Category Archives: NACCHO

Jul 12 2013
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NACCHO Annual 2013: Immunizations as a Model for Integrating Public Health and Health Care

While immunizations are a ubiquitous symbol of public health, in the last decade or so many public health departments have shied away from using the icon on their home pages or even adding it to a top ten list of what they do in the hopes of making both citizens and policymakers realize that public health extends far beyond infectious disease. Yet as public health departments integrate their work with the private sector, who will do the vaccinating, how immunization records will be kept and who gets paid for the work are pivotal issues that local health officials are grappling with.

A well-attended session at the NACCHO Annual conference yesterday provided a few more questions than answers, but armed attendees with new information as implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins and both public health and private providers see their roles change and merge. Significantly, the ACA is expected to enroll millions of children, and under new rules the Vaccines for Children program will no longer cover the cost for vaccines for children who can receive immunizations under their own insurance. That will reduce funding for some health departments.

Other changes ahead for vaccination coordination include the role of accountable care organizations (ACOs) in coordinating care under the ACA, electronic registries and billing for public health services, said Paul Etkind, MPH, DrPH, head of infectious diseases at NACCHO.

“Much of this has yet to play out, so there are many unknowns,” said Etkind, who added that vaccines are a good example of the need for up front conversations with providers about what public health has to offer and a good way for health departments to become part of ACOs. “Going forward there will be a greater emphasis on coordinating care between the public and private sectors, than in delivering the care in many cases and public health needs to be active players in this process.”

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Jul 11 2013
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Health Departments Begin Implementing the Affordable Care Act: NACCHO Annual

file The view of Dallas, Texas, from the 2013 NACCHO Annual Conference.

With just 83 days to go until health insurance marketplaces open up to allow otherwise uninsured Americans to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), NACCHO Annual has a good number of plenary and other sessions focused on the role of public health in implementing the law. 

>>Read more NewPublicHealth coverage of NACCHO Annual.

In his address to the 1,000 plus attendees at this year’s NACCHO conference, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, talked about what local health departments can do to support ACA. “This is an all hands on deck situation,” said Frieden. “We want to do a lot with improving quality of care, but first we’ve got to get people signed up.”

Frieden ticked off actions that local health departments can take to help support enrollment, including:

  • Provide resources to the community on getting insured & the benefits of being insured, including free preventive care.
  • Educate every resident served by the department, such as immunization, tuberculosis and STD clinic patients, on how they can enroll.
  • Educate every organization that the health departments connects with, such as schools, courts and businesses, on how stakeholders can enroll.

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Jul 11 2013
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Tom Frieden, NACCHO Reflect on Public Health Successes and Partnerships for the Path Forward

“Public health will always be local. But we will always need to adapt and evolve to continue to be relevant and effective,” said Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the packed crowd of local health department leaders at the opening session of this year’s National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Annual Meeting. That means leveraging what’s working well, and keeping a finger on the pulse of what will work even better in the future, according to panelists at yesterday’s session, which was moderated by Dr. Swannie Jett, DrPH, MSc, Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County and included presentations by a number of federal-level public health officials.

>>Follow ongoing NewPublicHealth coverage of NACCHO Annual, including session recaps, interviews with speakers and more.

Jett alluded to a rapid transformation in public health that will change what it means to ensure the health of a nation or a county.

“Public health needs to be at the forefront,” said Jett. “We need to take the lead in our communities. We need to reach out to community partners, and to health officers in other counties and states. We need to bring everyone into the fold in this conversation.”

These kinds of cross-cutting partnerships, with public health playing a central role, were also the subject of a recent op-ed by Frieden on the Huffington Post, sharing success stories from the 2013 Annual Status Report of the National Prevention Strategy. The Strategy envisions a prevention-oriented society where all sectors recognize the value of health for individuals, families, and society, working together to achieve better health for all Americans. Frieden shared some examples of efforts to create healthier places to live happening across the country:

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Jul 10 2013
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NACCHO Annual 2013: NewPublicHealth Q&A with Robert Pestronk

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NewPublicHealth is on the ground this week in Dallas at NACCHO Annual, the yearly meeting of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). The meeting theme this year is “Public Health by the Numbers” as city and county health departments face increased pressure for limited resources; an increased focus on both new and traditional public health roles; and government accountability and effectiveness.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Robert Pestronk, NACCHO’s executive director, in advance of the conference.

>> Be sure to follow our NACCHO conference coverage all week long, including stories from key sessions and interviews with speakers and thought leaders.

