398: Reducing STI Stigma, Community Engagement Benefits

For STI Awareness Week, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, former State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, discusses STI treatment and prevention; ASTHO President Dr. Anne Zink urges providers to test their patients for syphilis; a new...

For STI Awareness Week, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, former State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, discusses STI treatment and prevention; ASTHO President Dr. Anne Zink urges providers to test their patients for syphilis; a new ASTHO micro-learning translates successful STI interventions into accessible and easy-to-understand tools; Kimberly Brazwell, CEO and Founder of Kimistry, promotes the consideration of qualitative data to improve public health; and rural communities in Kansas are developing tailored solutions to health infrastructure problems.


ASTHO and NCSD Issue Joint Statement on Concerning Rise in Syphilis Cases Across U.S.

Innovative STD Prevention and Treatment Strategies

Health Equity Summit: A Movement for Justice

How Community Health Workers Are Impacting Rural Communities


ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, April 13, 2023. I'm Summer Johnson.

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



You know, it's going to take a lot for us to turn this around. It's going to take a whole lot. And this isn't the silver bullet. It's not going to, you know, fix everything. But it's a really well-designed, effective way to make part of that name.


Former Mississippi state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaking during STI Awareness Week—this week—on the promise of whole person-care and status-neutral approaches to STI treatment and prevention.


In addition to, you know, having holistic care for the benefit of the person, you do have that destigmatization, right, that happens with thinking about it in general. If someone comes in—and I've seen this before—very much that, you know, someone comes in and they say, "Just check me for everything else." Okay, I will. So, I'll do cholesterol and you know, the normal sort of age-based, risk-based screenings, and of course, do HIV and then it becomes normalized, right? So it just becomes part of their own process.


Dobbs says community-based organizations are one of the partner groups important to a successful program.


But there's other partnerships that we've had that have been extremely successful. Barbershops specifically have been very successful around blood pressure screening and COVID vaccination, and also have a major role for STI and HIV screening. Faith-based organizations have been really fantastic as far as like, you know, most big churches have a health ministry, and incorporating that into health ministry is also a great way to reach people in the community, right. Because it's a pain to go to the doctor.



Dr. Dobbs' former colleague, ASTHO President Dr. Anne Zink, is quoted in a new ASTHO statement urging providers to test their patients for syphilis. Zink says she is alarmed at the rise in preventable cases across the nation. You can read the full statement using the link in the show notes.


Also today, ASTHO has a new micro-learning developed to help you translate successful STI interventions into accessible and easy to understand tools. Lessons cover everything from engaging pharmacist partners to increasing at-home and walk-in access to testing. You can find the link to the course in the show notes.


Intentional community engagement can have a big impact on social justice and health equity. Kimberly Brazwell is the CEO and founder of Kimistry. She's talking about community engagement later in the month at ASTHO's Health Equity Summit.


One of the things I think is critically important—and I've done a lot of work and community on this—is really understanding folks' stories. I think we get so data-driven that we start focusing on numbers but not on the qualitative information. The qualitative resources and people's power in telling their own stories as it relates to what they need, what they truly need.


Brazwell says the lessons from the discussion should help leaders think about more than just the moment.


We sometimes are emphasizing policy and practices and not realizing that there's a historical context to me not being well. So we can do everything from this moment forward, and it will be excellent practices, but it doesn't always factor in where the shrapnel might still be in my body, or my mind, or my spirit. And so, I think one of the things that I'm hoping people will get when we're in conversation and fellowship with each other is the full circle of a person's story—past, present, and future—and how we need to lean into all of those stories in order to figure out how to best take care of ourselves and each other.


The Health Equity Summit is scheduled for April 25–26 in Atlanta. In-person seats are sold out, but you can sign up to attend online. There's a link in the show notes.


Finally this morning, disparities are everywhere. O'Keyla Cooper tells us how one ASTHO member plans to address community needs.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the disparities rural communities face in accessing health care services due to health workforce shortages, hospital closures, and geographically dispersed infrastructure. Rural communities in Kansas are developing tailored solutions to these challenges, including investing in community health worker programs. Find out how community health workers are an asset in rural health interventions by reading the full blog 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 Summer Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Kimberly Brazwell

Founder and CEO, KiMISTRY

Thomas Dobbs MD MPH

State Health Officer, Mississippi Department of Health