It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to the 142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans! After more than a decade as APHA’s executive director, welcoming thousands of dedicated public health practitioners, researchers, advocates, students and supporters to our Annual Meeting never gets old — in fact, it only gets better. Like you, I’m excited and eager to hear stories of public health success, learn about new and promising public health innovations, and discuss ways we can collaborate in support of a strong and robust public health system. For this practitioner, every Annual Meeting is a time of rejuvenation and revival. But this year is even more special.
Nearly 10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, shattering lives, displacing thousands, destroying the landscape and forever changing one of the nation’s most unique and celebrated cities. That same year, our Annual Meeting was scheduled to convene in New Orleans and though we very much wanted to bring the emotional, economic and on-the-ground support of thousands of public health workers to the city, it just wasn’t possible. We convened in Philadelphia instead, but we vowed to return to New Orleans. This year, we make good on that promise. And there are few better places to explore this year’s Annual Meeting theme of “Healthography: How Where You Live Affects Your Health and Well-Being” than New Orleans, a city that’s a living laboratory of the challenges that come with rebuilding after catastrophe as well as the silver-lined opportunities to rebuild in a way that’s more resilient, prosperous and healthy for all.
In addition to bringing with us the latest in public health science, we’re also excited to bring the voice of public health to New Orleans. That means we, along with many of the meeting’s presenters, plan to highlight concerns about environmental health in the aftermath of Katrina and the 2010 BP oil spill, call for tobacco reform and smoke-free workplaces, and support local advocates as they work to ensure that all residents have access to the opportunities that afford good health and well-being. And after a jam-packed day of science, advocacy and action, I hope you’ll find the time to explore and enjoy this year’s historic host city and its unique sights, sounds and flavors.
But as we enjoy the festivities and camaraderie of this year’s Annual Meeting, I also ask that you keep in mind our public health colleagues who are tirelessly working abroad and at home to stop the spread of Ebola and care for those infected with the deadly virus. The effects of the global outbreak and the untold suffering it has inflicted on the world’s most vulnerable communities will reverberate for years to come, long after the outbreak is contained and the images of the sick and dying disappear from the evening newscast. Join me and your fellow public health colleagues in New Orleans as we call for facts over fear — for science over politics and unity over division. During the meeting, you might notice a bright, pink ribbon on my Annual Meeting badge that boldly reads #FactsOverFear — I hope you’ll pick one up for yourself at the Information Desk inside the New Orleans convention center.
This year’s APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition will surely be one to remember. I can’t wait to see you there.
Best (and healthy) wishes,
Georges Benjamin, MD