I spent most of last week at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. This is my main conference each year, and I adore it. It's a conference that's larger than some of the towns I've lived in, and provides opportunities to learn about every possible aspect of public health. The 80F days in Atlanta provided an illustration of this year's theme of climate change (I'm almost grateful to be back in my office, layering wool sweaters, wearing knee-high boots).
This year I was glad to see efforts made to center the experiences of people on the margins. For me, this started on Saturday when I attended a workshop on racism, led by Dr. Camara Jones (immediate past APHA president) and hosted by the Public Health Nursing section. I've always loved Dr. Jones's use of allegory to talk about race and privilege . It's an approach that is immediately accessible and opens up more sensitive conversations; I'm hopeful using her work in my classes will help my students develop a deeper understanding of social determinants of health.
Eriel Deranger's opening keynote on colonialism and the Alberta oil sands was the most powerful keynote I've ever heard. She clearly described the ways White entitlement to energy resources threatens indigenous food sources and tribal lands. The images she used were graphic and heartbreaking- a bison (which would feed a Native family through the winter) decapitated by an outsider and its body abandoned, $13 gallon jugs of milk. I'm mulling over the human and environmental costs of fossil fuels and looking for opportunities to reduce or change my energy consumption.
Gina McCarthy's keynote in Monday's general session was full of hope and fire. She emphasized the importance of our voices and the potential for change through local politics. Dr. McCarthy stressed the importance of highlighting human costs of climate change in our advocacy work and for scientists to learn to talk to laypeople about science. I am thrilled about Dr.McCarthy's announcement of her new faculty post at Harvard's School of Public Health- I can't think of anyone better to train the next generation of public health leaders. (I really do believe that being a public health faculty member is the hardest & best job in the entire world).
I may write a bit later about some of the exciting things happening in the Public Health Education & Health Promotion section, but for now, I'll end by saying that I can't wait for APHA 2018 and its theme of Health Equity.