Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuesday's Have You Heard

Girl power: Join the efforts to make sure women's reproductive health needs aren't left out of health reform at Tuesday session 4077, "Moving Health Care Reform Beyond Reproductive Rights to Reproductive Justice," at 8:30 a.m. in room 154B of the convention center.

Hostile climates: Learn more about one of public health's biggest emerging topics: climate change. Join your fellow Annual Meeting attendees at session 4291, "Climate Change and the Coasts: Coping with Rising Health Threats and Preparing for the Future," at 2:30 p.m. in meeting room 13 of the Renaissance Hotel.

Lost in cyberspace?: Learn how to use today's techie tools for the public health good at special session 4090, "The Social Network: An Improvement Tool," which starts at 10:30 a.m. in Grand Ballroom South of the Renaissance Hotel.

Field of (broken) dreams: Get prepped for Wednesday's Closing Session on occupational health by checking out session 4401, "Occupational Health Disparities Institute: Farm worker health and safety," at 4:30 p.m. in room 143C of the convention center. Attendees will learn about health inequities and pesticide exposure as well as about tools for engaging indigenous farm worker communities.

Well done!: Stop by Tuesday night's APHA Public Health Awards Reception and Ceremony to say "Congrats!" to this year's award winners and help celebrate their public health achievements. The reception runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 146AB of the convention center.

Cheers to good health!: Skip the bar and stop by the reception and awards ceremony for APHA's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section, which starts at 6:30 p.m. in room 146C of the convention center.

Taking back our communities


“We built America for cars for 50 years. We need to go back and build America for human beings.”

It’s a well-worn but ultimately effective line, especially when delivered by Richard Jackson, chair of the Environmental and Health Sciences department at the University of California-Los Angeles and former head of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jackson is also the author of “Designing Healthy Communities,” co-published by APHA, which examines the role of the built community in creating unhealthy lifestyles.

“We’ve essentially made America as unfriendly as we possibly can to pedestrians and walking,” Jackson said during a Monday book-signing session at the Public Health Expo. “It’s had a huge impact on physical well-being.”

Jackson is a pediatrician by training who worked on smallpox eradication and other topics before coming to the realization that “my joy was in the juncture between large policy and human health and well-being, particularly around children.”

He said he realized that the system whereby we “sit at the end of the disease pipeline” and try to rescue people is not working.

The book, which is aimed at the general public rather than a strictly academic audience, seeks to change urban planning to make communities more active and to build physical activity back into peoples’ lives.

“It’s really intended for the layperson who is not happy with where their community is headed,” he said.

Brian Sumner, a primary care internist from New York who bought Jackson’s book, said Jackson is “on the edge of cultural change with the things he talks about.”

Doctoral nursing student Karen Dawn, agreed.

“I love the idea of a community focus on improving health,” she said. “We need to look broader than what we’re doing now.”

Copies of Jackson’s book, some autographed by the author, are available for sale in the Everything APHA section at the Public Health Expo. Also for sale is a four-disc DVD set of a companion program that is set to air on public television in January.

— C.T.

Above, Richard Jackson signs copies of his book inside the Public Health Expo. Photo by Charlotte Tucker

Leading the way to better health

"Healthy People unifies the country...it drives action in a public way to make our country stronger and healthier," said Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, during today's session on the "National Release of 2020 Leading Health Indicators."

Koh spoke to a packed room of Annual Meeting attendees as he released the 12 leading health indicator topic areas to resounding applause and cheer. The indicators are high-priority health issues included in Healthy People 2020, the nation's health objectives for the current decade. The indicators are intended to help health and public health professionals assess the health of the nation, facilitate collaboration and action, and help motivate entire communities to action.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here are your new leading health indicator topic areas: Access to health services; clinical preventive services, environmental quality; injury and violence; maternal, infant and child health; mental health; nutrition, physical activity and obesity; oral health (which made this list for the first time); reproductive and sexual health; social determinants (a theme that Koh said has galvanized decision-makers); substance abuse; and tobacco.

The new leading health indicator topic areas are a call to action, Koh said as he urged attendees to integrate the indicators into their public health policies and programs. He also announced that starting in the new year, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion will launch a new monthly series highlighting those who are addressing the leading indicators in innovative ways.

"Shoot for the stars," Koh said. "If you only land on the moon, you are still out of this world."

Session presenter Gail Christopher, vice president for programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, asked the session audience to give a round of applause for the social determinants having made it onto the leading indicator list. Christopher noted that education and closing graduation disparity gaps will be a critical focus as work moves forward.

"These indicators are also uniting us as one profession in the sense that the clinical and social determinants come together," she said.

Todd Park, chief technology officer at HHS, jumped to the mic next (and when APHA's Dr. Georges Benjamin, who moderated the session, told audience members to fasten their seat belts as Park stepped up to speak, he wasn't kidding. Park was pumped for public health!). Park excitedly announced a new challenge for attendees to tackle, calling on "you public health ninjas and princesses" to team up with techies to help solve priority health problems. The challenge involves developing innovative apps that can be used to make positive progress on the leading health indicators. An example of such a tool would be an app that social workers can offer to their clients that would help connect them to preventive services and allow them to keep track of their progress. The deadline for the challenge is March 9, 2012. For all the challenge details, visit www.challenge.gov.

"May the force be with you," Park said. "We can't wait to see what you'll build."

For more on the new leading health indicators, visit www.healthypeople.gov/2020/LHI/default.aspx.

— K.K.

The doctor is in




U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin took a tour through the Public Health Expo earlier today and had the chance to meet her many fans.

Photos by Kim Krisberg

Pop culture and public health

On an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dr. Izzie Stevens tells her HIV-positive patient that she doesn’t have to have an abortion because of her fear of transmitting the virus to her baby. With proper, regular medication, Izzie tells her, she has a 98 percent chance of having a healthy baby free of HIV. That’s 98 percent. The doctor repeats that fact three times in the brief conversation, and the patient herself says it once more to drive home the point.

That one-minute conversation took months of behind-the-scenes work to bring to life on the small screen. It was a collaboration between the show’s writers and producers and the Kaiser Family Foundation, who provided the health research on that storyline, says Tina Hoff, senior vice president at the foundation.

“We have a mutual goal, which is to bring the largest possible audience to the content,” said Hoff, a presenter during this morning's session on "Content Integration and Social Change: Sparking Action Through Programming Advertising and Popular Culture." “For a fully rounded public health strategy, we can’t ignore the entertainment industry.”

