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The 2020 election will be here before we know it, and our country is in the midst of cascading and interconnected crises: an infectious disease pandemic, nationwide protests against racial injustice, and catastrophic economic strain for millions out of work.Read More »

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Domestic Holiday Travel Pandemic Restrictions and Recommendations

November 23, 2020|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

The 2020 holiday season is coinciding with a nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases. With great concern that holiday travel to see loved ones may exacerbate community spread of the virus, many states are increasing public health measures before the winter holiday season. As of Nov. 16, 13 states and D.C. had a quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers. The U.S. territories also have instituted travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Read More »

An Unprecedented Public Health Thank You Day

November 20, 2020|6:31 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

If there is any word to describe 2020 it is “unprecedented,” with the work of health agencies front and center since COVID-19 emerged in the U.S. But as we approach Public Health Thank You Day and the Thanksgiving season, ASTHO wants to send a special appreciation to our entire state and territorial public health workforce. We have been so impressed by your tireless work to address COVID-19 in your jurisdictions and you have wowed us all with your dedication and commitment to the work of health protection and improvement. Thank you all for all you do to keep your communities healthy!. Read More »

Harnessing the Power of Rural: Expanding Access to Telehealth

November 18, 2020|3:38 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As we celebrate National Rural Health Day this year, we are reminded of how important telehealth can be for public health and healthcare. Telehealth, the use of telecommunications technology to provide clinical healthcare, public health program services, or health education, can minimize challenges faced by rural patients and communities—such as transportation, provider shortages, etc.—manage volume, increase the quality of healthcare, and lower overall costs by reducing readmissions and avoidable emergency department visits. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that access to reliable broadband is still a challenge and is a key social determinant of health for rural Americans. Read More »

The Light at the End of the (Long) Tunnel

November 16, 2020|9:58 a.m.| Marcus Plescia MD, MPH | ASTHO Chief Medical Officer

As state and territorial leaders of the nation’s pandemic response, health officials’ focus now is how we can provide effective public health guidance through these next few months. And although there are hopeful new interventions on the horizon, clear direction-setting in every state and territories is vital to assure our planning and implementation is fair and focused on those most at need. These are not entirely unprecedented times. The 1918 pandemic flu killed almost 700,000 Americans. Even then, despite increasing understanding of respiratory disease transmission, many leaders—including public health leaders—downplayed the pandemic and refused to take effective steps to limit large gatherings and encourage mask wearing. Changing behavior, or introducing new social norms, was as difficult then as it is now. We have to learn from history if we are to effectively respond to our present reality. Read More »

Voters Decide on Health-Related Ballot Proposals

November 12, 2020|10:38 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In last week’s election, voters in several states cast their ballots on proposals related to the use of legal and illicit drugs. These ballot proposals influence key public health issues such as tobacco control, substance use prevention and treatment, and mental health—with many of them implemented by state health agencies. Below is a brief summary of the proposals to increase tobacco prices, reallocate the use of tobacco settlement funds, allow the medical and non-medical use of marijuana, decriminalize and re-prioritize certain drugs offenses, increase addiction recovery services, and establish the use of psilocybin (i.e., a hallucinogenic chemical obtained from certain plants and fungi) for mental health conditions. Read More »

What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

November 05, 2020|12:47 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Many pharmaceutical companies urgently began developing a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year to reduce the spread of the virus as the threat of a pandemic loomed. Fast forward several months and millions of COVID-19 cases later, states and territories are preparing to distribute a potential vaccine with preliminary plans for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine due to the CDC in October. Read More »

Rebuilding a More Equitable Housing System Post-COVID

November 04, 2020|1:51 p.m.| J.T. Lane, MPH | ASTHO Chief Population Health & Innovation Officer

Well before COVID-19 hit, an increasing share of American households faced housing challenges. Last year, 18.2 million American households (renters and homeowners alike) were considered severely burdened, paying more than half their incomes for housing. This is a public health concern because stable, affordable, and accessible housing has a direct and well-documented impact on physical and mental health outcomes. The window to act is now. Further, the high number of households with unstable housing and accumulating debt—as well as the stark racial disparities present—mean we must rethink how our systems and institutions operate. Read More »

State Public Health Authorities Face COVID-19 Legal Challenges

October 29, 2020|1:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 spread across the country, governors and health officials invoked their emergency powers to order physical distancing measures designed to reduce social interactions and slow the spread of the disease. Several of these measures, such as stay-at-home orders, business and school closures, public gathering limits, face covering requirements, and others, are being challenged in federal and state courts. Many of the legal challenges include claims of executive overreach and misuse of emergency power as well as allegations of violating individual rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. Read More »

The Importance of Voting in a Pandemic

October 29, 2020|12:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

You may be wondering why we should vote in the middle of a pandemic, when there are so many stresses on our lives and the process feels so polarized. But voting has a direct impact on health. It is one way that we care for our family, our community, and one another. In fact, the issues we vote on have a bigger impact on our health than our personal choices because our community conditions define the choices available to us. Policy decisions on housing, education, infrastructure, climate, jobs, and healthcare are directly linked to our health and the well-being of our communities. Read More »

State Policy Actions to Support Long-Term Care Facilities During COVID-19 Response

