Author Archives: nacchovoice

Local Public Health Confronting Climate Change in Communities

By Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, NACCHO President and Health Officer and Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook, New Jersey

The effects of climate change are visible in communities across the country, from increasingly severe storms (e.g., the recent “bomb cyclone” in the Plains and Midwest) to more frequent wildfires, record-breaking floods, and prolonged heat waves. These extreme weather events and corresponding changes to the ecosystem threaten the public’s health.

As traditionally cooler regions experience warmer and longer summers, for example, mosquitoes and other vectors are migrating north and infecting populations previously not at risk. According to the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, vector-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, including Lyme disease and West Nile virus, tripled from 2004 to 2016. Continue reading

NACCHO CEO Releases Statement on Ongoing Measles Outbreaks

By Lori Tremmel Freeman, NACCHO CEO

“Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed there have been 626 individual cases of measles diagnosed across 22 states in the United States since the first of this year. We are on track to have the highest number of measles cases in the United States in 25 years, and for man this disease of the past is becoming a threat of the present.

“626 cases are far too many. These cases are not just numbers—they represent sick children, missed days of work, and an incredible financial strain on our tax dollars that must be pulled away from other public health priorities. Continue reading

NACCHO Highlights Need for Greater Support for Local Health Departments to Combat Rise in STDs

STD Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), also referred to as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), with local health departments and with local and national policymakers, stakeholders, and the public. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the voice of the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments is working diligently to support their members’ work to address rising STD rates across the country and to implement innovative projects, such as its Express STI Visits Initiative, to provide new ways to link individuals to testing and treatment.

“Local health departments work hard every day to reduce STD rates and improve health outcomes in their communities by testing for, treating, and ultimately, preventing STDs. This includes strong prevention and treatment messaging, as well as the essential work of disease intervention specialists (DIS) who are on the frontlines of efforts to disrupt the spread of STDs and prevent outbreaks,” said NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman. “But as NACCHO’s research shows, they need more support—stagnant or decreasing resources are not enough, and local health departments and their partners need more resources to address these rapidly rising STD rates.”

While STD rates are quickly increasing, federal, state, and local resources have stayed the same or decreased, leaving public health systems strained, including local health departments. In 2017, NACCHO queried its HIV, STI, and Viral Hepatitis Sentinel Network and found that nearly one-third of local health departments reported anticipating budget cuts in the next fiscal year and the majority experiencing stagnant funding for STD programs at best.

As the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STD Surveillance Report shows, STD rates increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, and there has been a steep, sustained increases in the incidence of all three reportable STDs.

Gonorrhea diagnoses increased by almost 70% percent overall and nearly doubled among men. Increases in diagnoses among women — and the speed with which they are increasing — are also concerning, with cases going up for the third year in a row.

Primary and secondary syphilis diagnoses increased 76%. Congenital syphilis (transmitted from the pregnant person to the fetus) cases rose sharply with 918 cases in 2017, a number that has more than doubled since 2013. This included 64 reported stillbirths as a result of congenital syphilis (up from 41 in 2016).

Chlamydia remained the most common condition reported to CDC. More than 1.7 million cases were diagnosed in 2017, with 45% of cases among 15- to 24-year-old females. The preliminary data for 2018 sadly shows these trends continuing and a new CDC analysis suggests that gay and bisexual men are at higher risk for extragenital STDs (e.g. chlamydia or gonorrhea in the throat or rectum), which increases treatment difficulty, drug resistance, and the risk of HIV infection. While these STDs are treatable, if untreated, they can cause serious health consequences such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and stillbirth.

Throughout STD Awareness Month, NACCHO is highlighting each of CDC’s four STD Awareness campaigns: Syphilis Strikes Back, GYT: Get Yourself Tested, Treat Me Right, and Talk. Test. Treat. New blog posts are available each Thursday of April and will feature work that local health departments and NACCHO are doing around the country to address STDs.

For more information, read about our STD work and check out our STD policy statement.

Using Data to Improve Local Public Health Practice

By Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, NACCHO President and Health Officer and Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook, New Jersey

Data and research help us to understand our world and make informed decisions. As local health officials, data allow us to measure progress over time, identify emerging trends, and understand how our jurisdictions compare to others in a variety of different ways. Data inform much of our community health improvement planning; they lend credibility to our policy positions and support our funding requests. They also provide a common language as we work with our partners across sectors to address the social determinants of health, helping us to communicate and form a shared understanding of the issues we face. Continue reading

Advancing Health Equity and Racial Justice: Emerging Lessons from Los Angeles County’s Community Prevention and Population Health Taskforce

By Manal J. Aboelata, MPH, Deputy Executive Director, Prevention Institute

Across the country, local jurisdictions are employing a variety of tactics to achieve health equity and racial justice. In 2016, as Los Angeles County prepared to integrate the departments of mental health, public health, and health services under a single health agency umbrella, the Board of Supervisors recognized the value in creating an advisory body that would tap into the knowledge and expertise of community-based organizations and LA County residents to elevate priorities, challenges, and opportunities to eliminate gaps in public health outcomes through a focus on the determinants of health and wellbeing. This profile details the early days of the Taskforce, including its efforts to embed community-based health equity perspectives into county decision-making and center racial justice within its focus on health equity. It also outlines the critical role of the local public health department in supporting the Taskforce. The aim of this profile is to provide those in and outside of LA with a snapshot of this nascent effort and emergent lessons for those interested in addressing health equity and racial justice by forging stronger ties between local government decision-makers and diverse organizational and community-based interests. Though it’s too early to claim “success”, this profile sheds light on some of the formative experiences of the Taskforce to inform those interested in testing similar approaches elsewhere and provide background for those seeking to contribute to the effort underway in LA County. Continue reading

Member Spotlight: Health Director Lisa Macon Harrison Shares Technology’s Effect on Public Health Communication and Discusses Rural Health’s Need for a New Funding Model

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

NACCHO’s Member Spotlight series features interviews with local health department leaders and staff about their careers in public health. This interview features Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, Health Director of the Granville Vance Public Health Department in North Carolina. Below, she shares the how her department is addressing mental health and substance use disorder; youth wellbeing; access to healthcare; how technological advances have affected public health communication; and the need for a new funding model for rural public health. Continue reading

Public Health on the Hill: A Coalition for Sustained Support

Adriane Casalotti, Chief of Government and Public Affairs, NACCHO

By Adriane Casalotti, Chief of Government and Public Affairs, NACCHO & Carolyn Mullen, Chief of Government Affairs and Public Relations, ASTHO

Our nation’s public health system is, at its core, a partnership between federal, state, and local governments. While these partnerships are clear on the ground in communities, many members of Congress are unaware of the important work being done each day to keep their states and communities safe and healthy.

That is why, for the first time ever, ASTHO and NACCHO will host a joint public health advocacy day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to help bring these messages to elected officials from across the country. Along with members of the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC), the State Associations of County and City Health Officials (SACCHOs), and the National Association of Local Boards of Health (NALBOH), state and local public health leaders will educate policymakers about the value and importance of federal funding for public health departments and programs throughout the country. In order to best protect and promote the health of all Americans, it is critical that there is a strong coordinated public health system at all levels. Without a robust system, people suffer. Continue reading