Hoff was on a panel with other health and entertainment leaders at today’s session, which was moderated by Peggy Conlan, president of the Ad Council. When health information and compelling storytelling come together, whether the medium is TV, film or the Internet, great things can happen — behavior change can occur, presenters said.

Liana Schwarz, senior vice president of social action at Participant Media, said filmmakers worked closely with researchers on the film “Contagion” to extend the experience of the film beyond the theater. Sure, it’s great to sympathize with characters, to laugh and cry with them, but what can you do when you get home?

“We like to add a little spinach to the popcorn,” Schwarz said.

The January DVD release of “Contagion,” for example, will have additional content with specific action messages, an informative — and entertaining — video on pandemics, and resources where the audience can find more information.

“We look to have an impact on the broader issue, from the personal level to the home level to the government level,” Schwarz said.

It is the company’s goal to entertain the audience, then facilitate the social action needed to make a difference, she noted.

With shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant,” MTV reaches a wide teen audience with their cautionary tales of teen pregnancy.

“We’re experts at reaching this audience,” said Jason Rzepka, vice president of public affairs at MTV. “But we’re not health experts, so we’ve partnered with Kaiser on some projects.”

The network’s GYT (Get Yourself Tested) campaign, for example, is a part of an ongoing partnership between the network and the Kaiser Family Foundation to empower and inform young people on how to reduce the spread of STDs.

Sandra de Castro Buffington, director of Hollywood, Health and Society in Los Angeles, works to bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and the public health community. The organization works closely with writers and producers to consult, advise and provide accurate health messages.

“When it’s done right, we can improve the health and well-being of the audience,” she told session attendees.

Last year, Hollywood, Health and Society consulted on 163 storylines that aired on national TV and 38 different shows on 16 networks. The group is leading “story bus tours” for writers and producers, such as taking them on tours of Los Angeles to show them first-hand what food deserts look like and what a community garden can do for an impoverished neighborhood.

“Ideally, we’d like to see a situation of art imitating life,” Buffington said.

— L.R.

A little birdie told me so: Tweet of the day

Today's tweet of the day from those of you using the hashtag #apha11 comes from Twitterer GoHealthyPeople (the folks over at Healthy People 2020): A round of applause from the audience that Social Determinants have made it into the Leading Health Indicators.

Yay!

Costume ball




APHA Annual Meeting attendees get into the Halloween festivities. Costume contest anyone?

Photos by Michele Late

Breaking!

You don’t have to look far to find examples of extreme weather events and environmental disasters that have wreaked havoc across the U.S. and abroad over the past year — tornados, earthquakes, and severe cases of drought and famine are on the shortlist. This morning’s Annual Meeting session on "Late Breaking Developments in Public Health" highlighted a few with a specific focus on the public health response.

Nearly a year after the devastating earthquake in Japan that left significant damage, including a destroyed nuclear facility in its wake, health officials are still exploring the continued impact of radiation exposure to Japanese residents as well as potential impacts to Americans from contaminated dust that has transferred across U.S. borders, according to session presenters. Radiation, even in low doses, can have significant adverse health effects and is known to stay in the body for a considerable time. Some materials, such as children’s shoes and car filters, can retain radioactive particulate matter over time. Exposures to radiation can occur through inhalation of dust particles containing radioactive elements, ingestion of contaminated food and skin contact. Through soil sampling in multiple regions in Japan, Boston (which is at the same latitude as the Fukushima disaster) and Seattle, researchers discovered varying levels of soil radiation. Weather patterns appear to be responsible, at least in part, for bringing radiation exposure from the Japanese disaster to the U.S.

Lessons learned from the disaster have significant implications for future response and planning around accidental destruction or damage to nuclear reactors. In the case of the Fukushima disaster, there was a 12-mile evacuation zone, which appears to be inadequate in protecting the public’s health, presenters said. Current U.S. standards require only a 10-mile zone for accidental airborne exposures that may occur as a result of nuclear reactions.

Session presenter Kathryn Bolles, who's with Save the Children, discussed the health challenges facing developing nations as a result of drought and famine as well as her organization’s efforts targeting East African populations. Food insecurity is rising as drought and famine have ravaged communities living in the Horn of Africa, she said. On an up note, Save the Children reported recent successes with interventions that have led to greater collaboration among nonprofit organizations serving the region, federal agencies and governments. The agencies and organizations have garnered proven results in their efforts to support local farmers, and now more supplies and mobile medical services are reaching those most in need.

Frontline public health workers are at the core of these preparedness and response efforts — keep up the great work friends!

— M.S.

Takin' it to the streets!




The Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association Health Disparities Committee organized a rally for jobs, health care and racial equality today and invited APHA Annual Meeting attendees to join. Among this blogger's favorite chants was: When public health is under attack, what do we do? Act up! Fight back!

Right on!

Above, rally participants get ready to march. Photos by Kim Krisberg

Take a walk on the wild side



“I’m not lost, I’m on an ‘adventure walk.”

The above tagline would have suited this blogger well on Sunday. Peering intently into her smartphone during a one-mile stroll, some passersby seemed poised to offer directions — not knowing that this blogger was not lost, but gathering clues on a Sherlock Holmes-style “adventure walk” through the streets surrounding the convention center. (And this wasn’t just any “adventure walk,” but one created just for her.)

Far from being up for running in Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon, this middle-aged couch potato embarked on the one-mile, treasure hunt-style romp to see exactly what the Annual Meeting’s official physical activity was all about. Sponsored by APHA’s Physical Activity Special Primary Interest Group, the walks offer meeting-goers opportunities to break away from scientific sessions and take a walk on the wild side. All you need to participate in the walks are some comfy shoes and a curious mind. But unlike the master sleuth himself, your indispensable tool will not be a magnifying glass, but an iPhone.

Using a free iPhone app, Mobile Adventure Walks turns walking into a game. A cross between a treasure hunt and a neighborhood stroll, the app uses GPS coordinates to guide players along a one- to three-mile walk, all the while solving clues that will unlock their next stop along the route.

Created by San Francisco-based Shinobi Labs, the walks are intended to reach people who aren’t exactly regulars at the gym.

“That is really the whole goal,” Physical Activity SPIG member Ernie Medina, who co-founded Mobile Adventure Walks with Julie Price and Aaron Dence, said in a recent phone call. “We are trying to motivate inactive, sedentary people to be more physically active.”

