Friday, October 25, 2013

The social network

Sure, the APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition is known for its science. But there's much more to the world's largest public health gathering than PowerPoint presentations and data-driven discussions.

The Annual Meeting is also a time of celebration, socializing and, yes, having some fun. So here are just a few ways to get your public health party on.

• What's a party without prizes? Stop by APHA's Public Health Awards Reception and Ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to celebrate the achievements of some the best and brightest in public health (and enjoy some tasty refreshments).

• Want to learn more about APHA's many membership groups and meet folks with similar public health interests? Then check out the many social gatherings and award ceremonies being hosted by APHA's Sections, Special Primary Interest Groups, Forums, Caucuses and the Student Assembly. For example, the Population, Reproductive and Sexual Health Section will host a Meet and Greet & Welcome Reception on Sunday night, the Black Caucus of Health Workers will host a Student Networking Reception on Monday night, and all are welcome to the Ethics SPIG's member meeting on Tuesday night. (There will be a listing of APHA membership group gatherings in the back of the Annual Meeting program that you'll receive in Boston.)

• Make some time in your scientific session schedule to browse the hundreds of booths at the Public Health Expo, a cornucopia of public health goodies and information. The expo, which will officially open its doors in the convention center on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m., is pretty much the public health equivalent of the Mall of America. There'll be schools of public health, public health publishers, state and federal public health agencies, public health product makers, public health nonprofits and advocacy organizations, APHA membership groups and, of course, Everything APHA, where you can browse APHA publications, check out APHA CareerMart, pick up official Annual Meeting souvenirs and much more.

• If there's one tip this blogger has for an Annual Meeting newbie, it's this: Bring comfortable shoes. The APHA meeting is huge, both in content and square feet. Still, you're gonna need a rest, so grab a seat and meet a new friend at the Mix and Mingle Lounge, which will be located in the north lobby of the convention center. (Plus, free WiFi!)

• And for all you folks who'll be capturing your Annual Meeting good times via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other assorted cyberspace social clubs, RSVP for this year's APHA Social Media Meetup hosted by APHA's Social Media Team on Sunday night.

Of course, this year's Annual Meeting is in Boston — a huge, thriving metropolis with tons to keep you entertained after the last PowerPoint presentation of the day. For more on what to see, eat and enjoy in one of the nation's most historic cities, visit the City of Boston.

— K.K.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The password is public health

Ever wondered what would happen if a bunch of public health nerds and computer geeks spent two intense days together furiously developing ideas and writing code to make the nation a healthier, happier place? Well, we've wondered the same thing. 

That's why APHA is calling on programmers, developers, designers as well as public health professionals, advocates and aficionados to join a marathon session of brainstorming and coding for better health. APHA for ACA: A Codeathon to Help Implement the Affordable Care Act is a free, two-day event to bring together programming and public health experts with a goal of developing new apps, platforms and innovations that public health organizations can use to implement the ACA in their communities. The codeathon, which is sponsored by Esri and the California HealthCare Foundation, will begin on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and conclude on Saturday, Nov. 2, when a panel of judges will award prizes to the best, most innovative solutions.

To kick off the codeathon, organizers will offer an overview of the ACA and the challenges to implementation, after which participants can begin networking, sharing ideas and forming teams. Ideas can run the gamut, from developing an app to connect people with local tobacco cessation services to creating a program to increase the uptake of critical preventive health services. It really is a "sky's the limit" kind of event — if your idea will help bring the benefits of the ACA to those most in need, we wanna hear about it. In fact, organizers hope the codeathon will result in ideas and tools that can eventually be brought to market. The codeathon is free and open to all, though registration is required.

After you've invented the next best app for health reform, head over to the new Social Media Lab in the convention center's Southwest Lobby (but first register for the Annual Meeting and then sign up for a time slot here). This year, APHA is teaming up with the folks from — a leader in the social media world — to offer personalized sessions on how to use social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to reach your public health goals. Participants will get a one-on-one session with social media experts from or APHA and are encouraged to come to their appointments with some specific questions and ideas in mind. And feel free to stop by the Social Media Lab, which will be open to Annual Meeting registrants on Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to pick up information, inquire about open time slots and join the social media discussion.

APHA not only talks the technology talk, it walks the walk. For the second year, you can download the free APHA Annual Meeting mobile app to your smartphone or tablet. The app lets users search the online meeting program, access session abstracts, peruse the Public Health Expo map, connect with fellow meeting attendees, sync up with APHA's personal scheduler and much more. To download the app, which you can find by searching for "APHA Meeting" in your app store, you must use the same email address you used to register for the Annual Meeting. (Annual Meeting registration is required to use the app.)

