The largest annual gathering of public health researchers, advocates, and policy makers continued this week at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (APHA). The following are some highlights from yesterday’s events, courtesy of the APHA Annual Meeting blog.
Keep up the climate fight. Are we up to the task of fighting climate change? “You bet we are!” Gina McCarthy said during the session on “The Future of Environmental Health.” McCarthy, who wasted no time getting back into environmental activism after her eight-year stint as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fired up the session’s thousands of attendees. Sitting across from APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, the two discussed issues of social justice, with McCarthy repeatedly emphasizing the need to look through both a public health lens and an environmental lens when addressing climate change. “Climate change disproportionally impacts those most vulnerable,” stressed McCarthy. “There is an intersect between public health and pollution.” Continue reading
Green jobs should be safe for environments and for workers. As our nation moves toward greener power sources like solar and wind, “no worker or community should be roadkill on the path to a better future.” Those are word from Joseph Uehlein, founding president of the Labor Network for Sustainability. Moderated by Bob Perkowitz of EcoAmerica, the session also featured Anna Fendley of United Steelworkers and Charlotte Brody, a registered nurse with the BlueGreen Alliance. “Industrial workers understand that climate change is real, that we are moving toward a cleaner energy generation” said Fendley. “We just need to help them make a just transition from here to there. And make the jobs they get safe for them to do.” Continue reading
Workplace violence: ‘How can we make things better?’ At a time when nurses face “epidemic levels of violence at work,” there’s a lot we all can do to help, said presenters during a session on violence in the workplace. …Many consider California a leader in this area after the California Department of Occupational Health and Safety adopted a mandatory standard last year to protect health care workers from workplace violence. …“I think it’s a wonderful model” for other states, said session presenter Mark Catlin of SEIU. “I think the real key is that this is a mandatory, minimum requirement. Employers can do better than this requirement, but they’re not supposed to do less.”
…One challenge when it comes to workplace violence and bullying is accurately measuring the problem. Data collected on workplace injuries and deaths don’t include people who were attacked on the job but not injured, for example. And many injuries also go unreported, whether due to shame or fear of losing one’s job. “Some people would simply rather not report it and rather not deal with it,” West Virginia University researcher Kim Rauscher told attendees. “We know very little about people who experience workplace violence but haven’t been injured.” Continue reading
It’s time to stop ignoring our crumbling housing code enforcement. Almost 6 percent of homes in the U.S. are inadequate for living. These dangerous dwellings are almost always inhabited by people with low incomes. Asthma, lead poisoning and falls pose serious risks to already vulnerable populations. And while “housing codes are the primary regulatory tool” for protecting people, they are widely believed to be failing, said session presenter Scott Burris, director of the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University. Code enforcement has been an orphaned cause for decades because there’s no robust national effort to improve code enforcement, Burris said, and there has never been sustained efforts to define, test, refine and/or diffuse efficient and effective models for housing codes and enforcement. But there could be — especially with the Network for Public Health Law’s “five essential public health law services framework.” Continue reading
Defining the Children’s Environmental Health System. Speakers explored environmental impacts on children’s health and described children’s unique susceptibility to exposures such as drinking water contaminants, lead and poor air quality. Unfortunately, the numbers are dismal. Nearly 7 million children in the U.S. have asthma. Twenty-four million homes in the U.S. contain lead-based paint. “Children are still not as protected as they need to be,” noted Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, executive director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network. “This is possibly the first generation to see a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to their poor health status. We need to make sure that children truly are at the center of everything we do.” Continue reading
Integrating Public Health in Metro Area Planning Agencies. Active transportation has proven health benefits, can reduce vehicle miles traveled, benefits the environment and provides substantial economic benefit to communities. Luckily, public health professionals and the planning community are working together to make those benefits a reality. Presenters highlighted the potential of public health-planning partnerships in building healthier, more active cities. …Transportation for America’s Rochelle Carpenter opened the session with an introduction to the guide, which is scheduled to appear on the organization’s website soon. The “MPO Health Primer” provides a brief overview of MPOs and how public health professionals can partner to advance the kind of active transportation that benefit all communities. “Public health professionals can’t achieve health equity alone; practitioners must work across sectors to address the various factors that lead to health inequities,” Carpenter said. Continue reading
The opioid addiction epidemic: ‘This is tragedy. This is misery.’ Even though we’ve all heard of the devastating toll prescription opioid addiction is taking on our country, when public health researchers put the numbers on a display screen, it’s still tough to comprehend. We’re talking thousands of deaths a year, and a tripling in the death rate in recent years for prescription opioid overdose deaths and a doubling in heroin overdose deaths. …“This problem is bigger than we thought it would be, and it’s more complicated than we thought it would be,” said Robert Pack of East Tennessee State University, one of the presenters at a session on “Opioids in Appalachia: Perspectives and interventions in four states.” “This is tragedy. This is misery. This is all kinds of pain, for families, for friends, for loved ones.” Continue reading
Catch up on all of the news from APHA’s 2017 annual meeting here.