U.S. territory, and freely associated state. Each day, from June 5 – Sept. 15, ASTHO shared a digital postcard on Twitter and Facebook highlighting success stories from every health department as a way of showing how the work of public health is helping to save lives and protect communities across the nation. As a way of encouraging collaboration and promoting engagement, ASTHO solicited stories and ideas for the campaign, and the results were tremendous. A full collection of the successes featured in the campaign can be found here.

 75th Anniversary Poster

In addition to ASTHO’s own commemorative activities, the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice published a special supplemental celebrating the 75th anniversary of ASTHO. Sponsored by ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation, the special section is comprised of five articles penned by ASTHO leadership and alumni, including Mike Fraser, Immediate Past-President Jay Butler, and Paul Halverson (alumnus-IN). Taken together, the articles form a sort of composite picture of ASTHO’s past, present, and future, with commentaries outlining strategies for state and territorial health agencies to follow for the future, a look at the growing challenges public health faces in this time of political uncertainty, an outline detailing what is next for the organization, a case for sustained investment in public health, as well as a call to action to reduce the health effects of substance abuse and addiction.

To round out the festivities, ASTHO hosted its annual meeting and policy summit on Sept. 18-21, with a special 75th anniversary gala honoring public health leaders and celebrating the power of state and territorial public health. Attendees included a diverse group of public health leaders and experts who gathered to learn, share, and discuss how to build on the critical achievements from the past 75 years and set the foundation for the challenges in the years ahead. It was a great capstone to a wonderful year and important landmark in ASTHO’s history. But there is still much that needs to be done.

PH Leadership

As 2017 draws to a close and we look back and reflect on the most important public health achievements from this year and the past 75 years, it is important to keep future issues and challenges in mind. With an ongoing national opioid epidemic that shows little sign of slowing down and continued uncertainty surrounding investment in public health and prevention activities, it is critical that the voice and perspectives of ASTHO members, partners, and the broader public health community be a part of the discussion moving this country forward, so that we do not lose ground on the important achievements from the past 75 years and continue to break new ground and celebrate new successes in the important mission of state and territorial public health.

A full list of ASTHO’s commemorative activities can be found here.