October 31, 2011 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

The American Public Health Association is having its annual meeting in DC this week, and the theme is “Healthy Communities Promote Healthy Minds & Bodies.” The APHA YouTube channel features several clips from yesterday’s opening session, including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who spoke about the Affordable Care Act, and APHA President Dr. Linda Rae Murray, who noted “we are not where we used to be – but we are not where we need to be.”

Kim Krisberg, whose name you may recognize from her monthly posts here, describes some of the opening session highlights at the APHA Annual Meeting Blog. Today, she also reports on the release of the Department of Health & Human Services’ 2020 Leading Health Indicators, presented at the Annual Meeting by Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh. Krisberg has the full list at the blog, and notes that this is the first time it includes social determinants.

Another one of today’s highlights was the Occupational Health & Safety Section’s annual “talking heads” session, in which the heads of occupational safety and health agencies (the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Mine Safety & Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, and the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board) speak and answer audience questions. OSHA head David Michaels started the session with another reminder that we’re not where we need to be on occupational health and safety: Six workers were killed when a Bartlett Grain Co. elevator in Atchison, Kansas exploded on October 29th, and a Cintas worker in Kentucky was killed on October 28th while trying to fix an industrial dryer – an incident that sounds alarmingly similar to the death of Cintas worker Eleazar Torres-Gomez in an industrial dryer in 2007.

Like the other APHA annual meetings I’ve attended, this one showcases accomplishments in many different issue areas while sounding alarms about funding cutbacks, political attacks, and inertia that threaten to stop or even reverse the progress we’ve made toward healthier communities. One thing that’s new this year, though, is the Occupy movement taking place across the country. It’s heartening to know that the public health movement isn’t alone in saying conditions in the US are unacceptable – now members of the general public are standing up and demanding better than the status quo.

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