Featured Story

FeaturedStory

Working with state and territorial public health leaders is always exciting and incredibly rewarding: every day there’s a new development, a new solution, a new headline that impacts the health of all Americans. Of course, that also has its downside – some of those things that make public health challenging come at a tremendous cost to our nation’s health: measles outbreaks, rising STD rates, growing burden of chronic diseases, and illnesses like EVALI. And that’s just scratching the surface.Read More »

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Rundown of State and Territorial COVID-19 Mask Requirements

July 09, 2020|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In describing one author’s choice of pseudonyms, Oscar Wilde observed, “A mask tells us more than a face.” Today, the masks we so often see tell us some of what we know about the coronavirus. Since the coronavirus is passed from person to person through sneezes, coughs, talking, and even singing and cheering, covering one’s nose and mouth with a mask or other face covering can reduce the amount of virus that is spread to people who are in close contact. With this understanding, the CDC recommends that people wear face coverings and masks when they are in public and unable to properly physically distance themselves from others. Read More »

How to Support Youth Post COVID-19 With More Flexible Policies

July 08, 2020|12:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has highlighted how current policies and funding do not support an equitable approach to health. However, states and territories have begun to leverage statutory and regulatory flexibilities to improve health outcomes for the disproportionately affected during this pandemic. One of the ways that states and territories can support these groups and maximize these flexibilities during and post-COVID-19 is by deploying a Shared Risk and Protective Factor (SRPF) Framework to address negative health outcomes. Read More »

The New Frontier of Digital Proximity Tracing

July 01, 2020|11:27 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

As state, local, territorial, and tribal (SLTT) health departments continue to cautiously reopen parts of their economy, they also continue to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A major component of this work is traditional contact tracing, a staple of public health surveillance where public health workers track down and notify anyone who might have contact with someone who tested positive for an infectious disease. However, new strategies that would supplement traditional tracing have been gaining momentum. Read More »

States Support Rural Hospitals While COVID-19 Highlights Challenges

June 24, 2020|4:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and magnified the factors leading to rural hospital closures across the country. In many parts of the country, elective procedures were suspended to conserve critically needed personal protective equipment and to reduce COVID-19 exposure by patients and hospital staff. But for many rural hospitals, the suspension of elective procedures—combined with the reduced the use of non-urgent services by apprehensive patients—meant a loss of revenue and the furloughing of healthcare staff. Unfortunately, these kinds of challenges are not new to rural hospitals. Read More »

Ensuring Safe Access to Oral Healthcare During COVID-19

June 24, 2020|9:27 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

June is Oral Health Month, and it’s important to remember that dental care and the oral health workforce have also been tremendously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of stay at home orders, nationwide closures, and related employment loss, people have largely put their oral health on the back burner. Read More »

Avoiding Lyme Disease as Americans Get Outdoors this Summer

June 17, 2020|4:37 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As states begin relaxing stay at home orders and implementing phased processes of reopening public establishments and parks, more Americans are enjoying the outdoors. In order to maintain recommend distance from others, many people are likely to spend time in public or state parks. While these activities may help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it does increase individuals’ exposure to Lyme disease, one of the most common vector-borne diseases in the United States. Read More »

Why Routine Immunizations are a Must—Even During a Pandemic

June 11, 2020|3:54 p.m.| Angela K. Shen, ScD, MPH

The public health response to COVID-19 is vital to saving lives. However, among the many disruptions of this novel virus as we practice social distancing is the disruption of important, "everyday" health services, including declines in immunization coverage. While receiving a routine vaccination last month, it made me think about the many provider practices that have not been able to stay open, and the health systems scrambling to temporarily transform their practices into functional telehealth machines—even though some services, like immunizations, require face-to-face visits. Read More »

The Importance of Addressing Breastfeeding Policies in Health Equity Work

June 11, 2020|12:35 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Breastfeeding has long been considered the gold standard in postnatal care for both mom and baby. Health benefits of breastfeeding include reduced risks of asthma and obesity for babies and a lower risk of high blood pressure and breast cancer for mothers. Unfortunately, systematic barriers can make it difficult for some women to initiate and continue breastfeeding through their infant’s first year. These barriers include lack of support from a woman’s partner, family, hospital, or workplace. Read More »

Leading Health Equity in a Time of Upheaval

June 04, 2020|4:15 p.m.| Mary Ann Cooney, MPH, MSN | Chief of Health Equity

As a lifelong public health professional, I am troubled by the opportunities I missed to better address racial injustice. How could I have better described the impact that racism has on health? What programs did we develop that could have been more focused on health equity? Were the policies we created more harmful than helpful from an equity standpoint?. Read More »

I Can't Breathe

June 04, 2020|3:45 p.m.| Ed Ehlinger, MD | Past-President of ASTHO

Having millions of people in our country feeling that they don’t belong is an existential threat to our society. In response, public health efforts must foster meaningful participation by everyone in the design, creation, and implementation of our political, social, and cultural structures and policies. Community engagement and community organizing must become core public health functions with individuals and institutions being accountable to each other. Sharing of power, having community members at decision-making tables, and effective inclusion of a wide range of voices, opinions, and ideas will be key to success. Our new way of doing public health work must begin immediately and we should all hold our breath until everyone can breathe. The healthy air of belonging, equity, and social justice will be our tribute to the memory of George Floyd, the elder choking on particulates, the asthmatic girl missing school, the immigrant meatpacker, the lynching victims, and all the protesters demanding to be part of an equitable, just, and healthier future. Read More »

