242: New Data on Public Health Authority

Maggie Davis, ASTHO’s Director of State Health Policy, discusses a project to survey recent changes in laws governing public health authority; Dr. Harry Chen, the former Commissioner of Health for Vermont, tells us about some of the lessons learned...


Maggie Davis, ASTHO’s Director of State Health Policy, discusses a project to survey recent changes in laws governing public health authority; Dr. Harry Chen, the former Commissioner of Health for Vermont, tells us about some of the lessons learned concerning the collection and use of public health data during the pandemic; Shelbi Davis, ASTHO’s Senior Climate Change Analyst, says lack of funding and competing priorities are keeping many agencies from doing more to address the public health impacts of climate change in a Pew Stateline article; and you can still sign up to attend the 2022 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media starting today.

The Policy Surveillance Program Webpage: Sentinel Surveillance of Emerging Laws Limiting Public Health Emergency Orders

Temple University Webpage: Nearly Half Of All States Have Now Passed Laws Limiting Authority To Respond To Public Health Emergencies

PEW Stateline Article: Public Health Agencies Lack Money to Combat Climate Threats

NPHIC Webpage: 2022 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media

 

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Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, August 16th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

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

 

MAGGIE DAVIS:

So, for the past 18 months or so, ASTHO has been working with the Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research, the Network for Public Health Law, and the partners of Act for Public Health on tracking state legislation related to public health emergency authority.

JOHNSON:

Maggie Davis is ASTHO's director of state health policy. She's talking about a project to survey recent changes in laws governing public health authority.

DAVIS:

Since COVID-19, and particularly as we saw in the 2021 state legislative sessions, there have been a number of bills introduced to restrict the existing public health powers to respond to public health emergency. So, we have been partnering with the Temple University system and their Law Atlas project to visualize some of the trends we've been seeing on the changes to these laws.

JOHNSON:

Laws passed in 21 states set new limits on public health authority, but Davis says there were more proposals that did not win approval.

DAVIS:

So, there are a lot more that have been introduced than that have become law, but we have noticed a few trends that health practitioners and public health leaders should be aware of for future public health emergency responses.

JOHNSON:

Davis hopes this database will help ASTHO members stay in touch with a changing legal landscape.

DAVIS:

When we first started responding to COVID-19 in early 2020, we were still gathering the full scope of all the public health emergency powers—and states, you know, exercise those powers to respond to a novel virus.

With these legal changes and changes to statutes in about half of the states, the landscape that existed when COVID started is going to have a different landscape for the next public health emergency. There will be a changing kind of set of tools for public health officials to use to contain any other future outbreak.

So, we're hoping this helps educate health officials as well as other members of the public of what have the changes to these tools been and what does it mean.

JOHNSON:

You can read more about the project and view the data using the links in the show notes.

 

Dr. Harry Chen has been thinking about some of the lessons learned concerning the collection and use of public health data during the pandemic. Chen is the former health commissioner in Vermont.

HARRY CHEN:

You know, one of the things we learned during the pandemic was, in many places, we weren't even collecting the race and ethnicity data. If that was incomplete, how are we going to use that data to help us define on a granular level where the disparities are?

JOHNSON:

Besides not always collecting the data, Chen says many had trouble using the data they had.

CHEN:

I mean, one of the pitfalls I mentioned was to spend too much time on the data and to try to get it perfect. I think that, at some point, you have to just say, you know, the data is good enough.

JOHNSON:

You can hear more of Dr. Chen's thoughts on public health data during a new episode of the Public Health Review podcast, coming soon everywhere you stream audio.

 

Also this morning, lack of funding and competing priorities are keeping many agencies from doing more to address the public health impacts of climate change. That's the assessment of ASTHO's Shelbi Davis in a recent PEW Stateline article. Read the story using the link in the show notes.

 

Finally today, it might be too late to book a trip to Atlanta, but you can still sign up to attend the 2022 National Conference on Health Communication Marketing and Media, starting today in person and online. The conference is three days. We'll be there talking with communicators and sharing their insights later this week. If you want to attend from your computer, sign up now using the link in the show notes.

 

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.

Maggie Davis JD MA PMP

Director, State Health Policy, ASTHO

Harry Chen MD

Former Health Commissioner, Vermont Department of Health