Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sunday's Have You Heard

Programming for public health: Check out the innovative health apps that came out of this year’s APHA Public Health Codeathon during the event’s presentation and awards ceremony, which takes place Sunday morning at 9 a.m. in McCormick Place W470a. The annual codeathon brings together public health practitioners and coders for two days of brainstorming and building new solutions to public health challenges. During the awards ceremony, you’ll get to see the new apps, platforms and visualizations that came out of this year’s event and congratulate the winners.

We’re open!: There’s no better way to kick off your APHA Annual Meeting experience than with the Opening General Session on Sunday at noon in McCormick Place Skyline Ballroom W375b-e. Hear from APHA’s very own Dr. Georges Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, outgoing APHA President Shiriki Kumanyika and Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. This year’s keynote speaker is Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore, who will speak on the central role of education in improving health and eliminating health disparities. The opening session is an absolute must — you’ll leave energized, uplifted and rearin’ to go.

Buttons and magnets and pens, oh my!: There’s a ton of public health goodies (lot’s of it for free) at the Public Health Expo, which opens its doors directly after the Opening General Session in Exhibit Hall F of McCormick Place. Browse hundreds of booths representing schools of public health, federal public health agencies, public health book publishers, APHA member groups, public health advocacy groups and SO much more. And, of course, while you’re at the Expo, don’t forget to check out Everything APHA, where you can find, well…the name kind of says its all.

Welcome newbies!: New to APHA and the Annual Meeting? No problem. Find your way at the Annual Meeting/New Member Orientation session on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Room W196b of McCormick Place. Meet seasoned APHA members, who will share their tips and tricks for getting the most out of your time in Chicago.

Namaste: For all you yoga lovers out there, you don’t have to give up a good stretch just because you’re at the Annual Meeting. New this year, the APHA Wellness Center will offer short yoga and mini-exercise breaks throughout the meeting starting on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Wellness Center is located in the West Central Concourse of McCormick Place just behind the Mix and Mingle Lounge.

So you think you can dance?: Get your groove on and lend your support to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign by joining APHA staff and fellow meeting attendees for our rendition the #GimmeFive dance. The dancing kicks off on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. outside the Public Health Expo hall in the McCormick Place Convention Center. Click the video tutorial above to learn the dance moves or show up at 5:30 to learn them on site. Let’s boogie!

Social media mingling: Join your fellow social media enthusiasts during APHA’s annual Social Media Meetup on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the M/X Bar at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. Discuss how you use social media to promote better health and learn what your colleagues are doing in their communities. And don’t forget to tweet/post/pin/poke/like while you’re there!

P.S.: Don’t forget that Daylight Saving Time ends tomorrow at 2 a.m. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...that's the sound of precious extra sleep.

They’re the future!

It’s the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition, but don’t let the name fool you. Students from around the globe have gathered to talk about all aspects of public health.

Student Assembly members come to the Annual Meeting with an expectation that they’ll learn, network and maybe even find a new career path. But in their time at the meeting, particularly during the Student Meeting on Saturday, they’re surprised at the breadth and depth of topics covered.

“I thought public health was one particular, place, but it’s more diverse,” said Sandra Anyanwu-Nzeribe, a student member and director of a youth violence prevention organization in the United Kingdom. She was impressed with the many prevention tools discussed during Saturday’s meeting. “I learned a lot about diversity and different policies put in place. It’s boosted my zeal to be a bit hungry (for more public health opportunities).”

Student members are eager to improve the current public health atmosphere, but they’re looking toward the future, too. Sarah Jane Smith, of Prunedale, California, said she was looking forward to the different professional opportunities afforded to students at the Annual Meeting.

“I’m looking forward to being introduced to refreshing and new ways of thinking about public health, especially as they relate to social justice, and meeting great people who challenge and inspire me,” she said.

Edith Uba, a Nigerian public health student studying in London, echoed Smith’s sentiments. “I don’t know who’s going to help me, or where I can connect next,” she said.

But the next generation of public health professionals aren’t just waiting for a connection to help them make an impact on health. At the Annual Meeting, they get the tools to become part of Generation Public Health. Jia-Sin Liu, here in Chicago from New Taipei City, Taiwan, said that in talking with other students, the group can look at different technologies and epidemiological changes that may be in place in the future. 