A perfect fit for the project’s target audience, this blogger braved Sunday’s colder-than-normal temperatures to attempt a 0.97-mile jaunt with Price and Dence, as well as with Brendan Sinatro, an MPH candidate at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Sinatro created all of the walks that are available to meeting-goers. Also on hand for the walk was Physical Activity SPIG member Karen McDonnell, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the university. (Joe, a rabid Baltimore Ravens fan, also tagged along, choosing to get some exercise over sitting on the couch and watching his beloved team.)

In creating the customized walk, Sinatro agreed to incorporate this blogger’s four requests: That it be no longer than a mile and not too strenuous, and that it originate near the convention center and culminate at APHA’s headquarters at 800 I Street, N.W.

True to his word, Sinatro’s custom-made “adventure walk” began at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., directly across the street from the convention center. With Price’s iPhone in hand, this blogger clicked on “Take a Walk” and the fun began. The first question to appear on the smart phone’s screen read: “What is the name of the park where the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., sits?” A map then appeared, with a blue dot revealing the group’s coordinates and a route to follow. The route led the group to a blue sign in front of the building, and then three multiple choice answers popped up on the screen: 1. Convention Center park. 2. Mount Vernon Square. 3. Walter E. Washington Park. (We found the answer to the question — Mount Vernon Square — on the blue sign.)

As the group wound its way down 9th Street, other questions popped up, such as “Who sculpted the statue of the boy on a bucking blue horse at the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery?”

“We want to reframe how people feel about exercise,” Price said, adding that searching for clues and exploring their surroundings can help people “stop and smell the roses” without even realizing that they’re getting in some much-needed exercise.

Throughout the walk, Sinatro reaffirmed that it was a “real treat” to watch the group follow his creation. And speaking of treats, don’t miss the official “APHA Halloween Spooky Walk” tonight, which starts at 8 p.m. in front of the convention center. There will be another guided adventure walk on Tuesday at noon — meet at the taxi stand outside the convention center. And hey, if you don’t have an iPhone, no worries — there will be plenty of folks who do.

To download the free Mobile Adventure Walks application, visit www.mobileadventurewalks.com. As many as 12 walks ranging in length from one to three miles and encompassing a variety of themes are available for free to download. Players can earn points for prizes, as well as create their own walks through a user-friendly interface provided by the app’s developer. For even more info on Mobile Adventure Walks, visit the Physical Activity SPIG's booth at the Public Health Expo.

See you on the streets!

— T.J.

Above top, Mobile Adventure Walk guides; above bottom, our trusty APHA blogger goes on her Mobile Adventure Walk. Photos courtesy Teddi Johnson

Take APHA's Flu Near You Challenge!


Are you ready to win and help better track the flu? Well, today's your lucky day.

At the Contagion Project event, which was held last night at the convention center, APHA officially launched its Flu Near You Challenge. Here's how it works: APHA's Get Ready campaign has partnered up with HealthMap and the Skoll Global Threats Fund to help track flu cases via a new online tracking tool known as Flu Near You. People use the online flu surveillance tool to report their flu symptoms and help create a dynamic map of the flu and its spread. Pretty neat, huh? In fact, these kinds of online surveillance tools — such as Google Flu Trends — are quickly emerging as a revolutionary way for public health practitioners to keep track of disease trends in as close to real time as possible.

So, what about the winning part, you say? Well, APHA and its partners want millions of people to take part in Flu Near You and that's where you come in. We want you to recruit as many people as possible who are willing to report their symptoms on a weekly basis via Flu Near You surveys. The top individual recruiter can win $25,000 at next year's APHA Annual Meeting and the top group recruiter can win $50,000 — no kidding!! Eligible participants must be 18 years of age and active APHA members through the end of the challenge. For all the challenge details, visit APHA's Flu Near You Challenge site or stop by the Get Ready booth at the Public Health Expo.

APHA announced the challenge during a lively session featuring a discussion with Larry Brilliant, a scientific consultant on the recent movie "Contagion," president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former executive director of Google.org. Brilliant showed clips from "Contagion," discussed his experience in helping to bring accurate public health storylines to the movie as well as his thoughts on the possibility of a global disease outbreak similar to the one that unfolded in "Contagion."

"This movie was not made for you," Brilliant told APHA Annual Meeting attendees. "It was made to celebrate you."

Register for the challenge before the Closing Session, which is 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and be entered to win an iPad.

For more on the Flu Near You Challenge, click here. For a behind-the-scenes look at "Contagion," check out this article from The Nation's Health.

— K.K.

Happy Halloween!


Why no costumes APHA-ers? It's Halloween!

P.S. I don't think that witch is wearing a seat belt. Someone call the injury prevention folks!

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

There's a whole lot of research going on



Public health research is on full display at APHA’s poster sessions in the back section of the Public Health Expo. And despite the fact that presenters don’t have quite as much swag as your typical expo booth, these ladies and gentlemen offer some great food for thought on the latest public health research, policy considerations and health trends. The poster sessions cover nearly every health topic imaginable — this is a must see for old and new public health practitioners alike.

With the emphasis of Sunday’s Opening Session on the current crossroads in public health, you can’t help but stand in awe of all the critical work being done by health organizations and public health researchers on today’s most pressing issues as you walk the rows of posters on display.

Catherine Morrison is presenting research that aims to “better connect public health and Alzheimer’s.” Her research demonstrates that Alzheimer caregivers experience greater stress and health problems than other caregivers and according to Morrison, “Alzheimer’s is an under-recognized public health crisis, with nearly 5.4 million Americans living with the disease.” In addition to Morrison’s research, the Alzheimer’s Association has a second poster showing state policies that address Alzheimer’s and recommends public health involvement in guiding future plan development that involves using the 10 Essential Public Health Services framework.

Other featured posters include research on upstream intergenerational communication to increase positive health messages among black families; assessing birth outcomes of mothers living with HIV who go without prenatal care; and a study of how mobile applications have a significant role in injury prevention and emergency preparedness.

So when you have a chance, take a stroll through the poster sessions to learn more about these and other featured research studies.

— M.S.

Photos by Mira Schainker

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monday's Have You Heard — Special Halloween Edition!

Brains!: While there (probably) won't be any brain-eating zombies at this session, the presenters at session 3032, "What We Eat in America," will be discussing all the unhealthy foods we should be eating less of. Join them at 8:30 a.m. (in the safety of daylight) in the Grand Ballroom North of the Renaissance Hotel.

