President Trump’s pick to head up the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is getting a nod of approval from the nation’s oldest public health organization – despite his ties to an industry implicated in the current opioid crisis.

Managing that crisis will be among the responsibilities of Alex Azar, who was approved for the post last week by the Senate.

As Secretary of the HHS, the 50-year-old Azar will be responsible for the federal government’s largest domestic agency, which has a $1.1 trillion budget. Azar was U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush and is a former president of Eli Lilly. He replaces Tom Price, who resigned after an outcry over his use of expensive private planes for official business.

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) said Azar “has the necessary experience to lead more than 80,000 federal workers and manage the agency’s indispensable health programs and operations. We look forward to working on a solution to rising drug and medical costs together, ensuring quality and affordable health care to all, strengthening the nation’s governmental public health system and creating better opportunities for all Americans to live their healthiest lives.

"I see many opportunities for Secretary Azar and the public health community to work together productively in the coming years, and we strongly encourage and welcome his support of key HHS public health activities, including the continued implementation of all of the important provisions of the Affordable Care Act and funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration.