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.

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