September 2017 Issue Celebrates ASTHO: Past, Present, and Future

by Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH

This issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice contains a special section celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. This entire section, comprising five articles, is sponsored by ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation as open access. As described by Nancy Maddox, in 1935 after the enactment of the Social Security Act, state and territorial health officials recognized the need for discussion and organizing. Seven years later, ASTHO was incorporated. Through the years, ASTHO has grown in importance to meet the growing challenges of public health supported by the continued engagement and advocacy of its members and federal funding partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

In a commentary, Michael Fraser, current director of ASTHO, and George Hardy, a past director, outline what is next for this organization. In the face of discussions in Washington, DC, about budget deficits and reductions in federal spending, ASTHO is working to “make the case” for sustained investment in public health.

Each year the president of ASTHO designates a challenge for the organization. This year, President Jay Butler is aiming to reduce the health effects of substance abuse and addiction. State health departments must work with local health departments, community coalitions, health care providers, mental health professionals, emergency medical services, and law enforcement agencies to make headway on this complex problem.

Paul Halverson, president of the ASTHO Alumni Association, and colleagues report on the first study of state health official (SHO) tenure and its relationship to organizational and state attributes. The study covered 38 years and 508 individuals. The average tenure was 4.1 years with a median tenure of 2.9 years.

The closing commentary of this section, authored by Michael Fraser, Brian Castrucci, and Shani Banks, outlines five strategies for state and territorial health agencies to follow for the future. These are from programs to populations, from clinic to community, from patients to policies, from small to big data, and from regionalization to rationalization. This is an exciting conceptualization of an approach that will lead us forward to the 100th anniversary of an organization of critical importance to the advancement of the public health of our nation.

Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH is the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and Professor Emeritus of the Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University. Follow him on Twitter. [Full Bio]