Saturday, November 3, 2007

Public health students 'get ready'

APHA’s Student Assembly helped kicked off the 135th Annual Meeting today with “Get Ready: Improving Public Health Infrastructure and Infectious Disease Prevention.” Welcoming students from a variety of public health schools, student meeting Director Bryn Bird and Student Assembly Chair Darren Mays, MPH, opened the meeting with a few helpful tips for Student Assembly members to help them make the most of their time at the meeting.

For starters, Mays recommended that students check out the Student Assembly booth, number 1422 in the schools of public health section of the Public Health Expo. There, attendees can learn more about the Assembly and how to get involved with volunteer opportunities as well as in Assembly committees. Information at the booth will also be available for those interested in visiting Capitol Hill on Monday, Nov. 5, and advocating on behalf of public health.

Also, an official student welcome and orientation event on Monday will provide an overview of the Student Assembly for those new to APHA. The event, which takes place from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in room 202A of the Washington Convention Center, will include a discussion with APHA’s president-elect candidates, an awards session and an informal candidate roundtable.

After Bird’s and Mays’ welcoming remarks, Lynn Goldman, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the Interdepartmental Program in Applied Public Health at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, presented the keynote address at the student gathering. She discussed the need to improve the public health infrastructure to better support emergency preparedness activities, citing examples of poor public health preparation and management during Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

When such emergencies occur, Goldman said, it is crucial that the voice of science reaches key decision-makers, and that risk communication is effectively and accurately relayed to the public.

“People want information that holds up, not spin control,” she said.

Goldman stressed the importance of the Student Assembly in focusing the public health agenda on current and “real” issues. She advised Assembly members heading into the public health work force to be “clear, grounded and forceful” when talking to the media to ensure that necessary health information reaches the public. Preparing the public to be “responders” and to take preventive measures is a key goal of public health, she said.

— A.B.

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