Kim Krisberg and I are with our public health colleagues this week at the 143rd annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). More than 12,000 researchers, practitioners, and advocates from across the US 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.
“Stop asking for a seat at the table…we belong at the head of the table": In April in Baltimore, after the civil unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, city Health Commissioner Leana Wen wasn’t entirely sure what the role of the health department should be in helping the city recover.
But she and her colleagues quickly realized that 13 of the city’s pharmacies had burned down, leaving some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents without access to life-saving medications. In response, the public health department organized to bring medicine, food and basic supplies to those in need. The agency launched a 24-hour hotline and began going door to door to offer their help. The story is emblematic of public health — we respond when people are in need. But what’s even more telling about this story is how the people on the other side of all those doors reacted, Wen said. Continue reading
Speak up for safe work: Protecting the health and safety of workers continues to be one of the most important functions of public health and demands support from all of us. That was the take-home message from a Wednesday session on “Health and Safety Alliances and New Occupational Health and Safety Challenges.”
Among the powerful stories from the occupational health and safety field is the push for a violence-prevention standard in California. Kathy Hughes, a registered nurse and union activist working to make the standard a reality, told session attendees about a nurse who was walking between buildings at a state mental hospital and was strangled by a patient. Not long after, a nurse at a detention facility was killed when an inmate beat her to death with a lamp. The lamp was the nurse’s own because the facility’s low lighting made it impossible to see properly to dispense medication. Continue reading.
Raising healthy babies one neighborhood at a time: When it comes to raising healthy babies, public health workers know that prenatal care is not enough. And in communities where infant mortality rates are high, it takes more than health care workers to turn the tide. It takes collaboration. That’s where programs such as Best Babies Zone, which was the topic of its own Wednesday morning session, come in. Continue reading.
Hey ladies: How the ACA covers — and fails — women: Who’s falling into the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act? That's the murky area where you make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford the cheapest coverage through state exchanges. The folks most at risk: Women. People of color. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks. Southerners. People who have been incarcerated. People who are undocumented.
“The Supreme Court messed with us,” admits Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, referring to the court’s decision to uphold the ACA but allow states to opt out of Medicaid expansion. And that was just the start of a lively late Tuesday session from the APHA Women’s Caucus, “Who Is Left out of the Affordable Care Act and How Do We Change That?” Continue reading.
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.