Monster media: Get your good public health works in the news with tips from session 3119, "Media Advocacy: Breaking Through the Crowded News Cycle," from 10:30 a.m. to noon in room 156 of the convention center. Panelists include Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff and MSNBC.com and Today.com medical reporter Rita Rubin.

Just say boo!: Join Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, at session 3310, "APHA President Session, 2011 National Drug Control Strategy: A Public Health Approach," at 2:30 p.m. in Renaissance Ballroom West B in the Renaissance Hotel.

Rocky Horror Public Health Picture Show: Feel like watchin' a movie? Then the Public Health Film Festival has all your visual delights, with public health offerings from here at home and abroad. Click here for a schedule of this year's film festival sessions.

Evil eye: Just kidding folks --- nothing but good vibes around here for APHA's Vision Care Section In fact, you should stop by the group's Dessert Reception and Champagne Toast honoring APHA President-elect Mel Shipp from 9 to 11 p.m. in Constitution Ballroom A of the Grand Hyatt. Congrats President Shipp!

Treats, not tricks


Six staff members of the American Legacy Foundation spent an hour a day for six days gathering cigarette butts within a block radius of their D.C. office. Correctly guess how many cigarette butts are in the giant glass jar at their booth in the Public Health Expo and you’ll win a Kindle. Pretty cool, huh?

Legacy staff member Tina Morgan said she counted the butts herself (wearing a hazmat suit), and the idea of the exhibit is to draw attention to the environmental impact of tobacco use.

In some of the most creative twists on social marketing out there, a myriad of booths are offering fun public health swag (pocket-sized hand sanitizer containers, flashing signal lights, personalized breath mints and colorful ballpoint pens as far as the eye can see). Georgia Southern University has packs of peanuts, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has a brain-shaped stress ball and the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Alaska-Anchorage is giving out packets of Forget-Me-Not seeds. Hey, it’s the state flower.

Admittedly no competition for the lively Vita-Mix demonstration going on in the next booth, two guys from the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service are offering a wealth of food safety information for special populations. Considering yesterday’s foul weather, the “Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms & Hurricanes” caught this blogger’s eye. Did you know a refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours and a full freezer for about 48 hours? But only if you don’t open the door.

The D.C. Department of Health ran out of “condom-mints” early in the day but hopes those who picked up the packages featuring one condom and two mints will take that idea back to their communities.

If you work in public health, stop by the This is Public Health booth to help out with their latest project, “I am Public Health.” They’re collecting profiles of public health professionals as a way to show those interested in the field what they can do with a public health degree.

The Beautiful Minds booth has life-sized photos of inspiring older Americans, such as 75-year-old Ernestine Shepherd of Baltimore, who transformed herself “from an average, middle-aged woman with a sedentary lifestyle into the World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder by Guinness World Records.”

The Office on Women’s Health booth has heart-shaped refrigerator magnets emblazoned with the signs of a heart attack. Central Michigan University has tire gauges and you can’t help but ask what’s behind the “Sex, Drugs and Mosquito Nets” tote bags at the Boston University School of Public Health booth.

The Public Health Expo runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. What’s your favorite booth?

— D.C.

Above, a visitor at the This is Public Health booth at the Public Health Expo. Photo by Donya Currie

Book 'em Daschle


Former Sen. Tom Daschle must have posed for hundreds of photos during Sunday afternoon’s book signing for “Getting it Done: How Obama and Congress Finally Broke the Stalemate to Make Way for Health Care Reform.”

“He has always kept true to his beliefs, and he’s really been an advocate for the right things,” said Cecelia Rokusek, who as a University of South Dakota student campaigned for Daschle. “He probably is one of the greatest leaders of our time.”

Oscar Alleyne said he bought the book and had his photo snapped with Daschle because he was “excited to meet a national leader who understands what we do in public health.”

Daschle graciously shook hands and posed for photo after photo with his admirers, some who were so flustered they almost walked away without the book. He asked two young public healthers, “So, what are your plans?” and listened with a delighted expression to each person.

“He’s a great guy,” APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin said as he walked by the book signing.

Pete Stewart, of Lake Worth, Fla., said Daschle is “what politicians should represent.”

Sarah Patrick was state epidemiologist in South Dakota when Daschle was senator and called him “a champion for the vulnerable. He has long lived many of the goals and aspirations of APHA.”

Cherry Morange had Daschle sign a book for her 72-year-old brother, Arnold, a long-time Daschle fan who’s battling prostate cancer.

“This is something that will be a memory forever,” Morange said with a grin.

Daschle said he admired his admirers.

“I’m in awe of so many people who are here because they’ve committed their lives to the cause, and that’s inspiring to me,” he said. “It really means a lot.”

And will we see universal coverage in America?

“I think necessity is going to drive it,” Daschle said. “We just have to create a far more efficient, far more equitable and far more accessible system than the one we have.”

— D.C.

Above, Tom Daschle smiles for the camera with a fan during his book signing at the Public Health Expo. Photo by Donya Currie

Join the movement!


It's never too early to get a head start on next year's National Public Health Week celebration, which will take place April 2–8 with a theme of "A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement!" Visit the National Public Health Week site today to download a brochure about next year's observance and sign up to receive free email updates. You can also visit the National Public Health Week booth, #4100, in the Public Health Expo.

'Stand up and insist on the impossible'


Watch videos from this year's Opening Session on APHA's YouTube channel!



Community. It was the thread that tied this afternoon's Opening Session together. Whether it was mental illness, health policy, social justice, health reform or the nation's natural wonders, it all came back to community — back to the notion that we all rise and fall together, that together we can shape our futures into better ones.

First up: Healthy communities promote healthy minds. That's where Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, came in to make the case that behavioral health is today's No. 1 public health challenge. By 2020, she said, mental health and substance abuse disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide, and more than half of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness in their lifetimes. In addition, drug-related deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities, and deaths by suicide outnumber homicides and deaths from HIV/AIDS. One suicide happens in the United States every 15 minutes. (Wow. This blogger had no idea.)

Fortunately, community-based approaches do make a difference, Hyde said. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans living with mental illness and substance abuse disorders do not get the treatment they need. While most Americans know at least something about things like first aid and basic nutrition, most don't know the signs of addiction and mental illness. But we want to change that, Hyde told attendees, we want to take a public health approach to the problem and begin a national dialogue.

"We want to engage you around this wicked problem," she said. "There is no health without mental health."