And Abner Tewolderberhan, a doctoral student from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said the global perspective can make public health better for everyone.

“We are implementing different public health interventions. I ‘d like to know which works better,” he said, adding that when colleagues from different countries come together, they can achieve great things overall. Sounds a little bit like the Annual Meeting!

— L.W.

Violence is "very personal"

When Mark Payne thinks about violence being the leading cause of death of young black and Hispanic men, he said he doesn’t think about blank bodies and faces. He thinks about human potential. 

“I think of young men who could be doctors,” said Payne, executive director of CeaseFire Illinois, a Chicago-based group dedicated to reducing gun violence. “Those are our natural resources. I see me. I see my friends. And it’s very personal.”

Payne talked about violence as a public health issue at Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section’s Day of Action held Saturday at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health. The event was a community summit focused on gun violence in Chicago and how to stop it. 

Chicago-area public health advocates looked at violence as a public health issue and the best practices to reducing violence in Chicago and beyond.

Being exposed to violence should be looked at the same way as being exposed to a contagious disease, such as the flu, Gary Slutkin, MD, the founder of Cure Violence, a nongovernmental organization of which CeaseFire Illinois is the state’s branch.

Cure Violence trains residents of violent neighborhoods to be “violence interrupters” based in communities and local hospitals. These community workers do outreach and identify the underlying public health issues that could put people at risk of being involved in community violence. 

Seeing violence as an infection is particularly important as the issue of criminal justice reform comes more into focus, Slutkin said. 

“It’s heading toward saying, ‘Well, they’re bad people, but we’re going to lighten up a little bit and be a little nicer,’” Slutkin said. “But the lens is still wrong…what’s going on with the people is they’ve been infected, exposed, traumatized. They need care and they need very, very specific care.

One approach to reducing violence is the use of restorative justice, which means bringing together the victim of violence, the person who caused harm and the community that is suffering, said Michelle Day, an attorney who works in the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department Resource Section.

One example of an initiative the Section is involved with is the “Embrace Restorative Justice in Schools” program in Chicago Public Schools. The program is a partnership of community organizations that are specialized in education and restorative justice that create implementation plans for reducing violence in schools.

“It’s not about just having peace circles and conversations with youth,” Day said. “It’s about getting educators in a learning mode to see what it takes to have a restorative environment in the school so that the first response to trouble is not to call police, not to suspend the child but to find an alternative."

— N.M.

A little birdie told me so: Tweet of the day

As is tradition here at the APHA Annual Meeting Blog, we'll be posting a Tweet of the Day from all you folks using the hashtag #APHA15. Today's shout-out goes to @SherieLou, who's flying high with public health.

From coding to continuing education

APHA's 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition may not officially kick off until tomorrow, but there's already plenty of learning and innovating happening in the Windy City. From top to bottom: In the first two photos, participants in this year's Public Health Codeathon team up to build new health-related apps; a meeting attendee picks up an "I Heart Public Health" T-shirt at the APHA Press Express booth inside the McCormick Place Convention Center; APHA President Shiriki Kumanyika talks to an APHA TV interviewer; and APHA Learning Institute attendees earn continuing education credits. Keep up with all the pics from this year's meeting on APHA Flickr.

All photos by Michele Late, courtesy The Nation's Health

Trick or (healthy) treat?

Happy Halloween from APHA! Wearing a fun public health-inspired costume? Tweet us a pic using the hashtag #APHA15.

Violence prevention: We all play a part

The epidemic of gun violence needs public health solutions, and everyone has a role to play in addressing the problem.

“You guys all play a part. We’re a piece of the puzzle,” Angalia Bianca of CeaseFire Illinois told a packed audience at the APHA Student Assembly’s National Student Meeting this Saturday morning in Chicago. “We need to somehow find an answer.”

In Chicago, the problem has been in the headlines recently, with 2,546 total gun violence incidents and 377 deaths so far this year. In October alone, 226 incidents have resulted in 27 deaths.

But what you won’t read about in the headlines is all the violence that’s been prevented by public health heroes like Bianca and her colleagues. During the meeting’s morning panel on “Addressing Violence At All Levels,” Bianca said CeaseFire has prevented more than 700 incidents of violence this year through mediation. Bianca emphasized that “these are real life-and-death situations,” noting that during 400 CeaseFire mediation sessions, at least one person has brought a weapon.

