Nearly 12,000 health professionals attend APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo
It was with great gusto and an eye toward the future that thousands of public health professionals, educators, students and advocates came together to recommit to making health equity a reality.
For APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo, nearly 12,000 attendees gathered to share their best work, practices and goals toward the meeting’s theme, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health.” Throughout the meeting’s hundreds of scientific and poster sessions, thousands of abstracts, business meetings and career and networking opportunities over five days, covering the entirety of public health’s reach, attendees discussed the ways barriers to health can be eliminated for individuals and communities.
That so many people face issues of access can be hard to acknowledge, especially as public health leaders gathered in “a most walkable and bikeable city, with clean air and fluoridated water,” noted APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, in his remarks at the meeting’s opening session public health must lead the way in fighting those inequities, recognizing privilege and prejudice to rectify historical injustices against entire communities of color, Benjamin said
Opening session keynote speaker Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, also addressed those inequities and barriers to health care access, but highlighted the work Planned Parenthood’s 650 health centers are doing to make them a thing of the past, including improving telemedicine, offering online scheduling and education and working
Local leaders also spoke out during the opening session about the important role public health plays in communities. Brian Turner, MPH, president of the Colorado Public Health Association, called on attendees to be champions for social justice and to manifest change, noting “the fundamental right to health is still facing opposition at every turn.” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state would not rest on its laurels as one of the healthiest in the nation, calling it “a good competition; we all win.” He touted the state’s two-generation approach to public health, setting kids up for healthy habits that will last a lifetime and keeping seniors active, by making sure all children live within a 10-minute walk to a park or green space, enrolling 16,000 state employees in wellness programs and making long-acting reversible contraceptives available to any Colorado woman or girl who wants them.
At the front lines of ensuring the right to health is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been working for 70 years to improve and protect the health of Americans. During a Monday afternoon session, past and current leaders from the agency spoke to a packed auditorium about the agency’s legacy and their experiences steering the “disease detectives of the world.”
Current CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, shared the stage with former directors Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH; Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH; and David Satcher, MD, PhD, who also served as U.S. surgeon general and is an APHA member. APHA’s Benjamin asked the leaders about their work at the helm of the agency, their priorities for the nation’s health and their advice for the next president, among other health topics.
While working at CDC is a rewarding experience, being on the front lines comes with challenges, the directors said, from educating Congress to racing to save lives during infectious disease outbreaks. For Frieden, one of the most challenging parts of his term was responding to the explosive spread of Ebola in West Africa in 2014. The multi-country outbreak led to more than 11,000 deaths and as many as 28,000 cases of the disease.
“We really saw the possibility of the world on the brink of not just hundreds of thousands of deaths from Ebola, but shutting down health care systems,” Frieden said. “The challenge was, how can you move fast enough?”
CDC stepped up the challenge of responding to the outbreak, putting 1,400 people in the field in West Africa and dedicating 4,000 staff to the response, he said. Though the initial outbreak has been controlled, the agency continues to respond to flare-ups, including 13 cases in Guinea and Liberia that occurred in March. The people who work at CDC “have a deep caring about people all over the world and are really ready to go anywhere, anytime to fight diseases and protect the health of people,” Satcher said.
Source: The Nations’ Health