NACCHO CEO Robert Pestronk NACCHO CEO Robert Pestronk

NewPublicHealth: What are the key issues at this year’s NACCHO conference?

Robert Pestronk: We’re focused on a conference theme of public health by the numbers because the availability and use of data is integral to the performance and operations of local health departments. The use of data and metrics is important for quality improvement in health departments, and for the development and communication of messages about health status and disease status within local communities.

A couple of other things that are new for this year’s annual meeting is that we’re recognizing the role that large cities and metropolitan areas play in modeling and demonstrating public health policy and governmental public health practice work. We have a couple of sessions with presenters from big cities to talk about the work they’re doing. And because the Affordable Care Act is influencing the work and funding and future for local health departments, there are sessions to help local health departments consider the effects from the law. We’ve also got a plenary session on reducing health disparities, which is a line of work that is very important to NACCHO. In fact, NACCHO’s work in this area has stimulated work in other parts of the governmental public health structure at the state and federal level.

NPH: What is the role that local health departments will play when it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act?

Pestronk: I think that the specific role that local health departments play, like in most situations, will depend upon the kinds of assets that are available in a local community and the extent to which their state is implementing provisions of the law. Local health departments can be helpful informing people about the start of enrollment and helping people understand where they can go to enroll. Part of what NACCHO has been doing over the past year is to share with local health departments the kinds of opportunities that are available for implementing and educating about the health law.

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Mar 12 2013
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Public Health Preparedness Summit 2013: Q&A with Jack Herrmann

Jack Herrmann Jack Herrmann, NACCHO

"When the day comes that we’re not able to respond in the way that we think we should, that there will be a price to pay."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) are among the partners hosting this week’s 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit, which provides a national forum for public health and health care professionals, emergency managers, and other leaders to collaborate, learn, and share best practices—especially as budget cuts threaten strides that have been made to better prepare communities for disasters.

Conferences sessions include presentations on catastrophic preparedness, community resilience, biosurveillance, volunteer management, mass prophylaxis, public health law, and crisis standards of care.

NewPublicHealth will be on the ground at the Preparedness Summit in Atlanta this week covering sessions, exploring new tools at the conference expo and talking with plenary speakers and other leaders. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #PHPS13 and follow our coverage here.

In advance of the conference NewPublicHealth spoke with Jack Herrmann, senior advisor for public health preparedness at NACCHO.

NewPublicHealth: How do disasters that happen during the course of the year—such as Superstorm Sandy and the past year’s mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut—impact the sessions at the Summit?

Jack Herrmann: Unfortunately over the last number of years we’ve always had some kind of event that we’ve had to focus on during the summit, some disaster that has occurred, so this year really is not unique. Last year we also had hurricanes and major tornadoes, and so we found ourselves having to rally around major disasters and pointing out how poignant the Preparedness Summit is because of the events that unfolded. This year, the Aurora shooting, the Newtown shooting, Hurricane Sandy and other events that have occurred really define why we all come together each year for this summit.

It is an opportunity to reflect back and remember how important it is for us to be able to prepare for events every day. I suspect many of the people who have sat in the audience never expected a disaster to occur in their community. So, it is a lesson for all of us in that we never know when disaster is going to strike and that it’s critically important that we’re always on our toes and looking for ways that we can enhance and build the preparedness efforts across our communities and across our nation.

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Jan 28 2013
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Local Public Health Departments Tackle Flu

Paul Etkind, NACCHO Paul Etkind, NACCHO

The most recent update on flu activity in the U.S. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds 47 states showing widespread activity, down from 48 states the week before. “Widespread” means that more than half of the counties in a state are reporting flu activity. While the Western part of the country will likely see more cases, flu seems to be slowing some in the South, Southeast, New England and the Midwest—though still packing a punch in terms of illness, deaths, emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Paul Etkind, MPH, DrPH, MPH, DrPH, Senior Director of Infectious Diseases at the National Association of County and City Health Officials about the role local health departments play in educating communities about flu prevention and helping to facilitate treatment.

NewPublicHealth: What, if anything, is different about the flu this year?

Paul Etkind: The flu severity that’s being experienced, which we haven’t seen for several years now, has gotten the public’s attention and they’re really heeding the public health urgings, communication and education that’s been going on all along saying hey, get your flu shots, protect yourself. So now, within a relatively short period of time, there’s a very large demand for flu shots.

CDC Flu Map Weekly Flu Surveillance Map, CDC

During the H1N1 outbreak of a few years ago, there was much greater funding for what the health departments were doing. I saw some magic happening then. They had the funds to hold clinics in very unusual places, such as local baseball stadiums and airports. They went to places where people are most comfortable.