Her CeaseFire colleague Jesse Salazar talked about the importance of mentors and community leaders when it comes to tackling the growing problem of gun violence.

“We’ve done a lot of looking for mentors to reach out to young people in our community,” Salazar said. Local clergy play a huge part in helping address gun violence, he noted, and CeaseFire has worked with the local park district to bring more green space to the community.

Rebecca Levin, director of Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, said a public health approach is key to reducing violence. That means not only common-sense gun laws, but also more investment in children and youth and our communities as well as better access to quality mental health care.

“We have to stop this systemic disinvestment in our children and our communities. That’s a huge policy issue that needs to be addressed,” she told meeting attendees. And the “decimated” mental health system needs attention, especially considering 60 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health issue, and 70 percent of those youth have co-existing substance abuse problems.

Mighty Fine, APHA’s gun violence expert, reminded students that there is much we can do to “get real” about solutions to gun violence, including demanding more funding and fewer restrictions on research. Think “health and safety in all policies,” he said, and give attention to the places where violence intersects with other aspects of public health, such as safe routes to school.

“We can’t become the healthiest nation in one generation without acknowledging the toll of violence,” Fine said.

Follow #FTGU15 to find out what students are saying about their meeting — “From the Ground Up: Translating Science Into Policy Using the Public Health Perspective” — and the issue of gun violence.

— D.C.

Ready, set, walk!

This blogger can’t even imagine how many collective steps are taken at an APHA Annual Meeting. A million? A trillion? To the moon and back? Okay, that’s probably a bit of a stretch. But this is for sure: Anyone who’s been to an APHA Annual Meeting knows the value of a good pair of walking shoes.

This year, however, we’ve decided to find out just how many steps we take during an Annual Meeting with APHA’s first fitness challenge! The APHA 2015 Walking Challenge is as easy as this: sign up, sync up your step-counting device and go about your usual Annual Meeting activities. (Note: You’ll have to sync up your device each day to get an accurate count.) The Walking Challenge officially begins tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 1, and the winner with the most steps will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 5 p.m. Central time. Join the challenge today!

Hello Chicago!

Welcome to the 143rd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition! It's going to a hectic five days here in Chicago, packed to the gills with public health goodness. But don't forget to take a quick break and enjoy the spectacular sights. You just can't beat a city with a waterfront view.

Photo by Michele Late, courtesy The Nation's Health

Friday, October 30, 2015

APHA’s Dr. Benjamin: Welcome to Chicago!

Dear APHA members, partners and friends,

I am so incredibly excited to welcome you all to my hometown — the great city of Chicago! As I get ready to join thousands of fellow public health practitioners and supporters at this year’s 143rd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition, I am especially looking forward to learning more about the innovative and often transformative public health work happening in my hometown.

From improving birth outcomes to reducing childhood obesity to preventing gun-related violence, Chicago has a long list of public health accomplishments — many of which you can learn about during a variety of scientific sessions focused on public health efforts happening in Chicago. But did you know that Chicago is also home to some of the more famous moments in public health history? For example, some of you might remember from your high school reading list that the explosive novel “The Jungle” was based on events in the Windy City.

The novel pulled back the curtain on the unimaginable lack of sanitary conditions inside the meatpacking industry, as well as its systemic exploitation of workers, and eventually led to new federal food safety laws. (Though, according to the history books, the novel’s author Upton Sinclair had originally written “The Jungle” to help improve labor conditions, not food safety. Sinclair famously said: “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”) Fast forward nearly 100 years later and Illinois state public health laboratorians used sophisticated genetic testing technology for the first time to identify the exact beef that caused a multi-state E. coli outbreak and sickened hundreds of residents.

Of course, decades before Sinclair’s novel hit the shelves, public health workers were well aware of the dangers that the meatpacking industry posed to public health. In the 1870s, newly appointed Chicago Health Commissioner Oscar Coleman De Wolf called for sanitary inspections at slaughterhouses. De Wolf confronted the meatpacking industry in court and fought their political allies, eventually winning passage of a food safety law that was, unfortunately, largely unenforceable. Still, a century later, Illinois public health workers carry on the tradition of standing up for community health. For instance, public health workers recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of community water fluoridation, which first began in Illinois in the city of Evanston in 1947. By 1968, thanks to the dedication of public health workers, about 6 million Illinois residents were reaping the oral health benefits of fluoride.