Next up: Healthy communities promote healthy bodies. Introducing Jonathan Jarvis, 18th director of the National Park Service. Now, you're probably asking yourself: What's this park ranger doing at the Opening Session? Well, it turns out the National Park Service wants to help you prevent poor health (and forest fires, of course.)

"There is a connection between our public lands and public health," Jarvis said, adding that the agency is now engaged in efforts to bring the outdoors into the public health discussion.

A few of those efforts include a pilot program that encourages park concessioners to offer nutritious, locally grown food; Park Prescriptions, which provides materials to health professionals that they can pass along to patients about places to enjoy the outdoors (Jarvis said he likes to call the effort "take a hike and call me in the morning"); and Let's Move Outside, a campaign administered by the U.S. Department of Interior. Today, Jarvis said, the National Park Service is seeking new partnerships in the health community to help strengthen the connections between public lands and the opportunities for better health.

"When you consider the power of the outdoors...you simply cannot come up with a health care investment that will yield a better return," he said.

Now it's time to tie it all together: Advocacy promotes healthy communities, minds and bodies. This may be the most frustrating part, especially in today's political climate. Luckily, we're witnessing transformative changes thanks to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, said session speaker Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate majority leader. While we've still not convinced all Americans that "good health should be a right, not an option," there is consensus on a number of issues, such as the lack of transparency in the health system and the need for payment reform, he said. Whether we're successful in bringing prevention, health and wellness to all will depend on five factors, Daschle said: resiliency, innovation, engagement, advocacy and collaboration.

"We need you," he urged attendees. "The question is, will you be here?"

We will if APHA President Linda Rae Murray has anything to do about it.

"Stand up and insist on the impossible," she told Opening Session attendees. "Demand freedom now, demand peace now, demand justice now."

So, fair readers, what did you think of this year's Opening Session?

P.S. Check out videos from this year's Opening Session at APHA's YouTube channel.

P.P.S. Check out more Opening Session coverage over at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's NewPublicHealth.org.

— K.K.

Above, from top to bottom: Opening Session speakers Tom Daschle, Jonathan Jarvis and Pamela Hyde. Photos courtesy Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography

A little birdie told me so: Tweet of the day

Today's tweet of the day among those of you using the hashtag #apha11 is in reference to Opening Session speaker Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, and it's a good one.

From Twitterer shokufeh: My new celebrity park ranger boyfriend: Jonathan Jarvis.

Hey! I saw him first!

Hello, my name is....

“You always come out of this conference with a wealth of knowledge,” said Larissa Estes, a three-time APHA Annual Meeting attendee from Houston, Texas, who was looking over the final program with colleague Robert Hines outside the registration area in the Washington Convention Center this morning.

Rise Goldstein, from Bethesda, Md., is presenting a poster on mental health research tomorrow and said the meeting gives her a chance to network and learn.

“I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in many years and wanting to see what’s new in the world, professionally,” she said.

That professional teaching is a key draw for many, including Theresa Mieh, an HIV/AIDS researcher from State College, Pa.

“I’m here to listen to presentations from experts in the field and learn from them to see how to better my own research,” she said.

Richard Chambers, who works for Pfizer and is from Collegeville, Pa., said lessons learned from the biostatistics sessions at past APHA Annual Meetings have translated to positive changes at his workplace. He said the statistics-related sessions at APHA touch on topics not found elsewhere, such as dealing with large populations and missing data.

“If a group stays among themselves, the thinking stays inbred,” Chambers said about the importance of attending a meeting where diverse ideas circulate. “We have to mix and mingle to keep people from thinking in silos.”

Patricia Daugherty, a newly minted MPH and new APHA member from Blacksburg, Va. (go, Hokies!), was excited but a bit overwhelmed while perusing the Annual Meeting program this morning.

“I hope to take away a whole lot more knowledge from different aspects of public health,” she said. “I also brought my resume and I’m hoping to have someone critique it. And I’m looking for a job.”

New member Benjamin Keeney from the University of Washington is both presenting two posters and participating in an oral session, but also hopes to spend the next few days “learning a lot, meeting new people, soaking it in.”

If you’re in need of some help navigating the meeting, come to the New Member/First-Timer Orientation session from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Salon H of the convention center. What do you hope to take away from this year’s meeting (besides public health swag from the Expo)? Let us know in the comments section below.

— D.C.

Walking the walk


Saturday’s frigid downpour didn’t stop members of the APHA Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section from taking some good public health intentions and putting them into action.

“I just love it when people will take a risk on something that’s kinda out there,” said Tony DeLucia, a professor at East Tennessee State University, who led a very wet walking audit of a neighborhood near Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in southeast D.C.

DeLucia was among nine public healthers who braved the wind and rain to learn how to assess sidewalks, streets and crosswalks for pedestrian access.

The crosswalk at Pennsylvania Avenue and 30th Street, for example, was well-marked and had a crossing signal that included an audible alert. Yet the group of nine barely made it across the intersection before the light changed. Most sidewalks were well-maintained, but some ended abruptly.

DeLucia plans to give audit results to community leaders in the area. In 2008, a study found that 42 percent of residents living in the area had high blood pressure — the highest rate in the District — and 40 percent are obese.

Turnout might have been light as far as local residents taking advantage of the health fair and healthy foods market inside the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, but the event brought people together for what looks like some lasting collaboration. In fact, medical students from D.C.'s Howard University plan to work with the local group Dreaming Out Loud in the future to offer free health screenings in the city’s under-served communities.

“I’m happy and impressed,” Howard University medical student Valerie Lerebours said about the 16 students who were on hand from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. to offer blood pressure and blood glucose checks, glaucoma screenings and body weight measurements. “It’s a great way to actually implement what we learn.”

Many Howard and Georgetown University medical students were volunteering side by side for the first time, something many of them hope to continue.

“Even though we’re in the same city, we don’t work together as much as we should,” said Brad Grant, associate dean of Howard University's College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Science.

Grant said he has reached out to some of his students to participate in a future community mural painting project and will be giving the keynote speech at tonight’s CHPPD Section Social, which is slated for 6:30-8:30 p.m. at 920 U St. ($10 donation suggested).

CHPPD Section Chair Amy Carroll-Scott said she’d like the community outreach activity to become a yearly event involving more APHA sections.

“Everybody’s doing great things in their communities, and then we come to the Annual Meeting and talk about it, but don’t do anything,” she said.

But the fact that scores of volunteers showed up yesterday to highlight healthy eating and exercise and offer screenings “shows we can mobilize and do it again," she said.

— D.C.

