Press Room

Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, and Missouri Win ASTHO Vision Awards for Innovative Projects

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Sept. 30, 2015)Today the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) presented its 2015 Vision Awards to the Utah Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Health, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

The ASTHO Vision Awards are presented annually to recognize outstanding state and territorial health department programs or initiatives that demonstrate creative and innovative approaches to address public health needs or challenges. The Vision Awards promote awareness and provide peer recognition to successful state and territorial health programs.

ASTHO presents Vision Awards in two categories: programs with budgets greater than $250,000 and programs with budgets less than $250,000. Applications are judged by experts and leaders in state public health based on innovation, program effectiveness, and potential for replication.

This year, Utah’s Electronic Message Staging Area (EMSA) Program won first place in the Vision Award category for programs with budgets greater than $250,000. EMSA is an extensive rules engine that automatically processes incoming reportable disease laboratory data and manages how the data is processed and inserted into Utah’s disease surveillance system. Since its implementation, the volume of lab results that public health receives has increased by 400 percent.

Colorado’s Retailing Marijuana Health Monitoring and Prevention Program won second place for programs with budgets greater than $250,000. As the first state to allow sales of retail marijuana, Colorado developed the first systematic literature review on the potential public health impacts of marijuana, guidance for public health surveillance, and an education and prevention campaign to focus on public health impacts, such as preventing or delaying youth initiation, preventing use among pregnant and breastfeeding women, and reducing secondhand marijuana smoke exposure.

The first place Vision Award winner for programs with budgets less than $250,000 is Tennessee’s Innovate to Accelerate: Achieving Excellence in Public Health program, a continuous quality improvement (QI) program designed to align all of the Tennessee Department of Health’s work processes with the agency mission. It addressed core public health functions through the lens of the six-process criteria of the Baldrige Framework: training staff in rapid cycle improvement tools, supporting staff to achieve QI utilizing the Baldrige Framework, and building a network for training utilizing experienced examiners.

Missouri’s Disease Electronic Surveillance with Trigonometric Models (DESTEM) won second place in the category for programs with budgets less than $250,000. DESTEM is an interactive visual analytical system that allows for accurate and timely detection of the communicable disease outbreaks. The system produces the typical epidemiological graphs and reports, but also allows an epidemiologist to tailor disease surveillance parameters to see data from different angles. Unlike a static report, its interactive approach to surveillance analysis gives epidemiologists the ability to perform more in-depth analysis, enabling them to make better-informed decisions.


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.