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Nov 16 2012
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Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Health: Q&A with NACCHO's David Dyjack

David Dyjack David Dyjack, National Association of County and City Health Officials

Among the impacts of the East Coast’s Hurricane Sandy have been tens of thousands of uprooted trees, contaminated water and tons of compromised food. A recent article in the Journal of Environmental Health Natural recommends that environmental health become an integral part of emergency preparedness and that community stakeholders take a role in merging the two.

David Dyjack, DrPH, associate executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and a co-author of the study, spoke with NewPublicHealth about building momentum to include environmental health in disaster emergency preparedness.

NewPublicHealth: What does the article address?

David Dyjack: The article is the first step in a series of research steps looking at how best to integrate environmental health and emergency preparedness so that communities are more resilient and take greater responsibility for their own health and safety in the event of an environmental disaster.

NPH: What is distinct about environmental health emergency preparedness? 

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Aug 6 2012
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Building and Maintaining a Quality Health Department Website

At last month’s NACCHO 2012 conference, Susan Feinberg, MPH, communications specialist with the Cambridge Public Health Department in Massachusetts, led a discussion on the importance of a strong and reliable web presence for local health departments.

“Your site is the virtual face of your health department,” said Feinberg. “It’s your number one communications channel and anchor for everything you do.”

With more Americans relying on the web as their means of accessing resources and information, it’s more important than ever for local health departments to create and maintain sites that provide real benefits to the public. Among the aspects Feinberg highlighted, a quality health department website should help users locate services, provide a place to share feedback, as well as discuss how the department is using grants and funding.

A well-built department website provides many benefits to public health practitioners, as well, including streamlining permitting and licensing procedures, amplifying the reach of local staff and promoting credibility for the department.

When building local health department websites, many communities seek to model their online presence after “big city” sites. However, Feinberg warns that this is not always attainable or appropriate. The best health department websites are not always the flashiest, but the ones that provide users with information that is current and concise, guide users to the resources they want and need and reflect the unique vision and values of the individual health department and its surrounding community.

It’s also important to consider that many of the same traits that make common commercial websites popular and easy to use translate well into the public health sector. The website should be easy to navigate, professional and consistant in appearance, include functional and thoughful use of images and graphics  and some manner of searchability, both internally and across the web via search engines to make the site easier to locate. Sites should also include links to other agencies, both local and Federal, that offer related  services and information and access to information in various languages, depending on community needs.

Feinberg also suggests local health departments make use of tracking and reporting tools, such as Google Analytics, to help monitor visits and growth trends, adding that the ultimate goal of a well-constructed health department website is to be “a trusted source for accurate and verifiable information.”

>>Follow the rest of our coverage from the NACCHO Annual Conference.

Aug 6 2012
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Building and Maintaining a Quality Health Department Website

At last month’s NACCHO 2012 conference, Susan Feinberg, MPH, communications specialist with the Cambridge Public Health Department in Massachusetts, led a discussion on the importance of a strong and reliable web presence for local health departments.

“Your site is the virtual face of your health department,” said Feinberg. “It’s your number one communications channel and anchor for everything you do.”

With more Americans relying on the web as their means of accessing resources and information, it’s more important than ever for local health departments to create and maintain sites that provide real benefits to the public. Among the aspects Feinberg highlighted, a quality health department website should help users locate services, provide a place to share feedback, as well as discuss how the department is using grants and funding.

A well-built department website provides many benefits to public health practitioners, as well, including streamlining permitting and licensing procedures, amplifying the reach of local staff and promoting credibility for the department.

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Jul 23 2012
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Voices of NACCHO: Local Partnerships for Healthier Communities

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

NewPublicHealth was on the ground at the National Association of County and City Health Officials Annual 2012 conference, providing the latest conference news and in­-depth interviews with conference speakers, as well as local success stories and a glimpse into the Los Angeles public health scene. Coverage highlights included:

At the conference, we also spoke with attendees about how local health departments are forging innovative new partnerships across sectors and across communities to meet shared goals and leverage resources. We asked: What’s the most creative, outside-the-box partner you’ve engaged with from a sector beyond public health? What did they add to the conversation and your joint efforts? What successes have you achieved as a result of partnerships? Who do you see as the most critical partners for public health?

A sampling of responses we heard from attendees are recapped below. Themes that emerged included the critical nature of partnerships between health departments and hospitals, Community Health Assessments and Improvement Plans as a catalyst for partnerships and sustained community health changes, and diverse partnerships across the community that each bring something valuable to the table.

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