What’s Public Health Got to do with… State Health Officials?
By The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Healthy Aging & Health Improvement Team & The Age-Friendly Public Health Systems Initiative Team
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is a committed partner of the Age-Friendly Public Health Systems (AFPHS) movement. During the beginning of 2022, ASTHO conducted a widespread environmental scan to track and identify public health trends within the United States. A key finding was that meeting the needs of the aging population is a core and high-priority issue that state health officials are committed to addressing. ASTHO recognizes that in order to promote healthy aging and older adult health, public health authority and influence must be leveraged.
Public health authority describes areas where officials are authorized to act; public health influence describes areas where public health officials can encourage others to address issues outside of the traditional realm of public health. Together, authority and influence can support public health roles in healthy aging.
ASTHO considers healthy aging as health promotion across the life course with a focus on prevention and risk reduction. Promoting healthy aging requires leveraging both public health authority and public health influence. ASTHO applies the authority/influence lens to one of their key resources, the ASTHO Technical Packages (TPs), which are a selected group of evidence-based interventions that together help sustain substantial improvements related to a risk factor or health outcome. ASTHO is currently working on a TP related to healthy aging and older adult health, recognizing that some of the strategies included in other TPs can support healthy aging. These include preventive interventions like physical activity and good nutrition that can support healthy living across the lifespan.
In addition to utilizing influence/authority, ASTHO also applies the AFPHS 6Cs Framework to guide state health department adoption of policy, systems, and environmental changes that promote healthy aging and older adult health. These include:
- Creating and leading policy and systems changes: ASTHO supports health departments in considering opportunities to scale their Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map actions to focus on policy or systems level changes. Additionally, ASTHO monitors legislation across the states and territories to identify trends and emerging issues with the healthy aging domain.
- Communicating important public health information: ASTHO created a Healthy Aging Module to support public health agencies in gaining a foundational understanding of why healthy aging is a public health priority, share the roles of public health in aging healthily, and highlight steps that agencies can take toward creating an AFPHS
- Connecting and convening multi-sector stakeholders: ASTHO partnered with TFAH to conduct a crosswalk of the Georgia state plan on aging with the Georgia State Health Improvement Plan to strengthen collaboration across the public health and aging sectors
- Collecting, analyzing, and translating relevant data: in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, ASTHO published a Needs Assessment Tool to assist health departments in engaging other stakeholders in the needs assessment process and ensure an equitable approach in designing interventions for individuals living with dementia and their caregivers.
TFAH is honored to have such a valuable partnership with ASTHO, and we look forward to working together to developing more tools and resources for public health departments at all levels.