Health departments provide crucial resources and expertise for individuals with infectious diseases – providing care, guiding them to appropriate care, conducting surveillance, and analyzing data. The current economic climate and changing healthcare landscape are challenging health officials to make difficult decisions about how to maximize limited program resources and articulate the unique role of public health. Integration provides opportunities for maximum impact on health. Although public health has traditionally focused on community services and population health, and primary care on medical services and individual health, healthcare’s transformation is opening up new opportunities for the two to work together in a more systematic way. Health departments may partner with primary care organizations and provider groups to plan and share responsibility for health improvement and ensure all needed services are available and accessible. ASTHO (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials) is working with members and partners to explore and develop integration efforts. Through stakeholder meetings, ASTHO has developed a summary of collective thinking and a roadmap of strategies to effectively address integration of infectious disease services. In addition, ASTHO is involved in a number of projects to collect and support practical examples of integration:
- ASTHO is collaborating with a group of national partners to examine the current status of integration of services provided for sexually transmitted diseases and how transitioning to a more integrated model can be successful.
- To help state health officials work with providers and the public to implement CDC’s recommendation on hepatitis C virus screening of baby boomers, ASTHO has collected helpful tools and background materials into a communications toolkit.
- ASTHO has been engaged in a series of projects which aim to increase access to immunizations through diverse partnerships within communities, e.g., one project involves promotion of flu vaccinations for pregnant women and examines the conversation between public health and providers (obstetricians).