Generation Public Health takes over Chicago meeting
By Robin Mackar
To create the healthiest nation in one generation, or what the American Public Health Association (APHA) is calling Generation Public Health, was the key theme of this year’s APHA meeting in Chicago.
At the opening session, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D.; the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the APHA president; actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.; and others called on the public health community to leverage their passion and expertise to improve our nation’s health.
“There are three elements central to our work as public health leaders — information, inspiration, and equality,” said Murthy. “When we in public health can inform and inspire the people we serve, we can empower them to improve not only their health, but their community as well. This is how we can create a movement around health.”
The Oct. 31-Nov. 4 meeting, with more than 1,000 scientific sessions, offered attendees the breadth of knowledge needed to build a healthier nation. Sessions focused on the power of prevention, establishing health equity, and the role that emphasizing health in all policies can play in reducing health disparities.
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About a dozen NIEHS staff from across the institute helped lead pivotal sessions. Joseph (Chip) Hughes and Sharon Beard from the NIEHS About the Worker Training Program (WTP) , and NIEHS Senior Medical Advisor Aubrey Miller, M.D., moderated and organized many of the occupational health and safety offerings. They discussed issues such as protecting disaster response workers in a variety of settings, including from biological threats like ebola; integrating mental health training into worker training programs; and doing more to protect vulnerable populations.
Liam O’Fallon, coordinator of the NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health(https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/translational/peph/index.cfm) program, led several disparities and environmental justice sessions. The connection between climate change and human health was a theme that permeated the conference, with John Balbus, M.D., NIEHS senior advisor for public health, and Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., program analyst in the NIEHS Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation, both leading sessions on the topic. The choice of climate change and health for the focus of the 2017 APHA meeting in Atlanta received an enthusiastic response from conferencegoers.
Sally Perreault Darney, Ph.D., new editor in chief of Environmental Health Perspectives, attended the meeting and joined Thigpen Tart and others on several career panels. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) also had a presence. Mary Wolfe, Ph.D., NTP deputy division director for policy, showcased ways in which the work of NTP helps shape public health policies.
Former NIEHS colleagues continue public health work
The APHA conference provided the perfect venue to catch up with former colleagues and hear about their new public health adventures. Former NIH health disparities trainee Rosemarie Ramos, Ph.D., visited several NIEHS panels, as well as the exhibit, to share information about her role as an assistant research program director in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Brenda Weis, Ph.D., formerly with the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training and NIEHS Office of the Director, is doing well in her role as director of the New Bedford Health Department in Massachusetts, where she oversees a number of innovative health programs.
Former NIEHS Associate Director William Martin, M.D., also stopped by to catch up and share how much he is enjoying his role as professor and dean of the Ohio State University College of Public Health.
(Robin Mackar is the news director in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a frequent contributor to the Environmental Factor.)