On March 24, 2021, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released their report, “STIs: Adopting a Sexual Health Paradigm.” The report reaches to all levels of US society and healthcare system to identify recommendations to improve the national approach to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
For STD Awareness Week, NACCHO is sharing the first of a series of posts to highlight some of the recommendations that are particularly important for local health departments (in case you have not yet had time to read the 750+ pages!).
First off, Conclusion 12-5 of the report states, “STI professionals at all levels of government have performed valiantly within the constraints of the resources provided and the policy attention that they have received. Furthermore, STI professionals, especially within state and local health departments, have critical knowledge and expertise that needs be the foundation of any efforts to improve the national response to STI prevention and control.”
In recognition of that conclusion, the report highlights that “policies and initiatives often succeed or fail at the local level” and therefore, “innovated leaders and strong champions for the STI response are needed in health departments, academic institutions, public and private health care settings, and community-based organizations.” The report continues, “it is difficult to conceive of how to achieve greater equity and comparability across jurisdictions without further investments” and calls out, simultaneously, the need to “improve planning and coordination of effort among the diversity of stakeholders within a community” with crucial health department leadership for “strong partnerships and true collaboration between public health, the health system, community, and philanthropy.”
This call to support local efforts and local health departments leads directly into Conclusion 12-9 which states that “local jurisdictions need to conduct, and be held accountable for, a broad and meaningful stakeholder engagement process to identify needs and assets and to establish prevention and care priorities for their jurisdictions” and Recommendation 12-5, which encourages “local health departments to develop and implement comprehensive plans for sexually transmitted prevention and control.” These plans should:
- Include community-wide needs assessments, oversampling high-priority populations, that determine the adequacy of available sexual health services in their jurisdictions and explore the creation of new, improved, and easier access points for sexual health promotion in a stigma-free environment, including STI screening and treatment services that take advantage of current rapid and self-testing technologies.
- Identify mechanisms to meet the needs of underserved and highly impacted populations.
- Establish formalized, funded relationships with trusted community-based organizations to deliver critical STI prevention and care services.
Specifically, this recommendations names NACCHO as a key partner in this work and states that we should develop resources and provide technical assistance to health departments on how to do meaningful stakeholder consultation, develop a plan that offers strategic support for improving STI outcomes leveraging all available community assets, and how to monitor implementation and keep the public informed.
This STD Awareness Week, we will be thinking about how to support you in this effort, and we hope that you will start thinking about what such a plan would like in your community—either in conjunction with an Ending the HIV Epidemic plans or not.
The report highlights may be found here, and you can download a free copy of the report here. and Want to chat about this or other items from the NASEM report? Reach out to Rebekah Horowitz, NACCHO’s Senior Program Analyst for HIV, STI, & Viral Hepatitis, at email@example.com.