Start of APHA 141st Annual Meeting is Also a Fresh Start for the Organization

Nov 4, 2013, 10:08 AM

The American Public Health Association (APHA) launched its 141st annual meeting in Boston on Sunday by re-launching itself, its logo and its tagline which is now: For science. For action. For health.

”We’re deeply excited to share our new look and feel with our members and partners,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA to the nearly 11,000 public health students, academics and practitioners attending the meeting. “With the challenges and opportunities presented by our rapidly changing health landscape, now is the time to better position APHA for success as the collective voice for the health of the public.”

>>NewPublicHealth will be on the ground throughout the APHA conference speaking to public health leaders and presenters, hearing from attendees on the ground and providing updates from sessions, with a focus on how we can build a culture of health. Follow the coverage here.

Benjamin also shared the five core values that APHA’s next phase will emphasize:

  • Community
  • Science and evidence-based decision-making
  • Health equity
  • Prevention and wellness
  • Real progress in improving health

Those themes were in abundance at Sunday’s opening session. ‘Social injustice is killing on a grand scale,” said Professor Sir Michael Marmot, chair of the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health and Director of the International Institute for Society and Health at University College/London. At the request of the British Government, Marmot led a review of health inequalities in England, and published a report, ”Fair Society, Healthy Lives” in February 2010. He has also recently been asked by the World Health Organization to conduct a European review of health inequalities

The UK report concluded that reducing health inequalities would require action on six policy objectives:

  • Give every child the best start in life
  • Enable all children, young people and adults to maximize their capabilities and have control over their lives
  • Create fair employment and good work for all
  • Ensure a healthy standard of living for all
  • Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
  • Strengthen the role and impact of ill (i.e. poor) health prevention

“Every sector is a health sector,” Marmot told the APHA audience. Marmot also reported that several countries, including Slovenia, Sweden, Costa Rica and Brazil, are successfully implementing parts of the report.  Marmot had recommendations for all countries, including the United States: “If you’re doing very little, do something. If you’re doing something better, do it more.”

Outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ticked off some of the public health successes while he held office, including keeping trans fats out of restaurants; banning smoking in bars and restaurants, which he called the biggest fight of his political career; and getting sugary beverages out of vending machines in schools and in state government buildings.

“I've taken some lumps, but I don't regret any of those decisions,” said Menino. “They've been effective at improving health.”

And outgoing president Adewale Troutman noted “a year of high expectations and public health challenges” including a diagnosis he received this year of Parkinson’s disease. Among the things public health needs to do, said Troutman, are ensuring the right to health and health care and building the health infrastructure.

“Go back to your organizations and recruit others, let us stand shoulder to shoulder in this work,” said Troutman. “Take a stand for something, do something, do anything, I don’t want you to just to push the envelope. I want you to tear it up.”

>>Bonus Content: Watch a new APHA video on the organization’s re-launch.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.