Stirring words in the Windy City filled many with hope for a healthier world at today’s opening of the APHA Midyear Meeting. Chicago son and APHA Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin welcomed a full audience who gathered to hear how they can help advance health reform implementation.
Leaders of the local public health and political worlds greeted attendees and helped set the stage for the challenges before us. While here, many paid homage to former APHA President and Chicago physician/activist Dr. Quentin Young, who was in the audience and who has long carried the banner for universal health coverage.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a self-professed believer in public health, said when it comes to providing health care to our nation’s people, we need “everybody in, nobody out…We need to put the caring back into health care.” And he celebrated the fact that “investing in public health pays great, great dividends.”
As if foretelling the possibly rocky implementation road ahead, Dr. Linda Rae Murray, APHA president and chief medical officer of the Cook County (Ill.) Department of Public Health, noted that Chicago was a perfect place to hold this important meeting: “In Chicago, we do public health and public policy as a contact sport.”
National pollster and political adviser Celinda Lake gave reason for hope as she shared her public opinion research on prevention: “The public is strongly supportive of prevention and believes it should be a much higher priority.”
Keynote speaker Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, mused about the “absurd outcomes” we see in U.S. health care, with low returns on our high investment, as compared with other countries. But she said public health can change that. “It’s about social, political and economic justice.” She encouraged attendees to remind people that we’re all in this together. “The one who wins the race isn’t the one who gets there first, but who gets there with their family intact,” she said.
As she came to a close, Granholm appropriately sent attendees forth exhorting them — physicians, educators, health workers, activists — “to go out and stage an intervention to make the world a better place.”
Above, Jennifer Granholm tells Midyear Meeting Opening Session attendees that "public health is public...Part of it is to change the world." Photo by Michele Late