Above, Tony DeLucia, far left, leads fellow public health practitioners on a walking audit of a neighborhood in southeast Washington, D.C. Photo by Donya Currie

The bright future of public health

Students from around the country gathered for the annual National Student Meeting yesterday, all drawn to the field of public health for various reasons. We met up with just a few of the hundreds of students in attendance at the event, which was organized by the APHA Student Assembly, to find out more about their personal motivations for pursuing studies in public health.

“As a teen parent, I went through the prenatal process and experienced first-hand the shortcomings of the health care system. I personally experienced a lot of barriers, so I don’t want others to go through the same thing I did. I want to bridge the gaps between the health care system and teen parents.”
Brittany Chambers, Oakland, Calif.
Second-year MPH student, California State University – Fresno







“After my undergrad, I applied and got into USF. Once I got into the master’s program, I loved it. I really enjoyed it. I got my degree in global health practice. After that I took a year off and worked in the field before applying to the PhD program. After schooling, I hope to make a difference.”
Pam Guevara, Tampa, Fla.
PhD candidate, University of South Florida







“My interest in public health started with an interest in my personal health. Through my studies, I learned of all the problems with behavior and how that affects people’s health. So with knowledge from the public health field, I want to be in a position to help other people, especially other students and people my age.”
Renzo Meza, Gaithersburg, Md.
Psychology and public health major, University of Maryland - Baltimore County






“I studied anthropology in undergrad. I took a public health class and immediately thought it was for me. I got my MPH at UCLA and took a year off to work in eastern Kentucky, where I was exposed to rural health issues. I was finding there were a lot of needs in the community and I could incorporate anthropology and public health.”
Julia Caldwell
PhD candidate, University of California – Los Angeles







“When I was in a refugee camp in Sudan, I saw one person who made a difference in our lives. He was an Ethiopian doctor who helped with a cholera outbreak. He called on me to help translate for him. When I saw how one individual made such an impact on so many people, I was inspired.”
John Mabior, originally from south Sudan
Public health major, University of Maryland – Baltimore County








“Since I was 14, I was interested in health. My dad works in health promotion, and I’ve always been interested and passionate about living a healthy life. I want to help others to do the same. Eventually, I want to change the world! I’d really like to work with organizations to help others live healthier lives. I’ll be applying to doctoral programs soon. I have an end goal, but I’m not quite sure about the ‘how’ just yet.”
Allison O’Donnell, West Bloomfield, Mich.
Second-year MPH student, University of Michigan





— L.R.

Photos by Lalaine Ricardo

Celebrate good times



Members from APHA's affiliated state and regional public health associations celebrated their colleagues' accomplishments and enjoyed the festivities at the annual APHA Committee on Affiliates reception and awards ceremony, which was held Saturday night.

Above, CoA reception attendees smile for the camera. Click! Photos courtesy Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunday's Have You Heard


Yes, We're Open!: Come one, come all to the APHA 139th Annual Meeting Opening Session! We've got some big speakers lined up for what is sure to be an energizing kick-off. This year's speakers include former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle; Jonathan Jarvis, the 18th director of the National Park Service; Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Opening Session takes place from noon to 2 p.m. in the lower level of Exhibit Hall A in the Washington Convention Center.

Get your goody bag ready: The nearly 700 booths at this year's Public Health Expo will be ready to welcome you with open arms, tons of information and, yes, lots of free stuff. So clear some space in your APHA meeting bag for public health goodies galore. Expo booths run the gamut, including schools of public health, federal and state public health agencies, nonprofit organizations, book publishers as well as APHA membership groups. The expo opens right after Sunday's Opening Session at 2 p.m. in Exhibit Halls D/E of the Washington Convention Center.

Overwhelmed?: No worries, we're here to help. Check out the New Member/First-Timer Orientation session from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Salon H of the convention center to help you organize your schedule and hear from seasoned Annual Meeting attendees.

Raise your voice!: Thinking about taking a trip to the halls of Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of a healthy America? Then don't miss Sunday's session 177 at 2 p.m. in room 140A of the convention center to learn about "Training for Hill Visits on APHA Priorities." Then, visit APHA's Annual Meeting Hill Visits site for all you need for a successful visit with your member of Congress.

Going viral: Looking for a little mystery? Check out The Contagion Project event on Sunday at 6 p.m. in Salon A/B/C of the convention center and hear from Dr. Larry Brilliant, a scientific consultant to the recent movie "Contagion," president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and founder and director of the Seva Foundation, a global organization that works to eliminate preventable blindness, among many other accomplishments. Hear about the science behind "Contagion" and an exciting new challenge for APHA members. Will you go viral to help?

Two tweets are better than one: Meet your fellow Twitterers at the APHA Tweetup at 7 p.m. at restaurant 901, which is located at 901 9th St., NW, just a few steps away from the convention center. Tell them a little birdie sent you.

Chemical exposé


“There’s definitely a cry here — all of us know we need to be doing better,” Nsedu Witherspoon, executive director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network, told a group of public healthers attending a Saturday Annual Meeting session on Public Health and Chemical Exposures in the 21st Century: Moving from Conversation to Action. “We really encourage you to think outside the box. Think creatively.”

And for the next hour, attendees broke into small groups and did just that. The target was to find ways to move forward on the recommendations of “Addressing Public Health and Chemical Exposures: An Action Agenda.” Some session attendees discussed ways to improve public health education and engagement, others talked about ways to expand health professional capacity or highlight community health and wellness. This blogger sat in on a discussion that focused on prevention and emergencies.

“There’s stuff in this action agenda for all of us to do,” said APHA member Montrece Ransom, who helped lead the discussion at one table.

And when it comes to existing activities that can be harnessed in the effort to reduce harmful chemical exposures, “some of them are big elephants, and we have to consider little bites,” Ransom said.

Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, suggested the idea of a smartphone app that would allow consumers to scan a code in the store and find out how that paint, cleanser or other product fared on an environmental toxin scale. Other ideas included a one-stop shop for public health workers interested in environmental health issues and coordinated efforts to lay out best practices in limiting children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

APHA’s Environment Section plans to continue the conversation during their 8-11:30 a.m. Sunday Business Meeting in Renaissance Meeting Room 16, and you’re invited. A workgroup to address the specific issue of moving the action agenda forward could help “make sure this doesn’t just stay on clipboards,” Witherspoon said.

— D.C.

