127: Territories Deliver Hill Messages

Dr. Esther Muña, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation in the Northern Mariana Islands, and Dr. Carlos Mellado, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health, deliver key policy messages during Capitol Hill visits;...


Dr. Esther Muña, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation in the Northern Mariana Islands, and Dr. Carlos Mellado, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health, deliver key policy messages during Capitol Hill visits; ASTHO offers a new blog article focused on actions jurisdictions have taken to address systemic racism in public health; and ASTHO launches a new website.

ASTHO Blog Article: State Policy Can Reduce Systemic Racism in Public Health

ASTHO Website

ASTHO logo

Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, February 28th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

Time zones and oceans can make it difficult for ASTHO's members in the territories and Freely Associated States to engage with Congress; but two members had the chance to come to Washington D.C. last week to meet with lawmakers during ASTHO's Hill Day event on Wednesday—Dr. Esther Muña from the Northern Mariana Islands and Dr. Carlos Mellado from Puerto Rico were here to discuss funding and policy priorities.

Dr. Muña says the message is familiar to many on Capitol Hill.

DR. ESTHER MUÑA:

A lot of the topics that we're talking about or bringing to their attention is something that is also on their radar, so that is always good. You know, talking about funding public health is also necessary; you know, we did see emergency funding for the territories—that is also applicable to the states, of course, so it's a sharing of this emergency need—and understanding that the territories were also affected and the territories were also supported in the past.

And so, even our ask now is the same thing—at the end of the day, we want to be able to provide the ability to provide care for our people.

JOHNSON:

Dr. Mellado says the time is well-spent.

DR. CARLOS MELLADO:

Well, it's a great opportunity for us because, as a territory of the United States, we have limitation in fundings; and this is important to address the message that we need more money to continue with our product.

JOHNSON:

For Dr. Muña, the flight here takes her back in time—her time zone is so far ahead of the U.S. that her clock goes in reverse when she travels to the states. But she says the face time she gets when she comes to D.C. is critical to the health of people on the islands.

MUÑA:

I think they need to hear it from me rather than, you know, hear it from a third party. I feel like there's also a need to make a connection with the people that are making changes. I want to make sure at least that people understand, you know, hear from me and hear my passion to make changes. And I can only express that really, I think in a way, you know, face-to-face. Also again, you know, to shake hands—even if we don't shake hands right now.

You know, it's about making sure that, again, they see. I think one of the things I felt in the past is that if you don't make the effort to come, you know, sometimes they don't hear you.

JOHNSON:

This was Dr. Mellado's first Washington Week experience.

MELLADO:

It's very important for Puerto Rico, that opportunity to be part of the ASTHO board and to have another position to fighting with our problem.

 

JOHNSON:

ASTHO members thinking about racism as a public health crisis can learn what some jurisdictions have done to address health equity concerns in a new blog article, online now. The article details action state lawmakers have taken to tackle systemic racism in public health policy and explains how others have worked to implement policy changes. You can read the article using the link in the show notes.

 

Finally today, we wanted to remind you that ASTHO has a new website. Rediscover its improved user experience by visiting astho.org.

 

That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Esther Muña PhD MHA FACHE

Chief Executive Officer and Territorial Health Official, Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, the Healthcare System of the CNMI

Carlos Mellado López MD FACEP

Secretary of Health, Puerto Rico Department of Health