Some of you might also remember from your history books, Hull House, which opened in the late 1800s in the Near West Side community of Chicago and is often referred to as the first settlement house in the United States. Hull House was established to help some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, offering kindergarten and day care to single mothers, employment services, language and citizenship classes, and much more. Hull House also attracted some of the most innovative women advocates in the country, who studied the social and economic conditions in the surrounding neighborhoods and became advocates for child labor laws, compulsory education, and the protection of women and children. In fact, one of Hull House’s famous reformers was Alice Hamilton, a pioneer in the fields of toxicology and occupational health and safety.

More than a century later, Chicago’s public health workers continue to confront the social determinants of health that shape people’s lives and opportunities. For example, a few years ago, the Chicago Department of Public Health released a new public health agenda that zeroes in on issues such as violence prevention, healthy housing and access to care.

Chicago is also the birthplace of CeaseFire, a pioneering public health approach to preventing gun-related violence and death — a topic that sadly always seems to be front-page news. CeaseFire uses tools quite familiar in the public health field: community mobilization, public education, and social services. The prevention model, which directly engages and trains community members to anticipate where violence might occur and act to prevent it, has now been adopted around the country. And it’s producing positive results: For example, a study of the model in seven Chicago communities found reductions in shootings and killings of 41 percent to 73 percent. Now that’s public health in action.

So, now that I’ve made it (overly) clear just how proud I am to welcome thousands of public health workers from around the globe to Chicago, I’ll stop with all the hometown boasting. Let’s just say that I can’t wait to step up to the podium at this year’s Opening General Session and look out at all the dedicated practitioners who tirelessly labor in their own communities to make their own public health histories and create a healthier future for all.

See you in Chicago!

Best (and healthy) wishes,

Georges Benjamin, MD

Executive Director


Friday, October 23, 2015

APHA's Global Public Health Film Festival: Projecting health, equity and justice

There are few more powerful mediums than film. Telling stories through film captures our attention in so many unique ways — in the sound of a person’s voice, the gait of a person’s walk, the emotion in a person’s eyes. It all adds another layer to give us a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the topic at hand. In just a couple hours or less, film can help us understand a person, place or thing that had previously felt entirely foreign to our own experiences.

And so it’s no wonder that public health has embraced this medium as its own. The very nature of public health goals to keep communities safe and healthy means that its practitioners are always looking for new ways to capture the public's attention and reach decision-makers who make public health policy. In addition, public health is increasingly embracing storytelling as a vehicle for awareness and education — and film is a fantastic storyteller. All of this is to say you should definitely check out this year’s APHA Global Public Health Film Festival, which showcases some of the most innovative and interesting public health films, documentaries, narratives, public service announcements, educational videos and much more.

Organized by members of the APHA Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section's Health Communications Working Group and the International Health Section, the annual film festival will offer a number of sessions during this year’s 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition in Chicago. Overall, the festival will feature more than 115 films from more than 26 countries on a huge variety of topics, such as health equity, toxic exposures, mental health, sexual violence and much, much more. Just a few of the many film festival presentations include:

Inspiring Action and Change Through Film on Monday, Nov. 2, at 10:30 a.m.: This presentation includes a five-minute film about efforts in Polk County, Wisconsin, to raise awareness of land stewardship and access to healthy foods. Also featured are a commercial about complete streets, a film about shared space road design, and a video about people living with low vision aimed at raising awareness about vision rehabilitation.

Toxic Exposures on Monday, Nov. 2, at 12 p.m.: Includes discussion of “Toxic Hot Seat,” which focuses on the dangers of chemical flame retardants; “Assist Bhopal” about a gas leak at a pesticide plant in India that became the worst industrial disaster in the world; “Silent Exposure” about the legacy of soldiers’ exposure to Agent Orange; and “Evidence of Harm” on the risks of mercury amalgam dental fillings. 