October 21, 2020|5:16 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

As COVID-19 emerged and spread in the U.S., those working and residing in long-term care facilities (LTCF) have experienced a significant burden of COVID-19 cases and deaths. As of Oct. 8, deaths associated with LTCF account for 40% of total COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. LTCF are at increased risk for outbreaks due to limited infection prevention and control capacity, staff who travel to work at multiple facilities—and during the COVID-19 pandemic—limited access to PPE. Additionally, residents at LTCF are more susceptible to infectious disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19, due to aging, high rates of underlying chronic diseases, and congregant living environments. Read More »

Creating a 21st Century Legacy Toward Thriving Families

October 21, 2020|3:53 p.m.| Michael Fraser, PhD | CEO of ASTHO | Tracy Wareing Evans | CEO of APHSA

States grappling to ensure continuity of services amid the COVID-19 pandemic highlight a stark reality: the welfare of our nation’s children falls short of our collective aim to eradicate structural inequities among communities of color and low-income families. Swift action from public health and human services leaders to advance a collective vision that encompasses a prevention focused child welfare model is a critical opportunity for collaboration between public health and human service partnerships. Read More »

Education and Public Health: Supporting Youth Through COVID-19 and Beyond

October 15, 2020|3:05 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Toxic stress contributes to a variety of negative outcomes for children. And unfortunately, COVID-19 has increased the likelihood of children experiencing childhood trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and toxic stress. States and territories should have programmatic, and policy mechanisms to both prevent and mitigate the lifelong effects. A CDC Vital Signs Report found that preventing or mitigating ACEs could reduce depressive disorder by 44%, smoking by 33%, and unemployment by 15%. Read More »

A Conversation With José Romero to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 14, 2020|12:34 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place annually from September 15-October 15 to celebrate the history, culture, achievements, and influence of the Hispanic and Latinx community in the U.S. In recognition of this month, ASTHO interviewed one of our newest members, José Romero, MD, Secretary of Health at the Arkansas Department of Health. In this blog post, he speaks with us about how his experiences as a Hispanic working in healthcare have impacted him and his leadership style. Read More »

The Need for Modernizing Public Health Data in Responding to COVID-19

October 08, 2020|12:24 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Public health data collection and surveillance systems by health departments are in dire need of modernization. Though the public health community began developing a path to modernization over the last decade, attention to this issue from policy makers has sharply increased with the current response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are current systems siloed, they rely on labor intensive processes to detect and facilitate a response to various public health threats. Read More »

Tick-Borne Disease Warning Signs in State Parks

October 01, 2020|3:57 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Though late spring and summer is considered “tick season,” ticks are still a threat in the fall as many areas of the country continue to see temperatures that ticks can thrive later and later in the year, and as people continue to get outdoors and enjoy their state parks. Read More »

How States are Handling School Vaccination Requirements in a Pandemic

September 23, 2020|10:10 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Conditioning school attendance on student vaccinations is an evidence-based way of maintaining and increasing vaccine coverage. State law establishes school vaccination requirements which apply not only to public schools but often to private schools and childcare facilities as well. All states allow an exemption for those where a vaccine poses a medical risk. Several states also allow non-medical exemptions, often based on an asserted religious, philosophical, or personal belief of the parents or child opposing vaccinations. However, a few states have recently abolished all non-medical exemptions. Read More »

Prepping for Dual Disasters of COVID and Extreme Weather Events

September 22, 2020|12:52 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In a year of unprecedented events, these past few months have already shown that they do not exist in a vacuum. While the country continues to respond and cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, many extreme weather events have already occurred and will continue for the next several months. Some have been widely publicized, like Hurricanes Isaias, Laura, and Sally, and the wildfires along the Pacific Coast. Other less publicized events have been equally devastating to the impacted communities. These include the Derecho in Iowa, wildfires across the Mountain West, heat and drought throughout the Midwest, and earlier than anticipated frosts, freezes, and snowstorms. There are also additional infectious disease challenges including the vector-borne Eastern Equine Encephalopathy in the Midwest and the looming flu season. Responding to these events in the current circumstances presents unique challenges to responders and communities, and due to the continued changes to our environment, we will have longer hurricane seasons and longer wildfire seasons in the future. Read More »

COVID-19 Pandemic Underscores Need for Tobacco Control Policies

September 16, 2020|4:20 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified the need for strong tobacco prevention and cessation policies. Research indicates that tobacco use is associated with increased rate of COVID-19 disease progression and increased likelihood of death among hospitalized patients, and that e-cigarette use is associated with a greatly increased risk of COVID-19 diagnosis in youth and young adults. Read More »

A New Approach to Breaking the Cycle: Creating a Shift in Emergency Medical Services to Address Substance Use Disorder

September 15, 2020|1:00 p.m.| Timothy Seplaki, BS, NRP, CPM

If EMS can change the perception of patients with Substance Use Disorder, they will see that building rapport and encouraging the patient to seek help from resources they provide can be mutually beneficial. For EMS, it reduces the call volume, and often the financial cost, of repeated responses for the same patient—and the patient gets the help they need to break the cycle of substance dependence. Read More »

The Role of Public Health in Reducing Suicide Risk During COVID-19

September 10, 2020|11:23 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

COVID-19 has elevated our nation’s stress level. When not managed properly (or without any buffers like social support) stress is associated with increased depression and anxiety. Because COVID-19 impacts risk factors for suicide, such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and unemployment, the implications for suicide prevention are many. And with September being Suicide Prevention month, it’s a good time to take stock of how public health leaders can reduce suicide risk during this pandemic. Read More »

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