Health workers slaughter chickens on a farm in Yunlin County, Taiwan in an image released on Feb. 15, 2017. Taiwan is killing tens of thousands of chickens, ducks and turkeys since discovering its first case of H5N6 bird flu in Hualien County. Yunlin Animal and Plant Disease Control Center / EPA

On Wednesday, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, or ASTHO, will try. It’s bringing state health officials to Washington to make the case not only for the prevention fund, but also for increased public health funding.

They know it will be an uphill battle.


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“It’s a tough sell,” ASTHO Executive Director Michael Fraser said. “People know what it means to go to the doctor. They don’t know what it means when public health agencies agencies keep you from getting bird flu or an E. coli.”

They’ll frame their message in terms they hope will get the attention of conservatives, using the language of national defense.

“This is national security. Public health is protecting Americans,” said Amanda Jezek of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Fraser also hopes to tap into Trump’s campaign promises about rebuilding American infrastructure.

“People think about bridges and roads. … We need similar attention to the public health infrastructure,” he said. “We want to get the message out that public health is part of homeland security, part of public safety. It’s not just a bunch of pamphlets and health fairs.”


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Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s chief medical officer and president of the ASTHO, knows this is another tough sell.

“Public health infrastructure doesn’t have same appeal as a bridge that could be named after you,” he said.

Scary tactics might help, Fraser said.

“In terms of scaring the hell out of people, [we are] thinking about the spring and what we have to do around Zika, especially now that states are preparing for mosquito season,” he said.

“When you have a burning airplane on the runway, that’s not the time to start the discussion about whether you need to buy a firetruck.”