Friday, November 1, 2013

APHA's Dr. Benjamin: Welcome to Boston!

Greetings APHA members, partners and friends,

It's my pleasure to welcome you to APHA's 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition! In the past year, APHA staff and members have been hard at work organizing another dynamic and vibrant Annual Meeting. It's never an easy task, but with this year's theme of "Think Global, Act Local," we presented meeting planners with quite the challenge: Seek out the world's best and most promising public health practices and bring them to Boston. This year, we wanted to follow the evidence — beyond borders, across oceans and from continent to continent — and explore how we can adapt these global public health success stories to serve our communities here at home. And I'm proud to say that when this year's meeting officially kicks off on Sunday, a world of public health will be waiting for you.

Speaking of adaptation, there's probably no better — or more urgent time — for public health to flex its adaptability muscles than now. As the Affordable Care Act continues to transform the health care landscape and as millions of Americans gain insurance coverage and access to preventive services, the role of public health is also shifting. Of course, some of our most traditional roles, such as monitoring environmental hazards or investigating disease outbreaks, remain the same. However, there is debate over how direct public health services, such as delivering vaccines or providing health screenings to low-income residents, fit into the new health care puzzle. On top of that, public health still struggles with uncertain, often declining funding levels as well as the overall public awareness of the role public health plays in our lives. These days can be difficult ones for the practice of public health.

But it's hardly all bad. The ACA's landmark Prevention and Public Health Fund and its Community Transformation Grants are rallying communities around chronic disease prevention like never before. New quality improvement opportunities, such as public health accreditation, are pushing agencies to improve efficiency, service delivery and ultimately, people's health. And a growing awareness that good health is intrinsically linked to social determinants such as education, income and geography is helping public health practitioners forge fresh and innovative partnerships and re-charge efforts to eliminate health disparities. Sessions on all of these topics and so much more will take place over the next few days here in Boston, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well as your stories from the trenches of local public health.

Every year at the meeting's Opening Session when I look out at the faces of thousands of public health workers, I'm instantly re-energized. It's an incredible reminder that public health truly is everywhere, in every corner of our communities, in every facet of our lives. Public health continues to make the world a better place and I look forward to celebrating those achievements — both big and small — alongside the people who make it happen.

See you in Boston!

Best (and healthy) wishes,

Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E)

Executive Director

American Public Health Association

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