Let’s Talk About Sex, Shame, Power, Violence on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 10:30 a.m.: Features a documentary about our cultural fascination with female virginity; a film about female sexuality and shame through the experiences of three women from different walks of life; two documentaries about domestic violence in America and around the world; and a piece from the Center for Digital Storytelling about sexuality, sexual health and Hispanic youth.

Influencing People: Role Models, Stigma and Stress on Wednesday, Nov 4, at 8:30 a.m.: Includes a 10-minute film on early brain growth and how to best nurture children’s development; a film showcasing kids and their perspectives on divorce; discussion about a Boston-based effort that engaged teens in creating HIV prevention videos to share on YouTube; and a documentary about black women in medicine, featuring former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

And on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 2:30 p.m., the APHA Film Festival will host a special screening of “Dreamcatcher,” a documentary about Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute who co-founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation, an organization working to prevent sexual exploitation and end human trafficking in the city of Chicago. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Myers-Powell as well as fellow advocates working to end sexual exploitation.

Check out the 2015 film festival schedule to browse through this year’s offerings. For even more on the power of film in public health, listen to this podcast with Naomi Ranz-Schleifer, chair of APHA's Global Public Health Film Festival, from The Nation’s Health newspaper.

Above, watch the trailer for the documentary "Dreamcatcher," which will be screened during a special film festival session on Sunday, Nov. 1.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Anniversary!: Celebrating milestones in public health history

There’s a ton of ways to show off your public health pride at the APHA 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition. Button, pins, T-shirts, tote bags — every year, the meeting is awash in public health affirmations printed on just about every surface we can get our hands on. This year, it’s time to celebrate some noteworthy public health anniversaries.

Some of this year's Annual Meeting badge ribbons, including
a ribbon celebrating the public health benefits of community
water fluoridation.
And we’re doing it with ribbons. You know those sticky ribbons we attach to our Annual Meeting badges? Some identify you as a New Member (Welcome!), others as a member of APHA boards and committees (We Appreciate Your Leadership!), while others denote longtime members of APHA (Thanks for Sticking By Us!). Some meeting attendees have one or two ribbons; others have a rainbow of ribbons cascading from their lanyards. As an APHA colleague said quite succinctly: Holy ribbons, Batman!

So, back to the anniversaries. This year — while supplies last — APHA will offer six new ribbons acknowledging six public health anniversaries. Attendees can pick up the ribbons at the information desks in the registration area of the McCormick Place convention center or at the Membership Booth at Everything APHA inside the Public Health Expo. Here’s the quick rundown:

• Community water fluoridation: This ribbon celebrates 70 years of improvements in oral health, thanks to drinking water fluoridation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoridation has reduced tooth decay in adults and children by about 25 percent and is considered one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. 

• The Heckler Report: This ribbon acknowledges the 30-year anniversary of the Heckler Report, a landmark report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that documented health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., describing such disparities as "an affront both to our ideals and to the ongoing genius of American medicine." An outcome of the Heckler Report was the creation of the HHS Office of Minority Health. (Want to learn more? Attend Annual Meeting session 3333, ”Advancing the Elimination of Health Disparities Through Federal Action on the Social Determinants of Health,” on Monday, Nov. 2, at 2:30 p.m., or session 4107, "The Heckler Report as a Catalyst for Action: Historical and Current Activities to Support the Promotion of Health Equity Through Select State and Federal Programs," on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 10:30 a.m.)

• Americans with Disabilities Act: Pick up a ribbon to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in 1990 with the aim of eliminating discrimination against people living with disabilities. According to the National Council on Disability, while disparities still exist, the law has “changed the face of American society in numerous concrete ways, enhancing the independence, full participation, inclusion, and equality of opportunity for Americans with disabilities.”

• Affordable Care Act: The landmark health reform law is just a toddler at 5 years old this year, but it’s already made a tremendous impact. According to HHS, in just five years, more than 16 million previously uninsured people have gained health insurance — that’s the largest reduction in uninsured numbers in 40 years. And not only are people gaining access to medical care and preventive services, costs are slowing too: Since the ACA became law, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in 50 years.

• Medicare and Medicaid: Sport a ribbon celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that transformed the health of our nation. Before Medicare and Medicaid, about half of all seniors had no health insurance at all and many people living with disabilities as well as low-income Americans simply couldn’t afford needed care. Today, the two programs cover nearly one out of every three Americans, delivering care to some of the nation’s most vulnerable residents.

