Thursday, November 8, 2007

Until we meet again

Another year, another successful APHA Annual Meeting.

Final counts put this year’s meeting attendance at more than 14,000 people — that’s 14,000 people who may be more motivated to contact their legislators and advocate for public health; 14,000 who could have learned a new, innovative way to improve their community’s health; 14,000 who made new public health friends; and 14,000 who hopefully returned home with a renewed sense of mission.

APHA’s new president, Linda Degutis, DrPH, MSN, certainly seemed energized during her remarks at yesterday’s Closing Session, calling on attendees to be public health advocates and educate decision-makers about public health’s critical role. She emphasized that public health must be the voice for those who are too sick, too scared or too young to speak for themselves. Degutis spoke loud and clear: denying State Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for uninsured kids is unacceptable; sending troops into war and then denying them access to care upon their return is unacceptable; and keeping maternal health services out of reach for undocumented immigrants is also unacceptable.

Step into the advocacy arena, she told attendees, and don’t be “intimidated by those with more money and power.”

Speaking of advocacy, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD, broke some good news at the closing, announcing that this week Texas voters passed Proposition 15, a $3 billion bond plan to support cancer research and prevention. Tuesday’s vote on Proposition 15 was the reason Gupta, a member of the Lance Armstrong Foundation board, replaced original session speaker Lance Armstrong, who was in Texas gathering support for the measure.

Gupta told attendees that now — more than ever before — cancer is an important topic in presidential candidate circles. In fact, a number of top White House contenders recently spoke at a presidential forum hosted by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, he said. And they should be talking: “Cancer is and continues to be a national threat,” Gupta noted.

At the Closing Session’s end, APHA’s Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, sent his public health colleagues home with a not-so-small homework assignment: to help pass a strong SCHIP bill, eliminate health disparities and continue supporting a robust public health infrastrucutre.

“It can be done — it must be done,” he said.

On that positive note, see you next year in San Diego for APHA’s 136th Annual Meeting, “Public Health Without Borders.”

— K.K.

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