Above, Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, talks about ways to prevent harmful chemical exposures. Photo courtesy Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography

The healer's journey




The 7th Annual National Student Meeting opened today with a thunderous African drumbeat that shook the room. Plenary speaker Tambra Raye Stevenson then asked all the students to stand up, make fists with their hands and beat on their gut while inhaling and exhaling.

“Breath is life,” she said. “Without breath you are lifeless.”

Stevenson also led chest exercises to help everyone “open up their hearts.”

The exercises certainly got everyone’s blood pumping, but also served to highlight one of Stevenson’s main points, which is to tap into a part of us that normally isn’t awake. Years ago, when Stevenson thought she had made it in life — she had just finished her graduate studies and was working in Washington, D.C. — she felt something was missing in her pursuit of the American dream. On a whim, she took an acting class and discovered that it helped her look deep into herself to find that dormant piece.

“I found inspiration,” she said.

That inspiration led her start-up Creative Cause Inc. in Washington, D.C., where she now serves as its director.

Using creative talents such as drawing, painting, writing, dancing and acting can help us nurture the creative part that exists in all of us in order to find the inspiration needed to help others.

“If you want to make a difference, you will need to tap into your creative side,” she said.

She asked student attendees to continually reflect and remember why they are in the field of public health. “You will find on your journey you will need something deeper to feel fulfilled in life” and drawing on your inspiration will help you navigate the bumpy road ahead, she said.

“I was told not to go into public health to make money,” she said. “But I challenge that. Why not be entrepreneurial?”

She encouraged students to pursue fields that may complement public health work, such as social entrepreneurship, the arts and writing. Public health approaches should be creative and draw on different fields in order to be successful — students should open up the creative right side of the brain to help the more analytic left side come up with innovative solutions, she said.

Stevenson gave her address, “The Healer’s Journey: From Healing Thyself to Thy Community,” in front of a couple hundred student members of APHA’s Student Assembly, which organized the Annual National Student Meeting.

Learn more about Stevenson at twitter.com/tambra or email her at tambra@creativecause.org.

— L.R.

Top above, National Student Meeting plenary speaker Tambra Raye Stevenson; top middle and bottom, student meeting attendees take in the presentations. Photos courtesy Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography

Learning curves

“…OK, so you have to do the math.”

“That’s an interesting question…”

“What’s the denominator?”

Nope, APHA wasn’t hosting math tutorials Saturday. At least not the kind of math tutorials you remember from high school.

Instead, a wide range of public health professionals were sitting at round tables during one of the APHA Annual Meeting’s Learning Institutes, working their way through a series of questions from their instructor, Joy Nanda, DSc, MS, MHS, MBA.

Nanda has taught Epidemiology for Nonepidemiologists (Learning Institute 1004) before, but this year he has tweaked the two-day program to allow time for more collaboration between students.

And so after a morning of lectures and PowerPoint slides on everything from the Greek roots of the word “epidemiology” (literally “the study of epidemics”) to the relationship between incidence and prevalence, participants put their heads together to see what they learned.

For one question, students were told to suppose they were epidemiologists in Kenya studying the effects of tuberculosis on health. There had been 28,142 new cases of TB in the last year, and the population at risk was 29,137,000. What, Nanda wanted to know, is the incidence rate of TB per 100,000? And furthermore, what other outcomes should the epidemiologists measure?

Nanda said about 20 percent of the students in this class, which is one of the most popular Learning Institutes, are physicians. Others are public health practitioners, students and psychologists. Once, he taught the dean of a school of public health who was looking to be able to hold his own in conversations with epidemiologists, Nanda said. Others just want to brush up on skills they learned years ago.

“What you’re going to get in these two days is to see what epidemiologists do and what is it about and how it is relevant,” Nanda told the group of about 60.

Nearly 600 people registered for APHA’s 19 Learning Institutes, held this Saturday and Sunday. Topics ranged from an introduction to mathematical modeling to how to support faculty, graduate students and post-docs so they can succeed as community-engaged scholars.

Courses range from $25 to $340, and participants can earn up to six continuing education credit hours.

Rae Starr, MPhil, a biostatistician from Los Angeles, is attending his second Annual Meeting and his second Learning Institute.

“It’s an effective way to get training,” he said, explaining that it makes more economic sense to seek training at a conference he’s already attending than to try to find training elsewhere, which might require another plane flight and hotel stay.

He said he chooses carefully when taking CE courses, looking for instructors with impressive credentials to determine whether it will be a “high quality” experience.

Did you participate in APHA's Learning Institutes? Let us know what you thought in the comments section.

— C.T.

A little birdie told me so: Tweet of the day

To show our social media thanks to those of you using the Twitter hashtag #apha11, we'll be posting a Tweet of the Day today through Wednesday.

Today's shout-out goes to Twitterer (is that a word?) BlondeScientist, who tweeted: Let the games begin! On my way to #APHA11!

In case of spare time


Asian fusion, Cuban fare, upscale sandwiches, an honest burger, vegetarian delights and a cornucopia of U.S. history. There might be as many places to eat and sightsee within walking distance of the Washington Convention Center as there are APHA-ers.

One of this blogger’s favorite places in the universe is the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden, so when the weather clears, head over to Constitution and 7th Street and see what you think. The National Mall itself is 15 minutes away on foot or an easy Metro ride to the Smithsonian station. The National Building Museum is even closer at 5th and G streets.

The National Portrait Gallery at F and 7th streets is another local favorite; the International Spy Museum is across the street at 800 F St.; and the famed Ford’s Theatre is at 511 10th St. Has anybody been to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment at the corner of F and 6th streets?

Foodwise, the closest grocery store is Safeway at 490 L St. Local eateries run from the basic (Five Guys burgers and fries near 9th and L streets) to the entertaining (wear a costume to Cuba Libre’s Mischief Halloween Party tonight at 801 9th St. and receive reduced admission, but the dancing doesn’t start until 11 p.m.). Asia Spice at 8th and H streets near the Chinatown arch has a reputation for great food and their Halloween decorations include a giant, sparkly spiderweb in the front entrance. A local Washingtonian said 901 at 901 Ninth St. has a “nice atmosphere cocktail hour,” and other recommendations include Busboys and Poets at 5th and K streets, where quite a few APHA-related receptions are scheduled this week; the Korean restaurant Mandu, on K Street between 4th and 5th; and for tasty vegetarian options as well as freshly carved turkey sandwiches and salads, Café Phillips at 7th and K streets.

