My First Year as HHS Assistant Secretary for Health
One year ago today, I was sworn in as the 16th assistant secretary for health. It is an honor to serve as the ASH, and thanks to the dedicated professionals I work with on a daily basis, it has been an incredible year.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health is leading America to healthier lives in small ways and large, every single day. A recent example is our historic initiative to end the HIV epidemic in America, which was announced in the president’s State of the Union address. The plan focuses on the hardest hit communities — offering more diagnostic, prevention and treatment resources, and, over the next 10 years, expects to decrease new HIV infections by 90 percent.
We have worked diligently with multiple external partners to initiate — and achieve — many public health milestones, including the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; the revised Common Rule; the cross-agency task force on Sickle Cell Disease; the first Tick-Borne Disease Working Group Report; the Pain Management Interagency Best Practices Task Force Draft Report Healthy People 2030 planning; the National Youth Sports Strategy; improved mental and physical health for women veterans; empowering minority communities; and beginning the first federal inter-agency plan to combat sexually transmitted infections. We also have been enabling the international community to benefit from our work through new collaborations with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Global Affairs and partnerships with the World Health Organization.
I expect OASH to oversee many more impactful initiatives during 2019.
With an eye toward that goal, we have recruited world-class leaders and staff, including an exceptional principal deputy assistant secretary for health, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams, and talented new office directors for minority health, women’s health, HIV/AIDS and infectious disease policy, and population affairs.
In addition to my role as ASH, I serve as the secretary’s senior advisor on opioid policy, making OASH’s efforts to prevent and treat substance use disorders even more impactful. We have led HHS efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy, advance evidence based-interventions, support novel research, develop new guidelines and highlight voiceless victims through efforts such as the HHS National Convening on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which was attended by both HHS Secretary Alex Azar and First Lady Melania Trump.
Finally, I have the incredible privilege of leading the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with Surgeon General Jerome Adams, whom I consider one of the most effective surgeons general in our nation’s history. The Commissioned Corps serves in hundreds of locations, both domestic and global, to deliver compassionate care to those in need, to pioneer science and to advance public health policies. We deploy whenever and wherever needed, most recently to provide health screenings and primary care on the U.S. southern border. Our legacy is storied, but to improve our ability to impact public health in the future, we are in the process of modernizing our service to enhance our capabilities, responsiveness and focus.
In these and all future efforts as assistant secretary for health, I am working to ensure that our primary focus is leading America to healthier lives, especially for those who are most vulnerable, including those who have suffered historic disparities.
Patients need transparency and relief from high drug costs
Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America