The American Public Health Association is meeting in Denver this week, and all manner of interesting reports can be found on Twitter (the tag is #apha10)
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is also providing reports and podcasts (more links to their conference reports are at the bottom of this post).
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Paul Dugdale, Director of the ANU Centre for Health Stewardship, has provided this report for Croakey readers.
Paul Dugdale writes from Denver:
Regina Benjamin is an African-American family doctor. She has just addressed the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting about the importance of prevention, and told the meeting that the US should do more health promotion. It’s a familiar tune at this meeting of thousands of public health people and will be echoed in hundreds of papers over the coming days.
But the talk by Dr Benjamin is different. She is the US Surgeon General.
The requirement for more prevention, more public health, is now law as part of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. The Act gives Benjamin the backing of a new National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council that she chairs. It includes the Secretaries (Obama’s Cabinet members) of the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Education, Transportation, Labor, and Homeland Security.
It may be the most powerful body set up to do health promotion and public health in the history of the world.
The Act appropriates new expenditure of $2b a year for a Prevention and Public Health grants program outside of the Budget.
This is on top of generous stimulus package expenditure on health promotion, and in addition to whatever expenditure the Council members will drive in their own Departmental budgets. For example, the Department of Health is pushing its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Their mascot is Michelle Obama with her “Let’s Move!” campaign.
The health promotion principles and practical activities identified by Dr Benjamin are straightforward, with no surprises except the directness of the language.
To give an example, the Council’s first status report describes Principle 5 as follows:
“Promote high-value preventive care practices. Relatively simple preventive care actions such as appropriate use of low-dose asprin therapy according to recognized guidelines for people at high risk, control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, tobacco cessation and screening, and brief intervention for depression and alcohol abuse would save tens of thousands of lives each year. Unfortunately, too few people – and especially too few low-income, underserved populations – receive preventive services even when they are available.”
Perhaps it includes some dodgy grammar, but it has a clarity of intent that is rarely seen in Australian Government pronouncements.
Our Federal Parliament has entered its second year of debate on a Bill to create a National Preventive Health Agency and give it a modest (but useful) appropriation.
As Senators get ready to debate this bill again (for more details, see this recent Croakey post), they could do worse than tune in to Dr Benjamin’s work on the topic.
And some more reports from the conference (compiled by Croakey via Twitter)…
Breaking the cycle of violence
One of many sessions touching on social justice issues heard about a program called CeaseFire that works to break the cycle of gun shootings and killings in urban neighborhoods. The director for CeaseFire Illinois, Tio Hardiman, emphasised the need to change the learned behavior of violence to create safer and thus healthier communities.
The CeaseFire model addresses this action of “getting healthy” in a community the way a doctor addresses the action of “getting healthy” in humans – by treating a problem before it spreads. Where an epidemiologist might try to get at the root of a disease outbreak to stop further spread, CeaseFire prescribes highly-trained street interrupters to prevent violence from becoming homicide.
What works in community engagement?
This blog covered a session on the challenges and benefits of community engagement. Several speakers shared best practices on how to reach a variety of partners and audiences who are critical to raising awareness and advocating for policy and environmental changes to improve the public’s health.
Engaging with the conference
Conference organisers are posting a question each day. If I was an Australian public health type wanting to get out the word about my work, this looks like an opportunity.
This question of the day – asking readers how social justice figures in their public health work – drew a comment about a project called Health Literacy Missouri that oversees more than 30 demonstration projects that focus on improving health literacy on a community level. Many of these projects work with vulnerable populations.
The conference programs are here.