How to Address COVID-19 in Communities of Color

June 03, 2020|10:46 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The statistics of who is dying from COVID-19 paint a glaring picture and highlight the ever-growing health disparities that exist in communities of color. The mortality rate for African Americans is 2.4 times higher than whites and 2.2 times higher for Asians and Latinos. In addition, although African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 25 percent of the deaths. This health disparity is also becoming more prevalent among Latinos, particularly in states and localities where a predominant number of "essential workers" are Latino. As it pertains to the Native American population, the effect on those communities is also troubling because local tribes suspended the services—like casinos and other private enterprises—that often fund vital community programs. Read More »

How States are Bolstering a Contact Tracing Workforce

May 27, 2020|12:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As summer gets underway, some states are beginning to ease their community mitigation efforts for COVID-19 and allowing the cautious and partial reopening of social spots such as restaurant dining rooms, beaches, amusement parks, and summer camps. But more social interaction provides the coronavirus with the conditions it needs to continue its person-to-person spread. To help break the chain of infections, state and local health departments are conducting disease investigations and contact tracing, core tools of public health practice used to combat the spread of communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections. These techniques are used to identify individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 and gives them a chance to self-isolate or self-quarantine before passing it on to others. Read More »

Health Equity During COVID-19: Top Strategies for an Equity-Focused Recovery Strategy

May 21, 2020|11:25 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the depth of health inequities in our country. Low-income and marginalized communities are experiencing a disproportionate burden in terms of both health outcomes and economic impact. At the same time, COVID-19 has reinforced the message that disease impacts entire communities and that we are all interdependent on one another. The pandemic has generated awareness of the importance of building community resiliency and brought about an influx of federal funding, which offers an opportunity to advance equity in prevention, social determinants of health, and healthcare. Read More »

How States are Housing the Homeless During a Pandemic

May 20, 2020|12:56 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

On a single night in 2019, roughly 568,000 Americans experienced homelessness. Of those, two-thirds were staying in emergency locations or transitional housing and more than one-third were unsheltered according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. At the state level, policymakers have sought to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by focusing on non-congregate sheltering and alternative housing for homeless populations, restricting the use of hotels and other lodging specifically for homeless individuals. States have also proposed legislation to provide economic assistance, funding, and grants to address homelessness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

A New Normal for Public Health Agencies

May 19, 2020|10:55 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

As states and territories prepare to reopen many of the functions of their economies and communities, it is also time to pivot to a new normal at health departments nationwide. COVID-19 has been the most substantive threat facing public health in decades and required an urgent mobilization and redirection of resources for all public health programs. A crisis of this proportion would stress any agency, but following a steady decrease in workforce over the past decade, public health has been hit particularly hard. We cannot expect health departments to continue pre-COVID work and continue to sustain the COVID-19 response without adequately scaling up our resources. Read More »

Getting Creative to Keep Americans Fed During COVID-19

May 13, 2020|1:00 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated challenges around access to nutritious and affordable foods—and impacted communities that were already food insecure prior to the pandemic. Feeding America estimates that an additional 17.1 million Americans will experience food insecurity as a result of COVID-19, with 98 percent of food banks reporting an increase in demand for food, and 59 percent reporting less inventory. In response to the pandemic, the federal government has taken action to increase funding and access to programs to strengthen food security. At the state level, policymakers have extended waivers and expanded eligibility for benefits programs, continued school meal programs, and increased safe delivery services for socially vulnerable populations. Below is an overview of state legislative activity to support populations at an increased risk for food insecurities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

Congressional Efforts to Bolster Contact Tracing Workforce

May 06, 2020|12:15 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Last week, ASTHO—in partnership with the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Coalition of STD Directors—urged Congress to provide $7.6 billion in emergency supplemental funding to ensure sufficient national capacity for a robust contact tracing workforce that builds on existing state, territorial, local, tribal, and federal health agency disease investigation programs to quickly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases. Read More »

The COVID-19 Impact on our Mental Health System

May 04, 2020|5:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As we commemorate Mental Health Month in May, state health departments are tasked with a monumental public health crisis that includes the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and suicide. The U.S. experienced a 19 percent increase in screening for clinical anxiety at the beginning of February and a 12 percent increase at the beginning of March. Children, the elderly, frontline healthcare workers, and people with preexisting mental health and substance use disorders are particularly vulnerable. Read More »

States Offer Flexibility to Shore Up Healthcare Workforce

April 29, 2020|12:55 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, it was inevitable that it would significantly strain our healthcare workforce. While social distancing measures have been implemented to “flatten the curve” and reduce the burden on the health system, increasing the availability of skilled healthcare providers to treat COVID-19 patients and deploying them to hard-hit areas is important. Also key is allowing healthcare providers to work within the broad capacities appropriate to their education, training, and experience. Read More »

COVID-19’s Impact on Pregnancy and Childbirth Policies

April 22, 2020|2:01 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, hospital systems are implementing heightened safety precautions to reduce risk of transmission, and obstetric wards are no exception. There is currently limited information on how COVID-19 affects pregnant people, resulting in a variety of restrictive safety measures and hospital protocols. Read More »

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