396: Nutrition is Public Health, Measuring PH Trust

On the final day of National Public Health Week, Laura Holtrop-Kohl, Utah Department of Health and Human Services HEAL Public Health Nutritionist, explains the value of making nutritious food widely available; an ASTHO blog article explains how food...

On the final day of National Public Health Week, Laura Holtrop-Kohl, Utah Department of Health and Human Services HEAL Public Health Nutritionist, explains the value of making nutritious food widely available; an ASTHO blog article explains how food security and good nutrition support positive mental health; Dr. Gillian Steel-Fisher, Director of Global Polling at the Harvard Opinion Research Program, says a large portion of Americans trust public health agencies; ASTHO's website, publichealthcareers.org, is an important tool in helping to rebuild the public health workforce; and ASTHO has a communications focused summer reading list for health officials.

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, April 11, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson.

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



I consider food and nutrition the very basis of public health.


Laura Holtrop-Kohl, a dietitian with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, on the final day of National Public Health Week talking about the importance of food and nutrition.


So we worked with seven health departments across our state to increase the availability of healthy foods and food pantries. And they worked with their food pantries and their communities on a very individual level, and so they were able to increase availability in that way.


Holtrop-Kohl says the program helped food banks add cold storage, offer more healthy foods, and improved product placement.


It's really impressive, like what we can do with just, like, getting nice bins to put fresh produce in and putting them up front. And we're able to give pantries good shelving so that they can easily make their produce, like, really appealing. We also added attractive signage that was educational to pantry staff and to pantry patrons.


When projects move fast, Holtrop-Kohl reminds us that important relationships can be overlooked in the rush.


The biggest takeaway from this initiative was basic. but a good reminder just how important it is, before you start work, to really take an inventory of your existing partnerships and potential partnerships.


The American Public Health Association identified seven themes to examine during the celebration. We began our coverage of those topics last Monday. We wrap up today. You can read more about National Public Health Week using the link in the show notes.


Also in the show notes today, a new ASTHO blog article details how food security and good nutrition can support positive mental health.


People trust public health agencies more than they might think . That's according to a recent poll looking at trust in public health almost three years after the start of the pandemic. This is Dr. Gillian SteelFisher, director of global polling at the Harvard Opinion Research Program.


We found that those who trust public health agencies think that those agencies are following scientific evidence in their decision making, and then they are delivering protective resources like vaccines or tests and they're making clear recommendations. In other words, they have a high sort of sense of the technical competence and communication capacity that's really driving that trust.


SteelFisher adds the critics aren't always speaking for everyone.


Those folks get so much airtime, there's so much media attention. But it's really small numbers when you think about it. And I'm not saying that trust levels are super high: there's only about, you know, a little more than a third who say they trusted CDC a great deal, about a quarter said about state and local agencies. But it's only 10% who say they don't trust the CDC at all.


SteelFisher says most people have some level of trust in their public health agencies, adding jurisdictions can build from there.


What we have to do is actually focus on having a trustworthy process. We need to ground our decisions in science, we need to explain the recommendations that come out of those decisions. Clearly, we need to warn people that it might change, because that's how science works now, and we also need to deliver the tools that they can use to protect themselves and their loved ones.



Also today, work continues to rebuild the public health workforce after the damage caused by the pandemic. ASTHO's website PublicHealthCareers.org is a great place to learn more about the work and available job openings. You can visit the site using the link in the show notes.


Finally this morning, it's never too soon to think about the books that you might read over the summer. O'Keyla Cooper has more.


ASTHO has compiled a list of seven communication books that every health official should read. These suggested readings focus on subjects such as crisis issue and reputation management, legislative reforms, and how to effectively manage your message the media and yourself. Additionally, they demonstrate how good communication can raise standards of respect, responsibility, and trust. You can access the full reading lists 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.


Laura Holtrop Kohl MS

Public Health Nutritionist, Utah Department of Health and Human Services

Gillian SteelFisher PhD MSc

Senior Research Scientist, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health