Georges Benjamin

Georges C. Benjamin, MD

Dear APHA members, partners and friends,

It’s an honor and a privilege to welcome you to APHA 2016! This year’s APHA Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver — the Association’s 144th gathering of public health professionals from around the globe — is ready to welcome more than 12,000 attendees to share the latest in public health science, practice and success. And with a theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health” driving this year’s program planning, I suspect we’ll all be leaving Denver with new ideas and perspectives on how to build healthier, more resilient communities in our own backyards.

So, why is this theme so important right now? Well, as many of you probably know, new Census numbers released in September report that the nation’s uninsured rate has reached a record low. That means one of the biggest barriers to attaining better health and longevity is slowly, but surely, crumbling. Of course, maintaining that positive insurance trend will require sustained vigilance and a constant eye toward continuous quality improvement and affordability, but I do believe we’re on the right path toward a health care system that serves all people. At the same time, health insurance is just one piece of the healthiest nation puzzle. And now that we’ve made such huge inroads on insurance coverage, it’s time to turn our attention to the biggest pieces of the puzzle — the social, economic and environmental conditions that can mean the difference between a long, healthy, productive life and one burdened with disease, injury and preventable disability.

Just how exactly to impact those determinants toward better health and the elimination of disparities is what this year’s Annual Meeting is all about. Regardless of one’s public health discipline — whether it’s food and nutrition, maternal and child health or worker health and safety — there’s a session on how the social and environmental determinants of health affect your work and how you can make a difference. For example, a Wednesday morning food and nutrition session will feature data on community gardens and their role in better nutrition, social networking and emotional health; a Tuesday session will focus on the intersections between maternal and child health and the criminal justice system; and a Monday session will focus on keeping agricultural and other workers safe as climate change brings hotter temperatures and more frequent extreme heat events. In addition, many of this year’s sessions will offer tips on successfully building partnerships to improve community health, such as this one that will highlight how regional partnerships in our host city of Denver are working to reduce sugary beverage consumption.

But in true public health fashion, we hope to do more in Denver than share, learn and celebrate. We also want to make a difference. This year, our annual Help Us, Help Them campaign will benefit the Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative, a coalition of organizations that coordinates a variety of services and resources for the region’s homeless residents. Many of you probably made your Help Us Help Them donation when you registered for this year’s meeting. But if you didn’t, there’s still time — just log back into the APHA registration system to donate or stop by any on-site registration counter at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver to make a donation. We’ll be handing over the final donation check to Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative during Tuesday night’s APHA Public Health Awards Ceremony & Reception and we want it to be a big one.

I hope you’re as excited as I am to travel to Denver and reunite with longtime colleagues, meet new ones and learn about the year’s public health successes and challenges. Let’s kick off this year’s Annual Meeting with our sights (and hearts) firmly set on a future in which all people have a real opportunity to live a life filled with good health, happiness and prosperity. Together, I know we can make it happen.

Best (and healthy) wishes,
Georges C. Benjamin, MD
Executive Director
APHA

P.S. And after the Annual Meeting, don’t forget to bring that re-energized public health passion to the ballot box! After all, exercising your right to civic participation is an undeniable social determinant of health.

Unable to attend in person? Participate in the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo virtually with APHA Live. View top sessions via live streaming or on-demand video. You can also earn continuing education credit.