Griswold v. Connecticut: This ribbon celebrates the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled a married couple’s right to privacy includes a right to birth control. The case involved a Connecticut Planned Parenthood clinic that had been providing information about birth control to married couples, despite a then-state law criminalizing the distribution of birth control to married couples. Thankfully, the Supreme Court struck down the state law and the case is often described as laying the foundation for future reproductive health victories. 

And while we’re on the topic of anniversaries, a number of APHA Sections are commemorating milestone anniversaries this year as well: The Population, Reproductive and Sexual Health Section celebrates 40 years; the Chiropractic Health Care Section celebrates 20 years; and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section celebrates 30 years. Stop by their booths at the Public Health Expo to offer your congratulatory wishes.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The final countdown: APHA's 143rd Annual Meeting & Exposition kicks off in three weeks!

The leaves are falling, the air feels cooler (this blogger lives in Texas, so that means it’s dipped into the 80s, which is still pretty sweet relief) and the grocery stores are filled with orange pumpkins and bite-sized candy bars. It all points to one much-anticipated event: The APHA 143rd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition!

For those of you ready to answer HALLOWEEN!, I look forward to your public health-themed costumes because this year’s meeting actually begins on Oct. 31 at the McCormick Place convention center in the great metropolis of Chicago, Illinois. This year’s theme is “Health in All Policies,” which means many of the meeting’s thousands of scientific presentations will focus on the health impacts of decisions made across sectors, both public and private. But, as always, the Annual Meeting offers something for everyone — and that says a lot considering the meeting is poised to welcome about 13,000 attendees. (For those of you who are Annual Meeting newbies, this is no exaggeration. When APHA announces that public health is coming to town, we mean it.)

First, let’s talk about the big events. The keynote speaker at this year’s Opening General Session, which officially kicks off the meeting on Sunday, Nov. 1, is Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a passionate education advocate who’s known for his work to increase minority representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. (Immediately following the Sunday opening, APHA Press will host a book signing with Hrabowski, author of “Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement,” at 2:30 p.m. inside the Public Health Expo.) Of course, no opening session kick-off is complete without some words from the nation’s public health leaders — this year, it’s U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

The Monday General Session on Nov. 2 at 4:30 p.m. will focus on the National Prevention Strategy and will feature experts discussing the role of the strategy in improving the nation’s Health. The Closing General Session on Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. will focus on “Building Health and Just Communities” and will welcome Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as top public health officials from Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis County. In between the general sessions, attendees can choose from hundreds of scientific sessions, attend business meetings, networking events or social hours, or browse the hundreds of booths at the Public Health Expo.

Wait, wait — I’m not done yet. On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, APHA Learning Institutes offer folks a chance to earn additional continuing education credits. From Friday, Oct. 30, through Sunday, Nov. 1, APHA’s third Public Health Codeathon will bring together public health practitioners and programmers to brainstorm and develop new health-related mobile apps. On Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 2 and 3, APHA’s Social Media Lab, which is organized in partnership with, will offer one-on-one training with social media experts. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, APHA’s Public Health Awards Ceremony honors some of the best and brightest in the field. And APHA’s Global Public Health Film Festival will put the popcorn in public health with a number of sessions showcasing innovative films, documentaries, public service announcements, educational videos and much more.

Whew. Need an energy boost after all that? Then don’t forget to visit the brand new APHA Wellness Center, which will be located behind the Mix and Mingle Lounge in McCormick Place West Central Concourse and will offer daily yoga sessions and mini exercise breaks. Oh, one more thing: Pack your dancing shoes. Because on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 p.m. outside the Public Health Expo hall, APHA invites you all to join our #GimmeFive dance in honor of the fifth anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign. Keep an eye out on our website for a dance tutorial. We’ll also be teaching the steps onsite before we get started.

Alright, faithful blog readers. This post marks the official kick-off of this year’s APHA Annual Meeting Blog. We’ll be posting every week until the Annual Meeting begins on Oct. 31, at which point we’ll kick into high gear. So please check back in for more insider tips and don’t forget to subscribe for automatic email updates.

See y’all in three weeks!

Above, check out a 2013 TED Talk with Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and this year's Opening General Session keynote speaker.