Official Day 1 of 2013 APHA

Bear with me, I am attempting to blog from my iPhone. My laptop is on the fritz and is too dramatic to bring out into polite society.

APHA’s 2013 annual meeting officially opened with a star-studded opening session. In addition to the association’s executive director (Dr. Benjamin) and president (Dr. Adewale Troutman), we heard from local public health officials and national and global voices in the field. Here’s the play-by-play of my observations from Twitter and more.

Twitter, APHA, Marmot, Menino, Boston

 

Dr. Georges Benjamin:
The work of public health professionals isn’t always recognized. Or appreciated. But when we do our job right, nothing happens. People don’t get sick, people don’t die.
Tweet-worthy: 75% of US health expenditures are spent on dealing with preventable conditions. That’s a lot of moolah!

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Boston Health Commissioner:
Her job was to introduce Mayor Menino and sing his praises, which she did well! He has taken action around autism, urban agriculture, paid sick leave, and gun violence. And he insisted Boston investigate racial and ethnic health disparities within the city as work to reduce the gap, which he has with infant mortality (take note, Cincinnati).

Boston Mayor Michael Menino:

Officially welcomed us all to “Title Town”! (Did you know the Red Sox won the World Series? It’s been mentioned once or twice.) unfortunately I had a learning curve to understand Mr. Menino’s Boston accent, so I didn’t catch all of his remarks. My favorite comment was my Tweet-worthy moment. Pulling soda (pop, for my Ohio readers) out of the schools was the biggest political fight of his career! Teachers, students fought him, but he won. And now soda (pop) has been removed from city buildings, too. Way to go, Boston!

 

Sir Michael Marmot:
This friend from across the pond has been hugely influential in stressing the importance of social determinants of health. What’s that? It’s the idea that where you live and the circumstances you are born into have an impact on your health outcomes.  He pointed out some interesting facts about the US.  For instance, we are 38th in the world for maternal mortality, between Turkey and the Ukraine.  That’s not so good.  We also have 23% of children living in poverty. which is worse than Latvia.  Marmot argued that this clearly must be what we want since we have elected officials who choose to allow these conditions to continue.  Powerful comment.

We heard from Adewale Troutman, the president of APHA who told us, “I don’t want you to just push the envelope, I want you to tear it up!”  Steven Bradley, President of the Massachusetts Public Health Association reinforced the need to address social determinants of health.  Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz invited us to the Massachusetts Public Health Museum (I’m sure he said other things, too…)

The final speaker was Sarah Weddington.  Maybe you know who she is.  I didn’t, but I do now!  She was the 26 year-old lawyer who argued the winning side of Roe v. Wade.  I’m not here to debate abortion.  Her story was pretty amazing, though.  Imagine being a young lawyer who has never argued a case in court and end up arguing your first case before the Supreme Court!  She was hired because she was willing to represent them for free.  Talk about a well-chosen “internship”! She spoke about the importance of leadership.  “In leadership you have to be willing to go a little faster than you know how to control and when you fall, you need to know how to get back up.”  She told lots of stories, stood in front of the podium instead of behind it, and was just an overall great speaker.

 

After the opening session, I wandered the Expo with a friend and collected lots of public health swag.  Most random: tire pressure gauge from Central Michigan University.

 

The day was the shortest of the conference, but still tiring.  Even when I finally arrived back at the hotel after a late dinner, I was still excited to be here in Boston experiencing APHA for the first time.  It is inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of professionals who are making a difference in the field.