Category Archives: advocacy

Stronger Together: ASTHO and NACCHO Team Up for Public Health Advocacy

The work of public health is often invisible. It is only when there is a disaster or outbreak that the safety net of public health becomes apparent. In our daily lives, we rarely consider the safety of the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the water we drink. But our nation’s public health system is, at its core, a partnership between federal, state, and local governments.

That is why again ASTHO and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) will host a joint public health advocacy day to bring these messages to elected officials from across the country on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. this month. Along with members of the ), state and local public health leaders will educate policymakers about the need for increased federal funding for public health departments. This includes both support for key public health programs, but also for the broader governmental public health infrastructure—especially its workforce.

In our current moment that has us dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak overseas, illnesses and death caused by vaping, or the recurrence of measles in communities across the country, we see just how important the work of our public health system is to the safety and security of our nation. However, it is also in these crises that we recognize the chronic underfunding of our governmental public health system. That is why we are joining together as one public health voice to illustrate the need for Congress to support strong public health workforce legislation and provide sustained, predictable, and increased funding for public health across the spectrum.

What’s in store for ASTHO and NACCHO members during this year’s Public Health on the Hill, and how is it different from year’s past?

ASTHO, NACCHO, members will have the opportunity to network, learn, and spread shared messages regarding the importance of governmental public health. We will host a joint breakfast, where members of Congress and their staff can meet informally with their public health officials before their official meetings. After that, public health leaders will embark on nearly 200 meetings with key members of Congress and their staff.

It is the perfect time to be here: right now, members of Congress are putting together the budget for the upcoming fiscal year—so we are sure they will want to learn more about preparedness and response efforts in their states and communities. By working in coalition, we can amplify our messages to new and veteran lawmakers alike.

What are some of your biggest policy and program priorities this year?

Our shared priority this year is encouraging Congress to increase funding for the entire public health system through the annual appropriations bill. While right now there is an intense focus on the preparedness and response efforts to coronavirus, it is important to remember that public health functions as an entire system, whether there is a well-known public health emergency or not.

. While we appreciate increased investments for emergency scenarios—and it is certainly needed as states and localities prepare for and respond to the novel coronavirus—that is a band aid. What is really needed is increased funding across all of public health so that it is ready and able when any challenge arises. These types of emergencies strain the entire public health system, and when we pull funding from one area to address another disease it doesn’t help achieve our goal of protecting and promoting the health of all Americans.

Workforce is the backbone of governmental public health, but it in the middle of a great shortage. Why is that such a critical problem, and how can Congress help?

Governmental public health was hit hard by the Great Recession, and while much of the rest of the public sector workforce has recov­ered or grown, local and state health departments have not. In fact, local and state health departments have lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, shedding over 50,000 jobs across the country. This deficiency is compounded by the age of the public health workforce — almost a quarter of health department staff are eligible for retirement. Between those who plan to retire or pursue jobs in the private sector, projections suggest that nearly half of the lo­cal and state health department workforce might leave in coming years. At the same time, competition with the private sector, low pay, and geographic challenges contribute to a difficulty recruiting new talent with key public health skills. Combined, these forces indicate a public health workforce crisis that must be ad­dressed.

While we face new public health challenges all the time, the nation is also positioned to make incredible progress in addressing long­standing public health problems. But health departments need the people to make a difference.

Why are these Hill Days so important to both organizations, and how can members get involved if they can’t make it to Capitol Hill?

Opportunities to engage with members of Congress and their staff in Washington, D.C. is one of the most important ways to build relationships with the federal delegation. By fostering a relationship with members of Congress, our members can build that bridge of trust so policymakers know who to call when they have questions, need additional information, or need to better understand the impact of federal policy proposals.

If ASTHO and NACCHO members are not able to come to Washington, D.C. we do encourage them to reach out to their delegation and invite members of Congress to meet with them at the state or local health department, go on a tour of the local  facility or just pick up the phone and call the health legislative assistants. Both ASTHO and NACCHO have advocacy toolkits which provide information on how best to schedule these types of interactions.

