ARLINGTON, Va., April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) joins the American Public Health Association (APHA) to observe National Public Health Week and recognize the contributions of public health professionals to create a healthier nation. This week is an opportunity to celebrate advancements in public health and bring a renewed focus to the important role that state and territorial health departments play in promoting health, wellness, and safety in our communities.
"Public health works around the clock to ensure safe food and water, prevent disease outbreaks, protect people during emergencies, and improve pregnancy and birth outcomes to give every child a healthy start," says ASTHO Executive Director Michael Fraser. "While the work of public health often goes unseen, these advancements have had a profound influence on life expectancy, helping people live longer, healthier, and more productive lives."
Governmental public health leaders at the state, territorial, and local levels are responsible for many essential activities that keep Americans healthy and safe, including:
- Immunizations: Health departments manage immunization resources and direct essential activities, such as immunization registries, outreach and education, and disease surveillance. While there has been significant progress in preventing and controlling infectious diseases, new threats and emerging challenges require enhanced public health action.
- Maternal and Child Health: Health departments are responsible for programs that support prenatal care, well-child and school-based health services, and services for children and youth with special healthcare needs. With 11,000 infants born each day, maternal and child health services remain a core part of public health's work.
- Injury Prevention: Health departments promote evidence-based policies and practices to reduce injuries and deaths, including the use of seat belts and ignition interlock devices, interventions to prevent falls among older adults, and school-based violence prevention programs. In addition, ASTHO's 2017 President's Challenge urges health officials and other cross-sector partners to reduce and prevent the harms associated with substance misuse and addictions.
- Health Promotion: Health departments help ensure broad and equitable access to evidence-based programs and services to prevent and manage chronic diseases related to heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and nutrition, physical activity, and obesity.
- Preparedness: Health departments prepare for and respond to all hazards, including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats; natural disasters; and infectious disease outbreaks. Investments in the core public health system equip states and territories with the capacity and capabilities needed to address emerging threats, catastrophic events, and daily emergencies.
- Food and Water Safety: Health departments prevent serious foodborne diseases caused by E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens, and treat drinking water to remove disease-causing contaminants. Today's risks for food safety are evolving, given the nation's global food supply chain, and new tracking and regulatory mechanisms are needed to prevent widespread health problems. In addition, sustained investments are needed to upgrade our nation's aging drinking water supply infrastructure.
- Tobacco Control: Health departments implement policy strategies to create smoke-free communities and workplaces, restrict access to tobacco products, and promote cessation efforts. However, e-cigarettes and marijuana legalization require ongoing attention and vigilance to understand their impact on public health.
ASTHO thanks our nation's public health workforce for its dedication and continued service to protect us all from diseases, injuries, and other health threats. While these and other public health achievements have been transformative, it is important to ensure that our nation continues to be anchored by a modern and effective public health system.
ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in state-based public health practice.
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SOURCE Association of State and Territorial Health Officials