Press Room

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Challenges Members to Promote Health Equity and Health in All Policies

(Feb. 2, 2016) Arlington, Virginia – The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and ASTHO President and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger have issued the 2016 ASTHO President’s Challenge: Advancing Health Equity and Optimal Health for All.

The challenge is based on the Triple Aim of Health Equity, a framework weaving together three core elements of public health practice and policy which recognize that health status is influenced by a host of factors—most of them outside the healthcare system. The 2016 challenge calls upon states and territories to: (1) expand their understanding of what creates health, (2) implement a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach with health equity as the goal, and (3) strengthen community capacity to create their own healthy future. The challenge encourages states and territories to broaden their approaches to advancing health equity and improving the health of all their residents by adopting the foundational public health practices embodied in the Triple Aim of Health Equity. The challenge will be to use these practices to address a policy, program, or activity issue within their jurisdictions in the next year.

“The dominant narrative in America is that health is the responsibility of individuals until they get sick, and then health becomes the responsibility of the healthcare system,” Ehlinger says. “This outdated narrative allows little room for community or social influences, and its deficiency is clear when you look at the health disparities in this country and our overall health outcomes relative to other developed nations.”

The challenge specifically targets health inequities that plague a number of groups that have been disadvantaged in America. As the nation becomes more diverse, the impact of unaddressed inequities will become more evident and alarming. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 50.4 percent of children 1 year of age and younger belong to a minority group as of July 2011. By 2044, a majority of the entire U.S. population will belong to a minority group. Yet research shows that minority populations are disproportionately affected by higher rates of poverty, decreased graduation rates, and food and housing insecurity—factors that decrease their opportunities to be healthy.

The new challenge will use three core elements of public health practice that make up the Triple Aim of Health Equity approach to elevate the profile of advancing health equity and creating optimal health for all. ASTHO will support state and territorial health officials and partners who accept the challenge by providing technical assistance and support, sharing best practices and success stories, and facilitating information exchange and opportunities for collaboration around health equity and HiAP approaches. Ehlinger has recently presented on the challenge to CDC, the Institute of Medicine Committee on Community Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States, and multiple professional groups around the country.

“The 2016 ASTHO President’s Challenge recognizes that good health does not begin with treating illness. Our health status arises from our everyday environments, activities, and the people around us,” says Sharon Moffatt, ASTHO interim executive director. “We are proud to work with Dr. Ehlinger to promote health equity and optimal health for all. When we build healthier communities, we all benefit.”

In November, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy joined Ehlinger during the Health Equity in All Policies panel at the American Public Health Association’s 2015 Annual Meeting, where Murthy voiced his support for the new President’s Challenge.

“Reducing disparities in health will give everyone a chance to live a healthy life and improve the quality of life for all Americans,” says Murthy.

To learn more about the 2016 ASTHO President’s Challenge, visit:


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, 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 state-based public health practice.