Four Days in Denver
On Sunday, October 30th over 12,000 people from around the world convened at the Colorado Convention Center to kick off the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) 144th Conference. The annual conference is held so that public health professionals have a place to gather together to discuss the latest in research as well as innovative ideas and practices. This year’s theme was “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health.” The conference lasted for four days and covered topics ranging from Affordable Care Act, climate change, infectious disease, emergency preparedness, mental health, and obesity to name a few. Presenters spoke passionately about their research findings while poster sessions went in depth into public health issues. Members of the thirty-one member sections, which represent special interests within public health, such as Ethics, Community Health Planning and Policy Development, Disability, Epidemiology, etc., manned booths to bring awareness of what each section does and how it promotes APHA’s mission statement: improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status.
Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the APHA, spoke at the Opening Ceremony, outlining the progress public health workers and the APHA have made in the fight to ensure all people have access to healthcare. He highlighted the Census report from September which indicated the number of uninsured has reached a record low. As more people are becoming covered under health plans, the barriers to accessing healthcare are slowly disappearing.
Dr. Benjamin called on the audience to keep a careful eye on the accessibility and affordability of healthcare while also turning the focus on other aspects which affect health. He reminded the audience it is imperative to work on improving social, economic and environmental conditions if we, as a nation, are to achieve equity in health status. By turning the focus to these three conditions, those in the public health field can make a difference by increasing the chances an individual and their community will live a long, healthy life without being burdened by disease, injury, and preventable disability. Each section focused on how those in their field of work can make a difference.
Over the next four days, those in attendance, including myself, listened to and engaged with others in an effort to brainstorm ideas to help improve communities. It was amazing to listen to those who have made an impact in their community. As people shared and suggested alternative ideas to improve the impact of a public health campaign on the community, I was bolstered by the conference. In the two member sections I am actively involved in, Ethics and Community Health Planning and Policy Development, people made a point of engaging each other in conversation and exchanging business cards so future collaborations may occur.
Throughout the conference, each section held a session that highlighted how social, economic, and environmental determinants affect a public health worker’s job and how each person can make a difference. People shared how their workplace is putting innovative ideas into action and working to continue the momentum towards better health. The collaboration between people within the section meetings upheld my belief that unity builds better communities. On the last day, the energy was still palatable as public health workers left Denver with ideas, new friends and contacts.