372: Pew Polls PH Officials, ASTHO Meets the Administration

Alec Tyson, Associate Director of Research at the PEW Research Center, previews a survey of Americans’ views of public health officials and their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic; Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO President and Chief Medical Officer for the...

Alec Tyson, Associate Director of Research at the PEW Research Center, previews a survey of Americans’ views of public health officials and their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic; Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO President and Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska, discusses meetings ASTHO members had with members of the Biden Administration during their visit to Washington D.C. this week; and ASTHO is hiring for several positions.

Pew Research Center Webpage: Lack of Preparedness Among Top Reactions Americans Have to Public Health Officials’ COVID-19 Response

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, March 8th, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson. Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



Our findings are quite nuanced here on the one hand, 54% said I think public health officials have done an excellent or good job responding to the outbreak, but 46% almost as many say, "Well, we think they've done an only fair poor job".



Alec Tyson is an Associate Director of Research at the Pew Research Center. He's talking about a survey of Americans' views of public health officials and their handling of the COVID 19 pandemic.



I think there's room for these views to grow. There's almost some established goodwill among the public towards science, scientific enterprise, and medical science in those rounds. So, I think that's one positive here is that overall, look, the public can be pretty critical of many leading groups and institutions of society. But they in general, have some pretty positive sentiment towards scientists and medical scientists, generally.



Tyson tells us how communication impacts the survey findings. We'll have that next Monday on Morning Edition. 


ASTHO members were in Washington this week to raise the profile of public health with the administration and Congress. We caught up with ASTHO President, Dr. Anne Zink after her round of meetings on Monday.



We were able to go over to the Humphrey Building and talk through a whole series of issues. We spent all morning there, started out with Secretary Becerra was fantastic to meet him in person. It's the first time that we've been able to meet the secretary in six years and be able to have a robust conversation about the way that the federal government and states and territories can partner together to move forward. 


And then after him, we met with numerous of his kind of key leadership and staff. So, the next was the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Dawn O'Connell, came and met next. It was really interesting to talk to her about how ASPR is now an operational division. And what that's going to mean, how do we partner thinking about everything from the national stockpile to the way that we build muscle memory to be able to respond moving forward. So really productive, super interesting conversation, thinking about where the strengths where the limitations and how we can partner further. 


After that, Admiral Rachel Levine came over, it was great to see her again, former ASTHO president, she talked a lot about maternal health, about health equity, the work that they're doing kind of across state agencies, really robust conversation. I think, you know, her experience as a state health official, now working within the federal government being able to talk about that space move forward. 


We then moved and talk to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator, Carol Johnson. That was a really fascinating conversation to think about the ways that they give money to our states and jurisdictions, but oftentimes, not via the state mechanism that directly through Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). A really robust conversation about workforce, and what do we need to think about workforce moving forward. Talked about data, which is really interesting in the ways that we can partner together, I think there was a lot of learning that happened during that time. And I was just fun to see her ability to respond on the spot and to be able to move forward.


And then the Assistant Secretary Andrea Palm came at the end, and it was great to hear her talk about CDC in the way that they're rethinking about their organization structure and how she's thinking kind of across the agency. It was also interesting to hear her experience as a state health officer and now in the federal government, and kind of the challenges in both places, and the need for that partnership. So bottom line, it was a super invigorating, very interesting. I felt a very productive day to have both our board of directors as well as some of our territorial officers meeting with really the key leadership within HHS and thinking about the ways that states and the federal government can partner together.



You always think about what the people visiting from the states and territories get out of these meetings. But what do you think the people in the administration took from it?



That's a great question. I think that different things came out in different areas. So, for example, the ASPR, we were talking about Tamiflu and how that was an example of how they were able to use the national stockpile in a time of crisis. And we talked about some of the limitations, our hospital systems didn't have an easy way to kind of ingest Tamiflu and be able to kind of get it that last final mile. There was a lot of conversation about like, you might have thought this went perfect on the front end, but on the back end, here were the kind of the limitations and what that looked through. So, I think that hearing from states in where things were successful, or whatever the limitations were. 


We dove into mental health issues, maternal health issues, LGBTQ challenges, equity challenges, data collection challenges. And so, it was nice to hear their perspective, but they got direct feedback right there in real time about where those were successful, and where we were still needing to partner more and to come up with as many takeaways that came from. It was like, let's circle up on this conversation further and build that one out further. 


There was an interesting conversation that we had with HRSA regarding just kind of that customer service and that customer facing as well as with the Assistant Secretary and thinking about how do we partner with United States Digital Service (USDS)? How do we think about the end user perspective? So, I think that's what they really got out of it was that end user perspective, and how states can be advocates and how we can partner to facilitate change more quickly.



Given the number of issues that are going on right now in public health, you must have felt like you could have stayed there for a week and never covered everything.



You're 100%, right. Like I was trying to keep my mouth closed to really facilitate other people for asking questions. It was great. Every single S/THO there asked questions at one point or another, it was really great to hear the diversity of states represented, you know, where people from every region represented in the territories. And so, to hear their perspective, their frustration, we all come at this from a slightly different lens. And I think we could have all stayed there for hours longer having much more in depth conversations. But again, the generosity of their time today to spend so long, that partnership with ASTHO, and kind of ASTHO's leadership to be able to be in that space. You know, even some of the key staff we knew all the time on Zoom with mentioned how much more they learned by being able to have this deeper dive into some of the topics today.



Also today, ASTHO has several open positions. The organization is hiring a Director of Public Health Data Modernization, a Coordinator with Islands Support, and an Administrator of Population Health and Innovation. Get more information using the link in the show notes. 


Finally, this morning, stay informed about the latest public health policy moves in Congress and state capitals across the U.S. Sign up for ATHO's legislative alert emails. There's a 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.

Anne Zink MD FACEP

Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska

Alec Tyson

Associate Director, Science and Society, Pew Research Center