By the way, did you know two corners of the Washington Convention Center are points one and two of the 17-point Shaw Heritage Trail? Each point features an informational sign delving into the rich history of this part of the city. Consider this excerpt from the sign at point two:

“Over time, the shops of Seventh and Ninth streets became a bargain-rate alternative to downtown’s fancy department stores. There were juke joints, Irish saloons, storefront evangelists, delicatessens, and dozens of schools and houses of worship.”

Those of you who’d like to explore a bit more of the city might consider Capital Bikeshare, which also has a Spotcycle mobile app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices to pinpoint more than 100 stations across the city to pick up and drop off bicycles, and there’s a station just outside the convention center at 7th and M streets. Buy a 24-hour Bikeshare membership for $5 or a five-day membership for $15. Trip costs vary depending on the duration.

One indoor exercise option is The Bar Method D.C. at 750 9th St., NW. Pay $10 for your first, one-hour class, then $24 per class after that. Though Esquire magazine said, “The Bar Method employs killer muscle-building poses,” so one class might suffice.

Anyone else know of some good local spots to visit? Let us know in the comments section!

— D.C.

Above, some very damp Bikeshare bicycles waiting to be taken out for a ride. Photo by Donya Currie

Welcome to Washington, D.C.!


Well, today's weather may be frightful, but the public health energy inside the convention center is quickly warming things up. And, hey, that donkey sure looks happy to see us!

Sculptures of D.C.'s ubiquitous donkey and elephant symbols inside the cozy Washington Convention Center. Photo by Donya Currie

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Decisions, decisions

It's about this time that you're probably starting to organize your schedule for the upcoming APHA 139th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. (Or if you're more like me, the situation is better described with the words "freak out about" instead of "organize.") There's just so much great stuff going on. In fact, there's more going on than you might think....

A FEW GOOD HIGHLIGHTS

Chemical reactions: On Saturday, Oct. 29, APHA will host "Public Health and Chemical Exposures in the 21st Century: Moving from Conversation to Action," a strategy session focused on recommendations included in "Addressing Public Health and Chemical Exposures: An Action Agenda." The interactive session will feature remarks from Dr. Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as well as Nsedu Witherspoon, executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network. The session runs from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Renaissance Hotel, which is right across the street from the Washington Convention Center. RSVP for the session at nationalconversation@cdc.gov.

Book 'em: APHA Press will be hosting a number of book signings at the Everything APHA booth inside the Public Health Expo. A few of the notable authors that will be on hand include former Sen. Tom Daschle, author of “Getting It Done," on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.; longtime APHA member Linda Landesman, author of "Public Health Management of Disasters, Third Edition," on Sunday from 2 to 2:30 p.m. and Monday from noon to 12:30 p.m.; and UCLA professor Richard Jackson, author of "Designing Healthy Communities," on Monday at 10:15 a.m. APHA staff will also be around to answer your questions about publishing with APHA Press.

Job hunt: APHA's Public Health CareerMart will be offering one-on-one career coaching sessions for Annual Meeting attendees at booth 3051 in the Public Health Expo. For more info or to reserve a spot, click here.

Bliss out: Take a minute to relax at the Annual Meeting's newest gathering place, the PHocal Point, which will be located on the third floor of the Washington Convention Center. Check out the meditation room, get a massage and then capture your newly blissed out face in the PHun Photos area. Click here for a schedule.

Walk the walk: APHA's Physical Activity Special Primary Interest Group is encouraging people to take advantage of Mobile Adventure Walks during the Annual Meeting as well as participate in a competition between APHA Sections and SPIGs. A Mobile Adventure Walk is a free iPhone app that turns walking into a game, giving participants clues to solve to uncover the next stop on the walking route. The walks can be done on one's own or with a partner. A group adventure walk will take place on Halloween night at 8 p.m. Stop by the Physical Activity SPIG's booth at the Public Health Expo for more info.

Just tweet it: Social media! It's everywhere! You can't escape! Good thing too, because it's also one of the best ways to keep track of what's going on, catch up on what you missed and keep the conversation going well after the day is done. APHA's social media team will be blogging (yup, from this very blog...so subscribe for free daily updates!), tweeting from APHA's Annual Meeting and Public Health Twitter feeds, posting to Facebook, showing off your pearly smiles on APHA's Flickr page and uploading videos to APHA's YouTube Channel. Click here for all the social media details. If you'll be tweeting from the meeting, don't forget to use hashtag #apha11. And feel free to upload your pics to APHA's Flickr Pool.

For more details on this year's happenings, visit APHA's Annual Meeting site as well as the online meeting program.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Make some noise!

"They need to hear you and they need to fear you."

— Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm during her opening session presentation at APHA's 2011 Midyear Meeting in Chicago this past June


First, let me give you a little context for the above quote. It came near the end of an energizing speech about Granholm's experience as a legislator and her frustrations with the U.S. health care system. She urged the public health audience to help stage an intervention in the name of social justice and to hold policy-makers accountable for decisions that undercut the opportunities for good health and well-being. She was quite adamant, in fact. Let your voice be known among the decision-makers, she said, "they need to hear you and they need to fear you." Sounds like a call to action to this blogger and what better place than Washington, D.C., to put words into action.

During this year's Annual Meeting in the nation's capital, consider taking a trip to the halls of Congress and advocating on behalf of public health. APHA has all the tips and info you need for a fruitful visit with your member of Congress. Go to APHA's Annual Meeting Hill Visits site to view a webinar about setting up and attending visits on Capitol Hill; download a sample email that you can use to request a meeting with your representative; print out fact sheets on a variety of public health issues that you can leave with your representative and use as talking points; and take a peek at APHA's 2010 congressional voting record to see how your representative voted on key public health legislation. After your hill meeting, take a minute to answer our survey and let us know how it went.

Still a little nervous about a one-on-one visit? Check out Annual Meeting session 177 on Sunday, Oct. 30, which will focus on "Training for Hill Visits on APHA Priorities." And take advantage of APHA's Advocacy Track at the Annual Meeting for all you need to know to keep the advocacy train running year round (see the handy graphic below).

As many of you know, it's a pivotal time for public health in America and our voices can make a difference. Lawrence Wallack, dean of Portland State University's College of Urban and Public Affairs, said it much better during his closing session presentation at APHA's 2011 Midyear Meeting: "Each of us needs to speak our values so that others understand that our well-being is rooted in the community."

How about it readers? Ready to raise your voice?

P.S. Grab some unsalted popcorn and check out Granholm's and Wallack's entire speeches on APHA's YouTube channel. There's nothing like a good speech to get the advocacy sparks flyin'!