Island Health Officials Advocate to Strengthen Healthcare Infrastructure During ASTHO’s Spring Leadership Meeting

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) leadership and public health officials will gather in Washington, D.C. from March 5-7 to align on opportunities for enhanced partnerships with federal agencies. Island health officials will also meet with Congress and the administration urging them to strengthen island health systems and infrastructure.

Territorial and freely associated state health officials will meet with members of Congress and federal agencies to discuss ongoing negotiations of the Compacts of Free Association (COFA). Congress is beginning to review the recently signed COFA Memoranda of Understanding, which outlines planned funding for the freely associated states and jurisdictions with significant COFA migrants (e.g., Guam and Hawaii). ASTHO’s members are working to ensure this funding can support comprehensive and vibrant systems of care on the islands.

“We appreciate the opportunity to speak directly with federal and congressional representatives whose decisions shape our health systems,” says Esther Muña, PhD, MHA, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, USAPI director on ASTHO’s board of directors, and chair of ASTHO’s Insular Affairs Committee. “Specifically, we are looking to extend and increase the financial assistance available for jurisdiction health priorities through COFA. Our priorities include improving data on health outcomes, opportunities to expand eligibility for essential health service delivery systems such as vaccines for children, and enhanced support for special populations such as veterans.”

ASTHO’s board of directors will also meet with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials on March 6, including HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, JD, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness Response Dawn O’Connell, JD, Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Carole Johnson, MA, and Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Rachel Levine, MD.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve partnered extensively with federal agencies and ASTHO’s Spring Meeting provides an opportunity for us to connect intentionally with key leaders to delve into other public health challenges our country faces, such as maternal morbidity, the opioid epidemic, and mental health crisis,” says Anne Zink, MD, ASTHO president and chief medical officer for the Alaska Department of Health. “At the same time, as the COVID-19 public health emergency expires in May we want to ensure that its unwinding is a smooth transition for the populations we serve. We also need to ensure there is a coordinated, robust, equitable healthcare continuum of care for every American. Working hand in hand with the administration critical.”

ASTHO appreciates support from the Pacific Island Health Officers Association for island advocacy at the Spring Meeting. For more information about ASTHO’s advocacy, view ASTHO’s 2023 Federal Legislative Agenda and ASTHO’s FY24 Governmental Public Health Appropriations Book.

ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice. 

SOURCE Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

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