257: Life Expectancy Data Sounds Alarm

Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO President-Elect and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, says new CDC life expectancy data sounds an alarm for public health and the nation; ASTHO shares how public health leaders can help their teams recover from the pandemic; Dr....

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Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO President-Elect and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, says new CDC life expectancy data sounds an alarm for public health and the nation; ASTHO shares how public health leaders can help their teams recover from the pandemic; Dr. Frederic Bertley, President and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio, shares tips with public health communicators meeting in Atlanta last month; and ASTHO lists several job openings.

ASTHO Blog Article: Building a Culture of Care – Leadership in Public Health Agencies

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, September 7th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

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



Does this finding sound like an alarm nationally, as well? I think it's definitely an alarm nationally. I think we've seen the inequities in healthcare across this country for some time, and they were only highlighted and exacerbated during the pandemic. What were gaps in our system prior to the pandemic became chasms.


ASTHO president-elect and Alaska chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink on new CDC data showing a dramatic drop in life expectancy for Native American and Alaska Native people.


Yeah, it's just heartbreaking to see. I think in public health, we all feel like we're going backwards in some ways, and it feels like you're running on a treadmill and the treadmill is getting faster and it's harder to keep up. But when you see that your treadmill's at 1944, you realize how slow you're running and how much work we have to do moving ahead.


Zink says the data illustrates the importance of the social determinants.


You know, we have 32 communities without running water and sewer. We have adequate housing where we have multi-generational families living in incredibly small houses where infectious diseases can spread incredibly quickly. We have high rates of diseases that we've essentially been able to eliminate or completely minimized in other communities.

So, there's a strain of tuberculosis up here that has been here for hundreds of years that we don't see circulating in other parts of the country and in the world. And right now we're seeing a huge surge in those tuberculosis cases, as it was really challenging to do the important public health work that was needed during the pandemic. So, there's many reasons why I think we see this discrepancy and why we see this difference.


She says she'll continue to work toward collaborations that can lead to solutions.


I think that the first thing that needs to be done is increased partnership, and that's really what we've really tried to focus on here. What's going to work well in Utqiagvik versus Unalaska versus Bethel versus Minto are completely different and different communities have different needs.

Again, I think that the overall assessment and these community needs assessments that many public health centers and communities do either in partnership with tribes for our region are really important to say, "Okay, here's this region and what are the basic fundamental healthcare and public health structures that we know make a difference in life expectancy?"



Also this morning, public health leaders can help their teams heal from the damage done by the pandemic. O'Keyla Cooper has more.


The importance of employee health cannot be overstated. Recent surveys indicate a public health workforce that is stressed and burned out. A new ASTHO blog article examines how state and territorial health departments can build and strengthen a culture of care inside their organization. Find a link to the article in the show notes.


ASTHO's Chris Taylor wrote the article. We've talked with him about it. That's coming up on a future edition of the newscast.


Of course, communication is key when leading an agency team or connecting with a community, Dr. Frederic Bertley is president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio. He spoke with public health communicators meeting in Atlanta last month. Top on his list of communications tips? Know the audience.


So, if you're communicating to kids in middle school versus undergrad, if you're communicating to PhD scientists versus athletes, you have to know your audience to get a sense of what is their baseline, what they know about given topic. And then what are the other wrap, what I call wraparound things: their cultural background, their religious exposure, influence—all these things make up their psyche. And the better you can know that in a person or a group of audience, the better chance you have first bridging the capacity of an inauthentic conversation.


Bertley says it's also important to meet audiences where they are.


So, not only do you have to know your audience, not only do you have to think intelligently around how you're going to communicate to your audience, vocabulary, tone, cultural references, analogies, but you also want to meet them where they're at. And we mean that both literally and physically, literally in terms of meet them where they're at in terms of their exposure.


Bertley reminds leaders to practice communication diversity.


The more ways you can connect on a single point, the better chance you have at communicating that point, right? That's why you come at it left, you come at it from the right, coming out of your top, come out of the bottom. And that's the concept of diversification in the case of communication, to have multimodality of how you're going to communicate your message.



Finally today, ASTHO is hiring. It has openings for a director of contracts, a senior analyst of public health data modernization and informatics, and a senior analyst of grants. Learn more using the link in the show notes.


Also, don't forget to sign up for ASTHO's Public Health Weekly newsletter. It's your source of all ASTHO information and the latest with Congress and the White House. There's a link to sign up 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.

Frederic Bertley PhD

President and CEO, Center of Science and Industry

Anne Zink MD FACEP

Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska