Sunday, November 16, 2014

What's your public health story?

APHA’s 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition’s theme of “Healthography: How Where You Live Affects Your Health and Well-Being,” has been taken to heart by attendees.

As APHA members filtered into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on Sunday morning, many were excited to get right into the action — and to start bringing the information they would learn back to their communities.

“There’s a wealth of health knowledge in the U.S., but a lot of it is kept in certain areas,” said Ndome Essoka, an MPH student at Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Brunswick, N.J. “Here we’ll be spreading it out. I feel like there’s a wealth of information here, and it’s so different from what we get in the classroom.”

Because the idea of healthography is so broad, attendees will be pondering it all week. Gladys Tataw-Ayuketah, MPH, RN, clinical manager for the Metabolic Clinical Research Unit within the Nursing Department at the National Institutes of Health, said she was interested in seeing the theme grow throughout the Annual Meeting.

“The environment, everything about where you live affects your whole well-being,” she noted. Tataw-Ayuketah will be presenting her research about yoga as self-care in underserved communities in the Washington, D.C., metro area on Monday.

Some attendees said they hoped to bring specific ideas back to their communities, but for Jimmie Smith, an assistant professor at the Mercer University College of Health Professions in Macon, Georgia, the meeting is a chance to remind himself why public health is important.

“Probably for me, it’s more personal,” he said. “It’s the renewed energy to address health disparities and health equity.”

In the 13 counties Smith serves, he said two are urban communities, but the rest are very rural, some with populations of only 9,000.

For other attendees, the location of the Annual Meeting in New Orleans was a reminder of how location affects the population of this Gulf Coast city. Breanne Biondi, an MPH student at Rutgers University School of Public Health from Piscataway, N.J., noted that post-Hurricane Katrina, the city is a microcosm of healthography, particularly in regard to access to healthy foods.

And for some, it was important to bring the meeting back to New Orleans so many years after APHA had to move its 2005 Annual Meeting to Philadelphia in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“I think probably there are lasting health problems from Katrina,” said Michele Kiely, associate dean for research at the City University of New York School of Public Health. “It’s good to infuse the economy (by being here) because economy helps health.”

What brought you to the Annual Meeting? Tell us in the comments section!

— L.W.

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