NACCHO Year in Review

What a year 2019 was! At times it seemed like a non-stop roller coaster with plenty of hills and valleys for public health along the way. NACCHO’s government affairs team was there at every turn, advocating for public health and local health departments.

Here is a recap to take a look at where we have been and where we are headed in 2020.

Public Health Funding

As always, one of NACCHO’s top priorities is to advocate for funding for local health departments to do their work.

The year started in the midst of a 35-day partial government shutdown, which ended when Congress and the White House came to agreement on funding for FY2019. Quickly, they had to shift to FY2020 funding obstacles, including a projected equivalent of ~12% across the board funding slash, if a budgeting agreement was not agreed to. This happened in August, through the Bipartisan Budget Act, but disagreement over top-line funding levels for each appropriation bill and controversial policy disagreements led to two continuing resolutions before a bipartisan, bicameral deal was finally reached just before the winter holiday break.  The final FY2020 LHHS appropriations agreement included slight increases to many public health programs at CDC and HRSA, including new money for data modernization at CDC, as well as local and state health departments. Some existing priority areas also received significant increases, including HIV prevention, tobacco, and hospital preparedness. Read NACCHO’s press statement. Continue reading

NACCHO Applauds Bipartisan, Bicameral FY2020 Appropriations Agreement

On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled the text of two FY 2020 spending packages, the second of which contains the Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS) measure. The House passed the bill yesterday, and a Senate vote is expected Thursday. The current continuing resolution keeping government programs running expires on Friday.

Thank you to all NACCHO members who helped with advocacy for public health programs this year. Your efforts were essential to our success. NACCHO will continue to advocate for strong funding levels for public health programs next year.

NACCHO has released the following press statement. Please contact Eli Briggs, Senior Government Affairs Director, with any questions. Continue reading

NACCHO Advocates for Seasonal and Pandemic Flu Preparedness

By Eli Briggs, Senior Director of Government Affairs

On November 14, NACCHO and a coalition of public health and healthcare partners met with staff from the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in preparation for a hearing on Flu Preparedness and Response.

NACCHO government affairs staff highlighted the role of local health departments in monitoring, preventing, and controlling disease to reduce the health risks and financial burden of seasonal flu. We know that most local health departments provide direct immunization services (adult: 90% and childhood: 88%, according to NACCHO’s National Profile of Local Health Departments) and promote the importance of annual flu vaccination through education and policy. Continue reading

Local Health Departments Engage in Outreach with Members of Congress

By Eli Briggs, Senior Government Affairs Director, NACCHO 

Last month, during the annual Congressional summer recess, NACCHO members worked to educate Members of Congress about the work their health departments are doing to keep people healthy and safe.

Below one NACCHO member provides details of her experience:

On July 31, 2019, Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Representative Joe Kennedy (D-MA) held a Mental Health Forum at the Kendall County Health Department in Yorkville, IL.  During the forum both Representatives Underwood and Kennedy expressed enthusiastic commitment to improving access to mental health care.  Representatives were met by a packed room of community members who were invited to provide narratives on both personal mental health and mental health systems challenges that they had faced.  Representatives Underwood and Kennedy both graciously received concerns and questions and provided responses to those participating in the forum and told participants that their future policy decisions would be informed by what they heard at the forum. The Kendall County Health Department was also pleased to have quality mental health best practices and treatment services posted for all to view at the forum.  We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Representatives Underwood and Kennedy for their commitment to mental health. 

Continue reading

NACCHO Honors Anthony L-T Chen as its 2019 Advocate of the Year

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) named Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, Director of Health of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, its Advocate of the Year. This award recognizes outstanding accomplishments related to advocacy and outreach to members of Congress to create better health policy outcomes. Dr. Chen received the award the organization’s 2019 Annual Conference in Orlando. Continue reading

Local Health Departments and Communities Will Benefit from the Recently Passed FY2020 LHHS Spending Bill

Appropriations Bill Includes Strong Spending Levels for Many Local Health Department Priorities

NACCHO thanks the House of Representatives for passing a FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) funding bill that includes strong spending levels for many local health department priorities. They include a total of $8.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and strong top-line funding levels for other federal agencies that help support public health activities through local health departments. Continue reading