Public health researchers, activists gather for 143rd annual meeting: Highlights from Day 2

Kim Krisberg and I are with our public health colleagues this week at the 143rd annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Thousands of researchers, practitioners, and advocates from across the U.S. and the globe have gathered in Chicago to swap best practices, share new science and organize for healthier communities. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s events courtesy of the APHA Annual Meeting Blog.

The tipping point: On our way to reducing gun violence: Public health advocates can agree that shootings are a huge health issue for the more than 33,000 victims of gun violence in 2014 alone. But gun violence also indicates that the shooter has a health problem, according to gun violence researchers. In front of a packed Annual Meeting crowd, advocates from the Brady Center and its Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as well as public health advocates gathered to discuss “The Tipping Point: Activating a Public Health Movement to Address Gun Violence.”

The tools to prevent gun violence are already in place, but much work still needs to be done, as 11 children are killed with a gun every day in the U.S., said presenter David Hemenway, professor of health policy and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Continue reading.

Climate change and health: ‘No environmental justice without social justice’: Later this month in Paris, nearly 200 countries will convene for the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s being billed as one of the most important climate change meetings ever. However — if all goes as planned — it could also end up being an enormous leap for public health too.

At a Tuesday morning Annual Meeting session on “Connecting Climate Change and Health Policies: Prioritizing Necessary Actions to Protect Public Health,” presenter Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told attendees that the goal of the Paris conference is to establish binding agreements to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. In fact, in the run-up to the Paris gathering, every country has been asked to provide their intended contributions to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, the U.S. intention is to reduce such emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However, Ethiopia’s commitment is really setting the bar high — that country intends to reduce its emissions by 64 percent by 2030, Patz said.

The whole endeavor is a bit daunting, Patz admitted, and the real question is “how are we going to get there?” But Patz thinks there’s a “secret” to this puzzle and that secret is public health. Continue reading.

City planners and public health:  When it comes to bridging the gap between planning and health, it’s all about relationships. That was the message from local project managers who spoke at a Tuesday Annual Meeting session titled Plan4Health: Linking Public Health and Planning to Build Improvement in Health. “One-on-one, personal building relationships, makes all the difference,” said Alex Smith, who manages the Active Transportation Program for the city of Columbus, Ohio.

He’s one of the people participating in the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) new and very cool Plan4Health partnership with the American Planning Association. The program, which brings together APHA state and local Affiliates with American Planning Association state chapters, launched in March and has this vision: full integration of planning and public health where people live, work and play. Continue reading.

Fitness apps: A fad or an agent for behavior change?: Whether worn on a wrist or downloaded to a smartphone, mobile fitness apps are becoming a more popular way to track physical activity. “For the last 12 years, I’ve seen people in their search for fitness and many people do not ever find it,” said Lynn Herrmann, an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, during a Tuesday morning Annual Meeting session on “Increasing Physical Activity: There’s an App for That!” “Technology is giving us some hope that people will get there.”

But while there are benefits to mobile fitness apps, such as being free, low-cost and easily accessible, Herrmann and other presenters agreed that owning a fitness app doesn’t automatically lead to behavior change. Continue reading.

New public health policies approved by APHA: APHA’s Governing Council has officially adopted 18 new policy statements at its business meeting in Chicago during the 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition. The policy statements, which will help guide APHA’s work and advocacy activities, address a diverse range of topics including:

  • Reducing flame retardant exposure
  • Pre-emptive law and public health
  • Access to worker fatality data
  • Public heath approach to human trafficking
  • Environmental cleanup in Iraq, Afghanistan
  • Preventing Ebola and other global disease threats
  • Protecting against Lyme disease
  • Health education specialists and health reform
  • Preventing prescription painkiller abuse

Read more about the policy resolutions here.

For more from the largest annual gathering of public health researchers, practitioners, and activities, visit the APHA Annual Meeting Blog for more dispatches from Chicago.