Finally, to meet other public health folks as excited about technology and social media as you are, RSVP for Sunday's Social Media Meetup hosted by APHA's Social Media Team.

How will you be using social media at the Boston meeting? Let us know in the comments below!

— K.K.

Friday, October 11, 2013


It's been a big month for the Affordable Care Act.

On the plus side, millions of people are flocking to the Web to use new health insurance marketplaces, which means more Americans will soon have access to life-saving preventive care as well as protection from medical bankruptcy. That's a really big deal. On the not-so-plus side, some congressional lawmakers actually forced a government shutdown over implementation of the ACA, which means the fight for affordable health care is far from over. (Not to mention that the shutdown has meant the shuttering of essential public health services — and here's just one example of what happens when the doors to public health are closed.)

Right now, public health folks have a big role in collecting the data and telling the stories that illustrate the positive difference that the ACA is making and will make in people's lives. (And in true public health fashion, we also have a duty to point out its gaps and call for improvements.) The health reform law is transforming the health care landscape, and its landmark Prevention and Public Health Fund is already doing the same for community health.

So it's no surprise that the ACA will be a popular topic at this year's APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition. In fact, a quick search of the online program or a skim through our supplemental program guide to health reform sessions finds that if you have a passion for health reform, there will soon be no better place to be than the APHA Annual Meeting. Here are just a few of the ACA-related offerings you'll find in Boston:

• On Monday, Nov. 4, researchers will discuss the challenges of tobacco use prevention in an era of health reform.

• What the ACA means for people living with disabilities will be the focus of this presentation on Monday, Nov. 4.

• U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh will present on Monday, Nov. 4, on a key social determinant of health — high school graduation — and the relationship to the ACA.

• This presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will explore the effects of language barriers on enrollment in the ACA-driven Medicaid expansion and state-based health insurance exchange in California.

• Some people may be left out of the ACA's benefits, and this presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will discuss one group at risk: farmworkers and their families.

• Also on Tuesday, Nov. 5, researchers will explore racial and ethnic disparities in the ACA's coverage.

• Two other Tuesday sessions include this one on "ACA navigators and assistors: Opportunities for public health" and this one on "Public health system transformation under the Affordable Care Act."

• And on Wednesday, Nov. 6, John Auerbach, former public health commissioner for Massachusetts, will discuss the role of state public health associations in implementing the ACA.

To start filling out your personal Annual Meeting schedule with ACA offerings, visit the online program or download the app and search for the Affordable Care Act. Or use our handy program guide to health reform sessions to point you in the right direction.

— K.K.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Students, prepare to get schooled

In the field of public health, you never stop learning. Indeed, one could say the public health professional is a perpetual student (but thankfully without the perpetual tuition). However, for the actual public health student — those of you still busy studying for your degree — there's no classroom quite like the APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition.

In addition to the hundreds of scientific sessions, social occasions, and networking and career opportunities planned for this year's meeting in Boston, APHA's very own Student Assembly has been busy creating events especially with the public health student in mind. This year marks the Assembly's 9th Annual National Student Meeting, which will take place a day before the Annual Meeting officially kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The student meeting, which has a theme of "Movin' and Groovin' All Around the World," will feature a variety of topics, including how to become a successful global health professional, the Affordable Care Act and its impact on young people, and how to survive graduate school. To learn more about the National Student Meeting and how to register, click here.

Beyond the National Student Meeting, the Student Assembly hosts a speed mentoring event, a welcome and orientation session, and an evening social mixer. The Assembly also organized a number of scientific sessions, such as "Student Topics in Best Practices Around the World" on Monday, Nov. 4, which will feature discussions about oral health, disparities and cultural competencies, and much more.

Of course, there's also the massive Public Health Expo, which hosts hundreds of booths, many of which may be of particular interest to students. There'll be more than 30 booths representing schools of public health, nearly 20 booths dedicated to health research as well as booths related to just about every discipline within public health, from occupational health and safety to minority health to nutrition. And, of course, don't forget to stop by the Everything APHA section of the Expo, which hosts APHA CareerMart, APHA Press and the Electronic Information Center.

Even if you're not coming to this year's Annual Meeting, there's still an opportunity to check out what you're missing. On the last day of the meeting, on Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health hosts a free Student Visit Day at the Public Health Expo to encourage young people to explore careers in public health. To register for the event, click here

For more on what the APHA Student Assembly has in store for Boston, visit the online program.

— K.K.