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Association of State and Territorial Health Officials


Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is the national nonprofit organization representing the official public health agencies of the fifty states, the six U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. ASTHO's members are the chief health officials of these jurisdictions.

ASTHO provides unique state-based expertise and leadership for public health policy and practice. Calling on the knowledge and experience of its members, the senior management and program officials of its member agencies, and its alumni, ASTHO formulates and influences sound national public health policy and helps to assure excellence in state-based public health practice.

ASTHO collaborates with other national organizations to address priority public health issues. Principal among these collaborating organizations are the ASTHO Affiliatessixteen organizationally independent entities representing the directors of programs or health professions within state health departments. A close working relationship also exists between ASTHO and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing the nation's official public health agencies at the local level. A Joint Council addresses issues of importance to both ASTHO and NACCHO.

ASTHO's origins date to 1879 when the concept of forming a national association of health officials was first raised at a meeting of the Sanitary Council of the Mississippi Valley in Nashville, Tennessee. Four years later, officers of several state boards of health met informally to consider forming their own national organization, and on May 7, 1884, representatives from nineteen states met in Washington, DC, to establish the National Conference of State Boards of Health. In 1897, the constitution of that National Conference was amended to include membership for representatives from Canada and Mexico. To reflect this expanded membership, the organization's name was changed to the Conference of State and Provincial Health Authorities of North America.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the U.S. Surgeon General and the State and Provincial health officials began meeting in conference annually to discuss the medical and scientific aspects of controlling diseases of public health consequence prevalent at that time. At the 1908 conference, interstate quarantine regulations were discussedthe first time that a matter of such importance was brought before the membersand addressed in the context of a "working conference." Successive working conferences became occasions for the U.S. Public Health Service and the State and Provincial health officials to discuss administrative relationships as well as advances in disease prevention and control.

By 1935, the annual conferences had became a joint venture, meeting the needs of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, the Chief of the Children's Bureau, and the State and Provincial Health Authorities. However, shortly after the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935, state health officials began expressing the need for an independent organization that could represent them on matters concerning both federal policy and funding. As a result, on March 23, 1942, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials was established in its current form, with membership limited to the executive officers of the health departments of the U.S. states and territories.

Today, ASTHO receives its financial support from member dues, cooperative agreements with several federal agencies, and from charitable foundations. Each year ASTHO establishes its annual legislative and policy priorities. Currently, ASTHO has policy committees addressing access to health services, environmental health, infectious diseases, prevention, and public health information and infrastructure. In each of these priority areas, ASTHO considers complex, critical public health issues and publishes newsletters, surveys, resource lists and white papers that assist the states and territories in the development of public policy and the promotion of excellence in public health practice.

George E. Hardy, Jr.

(see also: American Public Health Association; Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors; National Association of County and City Health Officials; Surgeon General )

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