Susan Polan, associate executive director Ongoing budget cuts forcing workforce shortages in state, local and federal health departments put key community-based health promotion and disease protection programs increasingly at risk. Coupled with an impending U.S. Supreme Court decision on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the future of public health is all but certain.

With these challenges in mind, the American Public Health Association will bring together top public health leaders and officials for its Midyear Meeting focusing on The New Public Health – Rewiring for the Future. Join APHA June 26-28 to explore opportunities to reshape the public health landscape and address the changing needs of the nation’s health. Susan Polan, APHA’s associate executive director, tells us what’s in store for this pivotal meeting and why you should attend.

Why was “New Public Health – Rewiring for the Future” chosen as the theme of the Midyear Meeting this year?
A lot of people thought that with this title and theme, we were just going to focus on technology, but the theme extends beyond just that. As we look at the public health system and the challenges and opportunities that we face, we recognized the need to make new connections and look at the public health system differently than we have in the past. The theme is really about approaching new strategies to create a healthier public.

What aspects of public health will be addressed at the meeting that will help health departments improve the delivery of services going forward?
From the opening session to the closing, the meeting is chock-full of presentations and opportunities that will help health department staff improve the delivery of services, offer more efficient and innovative programs, reduce health disparities and be more effective communicators. Attendees will hear from the leading experts on these issues who will offer concrete information that people can take back home and apply to their own day-to-day work.

What do you think is of greatest concern for attendees this year given continued state and local budget cuts that have been forcing reductions in workforce and services?
I think there are two very real concerns for attendees, particularly those who work in governmental public health. The first is the personal – as budgets are cut and more positions are eliminated or not filled, everyone is asking, ‘Am I next?’ or ‘How can I take more on my plate?’  The other concern is the natural outgrowth of the budget cuts. The public health system has been so effective at cobbling together the programs, services and practices to assure health that communities don’t notice we are there. We have been able to continue to meet the needs of the community and keep people healthy. But as budgets continue to shrink and each person is being asked to do more with less, the concern has to be for our communities and its residents. At what point are we no longer going to be able to protect their health? Something simple will become an epidemic or a tragedy that we could have prevented with the right resources and staff.

What key sessions would you like to highlight?
I think all of the sessions are going to be fantastic but I really want to highlight the sessions on the morning of Thursday, June 28. Attendees will spend 1 ½ days hearing from amazing speakers about programs and services as well as opportunities and challenges in public health. But it all comes together on Thursday morning when audiences will hear about tools for better messaging and communication, developing new partnerships and educating our communities and leaders. This is when the attendees should recognize that the opportunity to rewire for the new public health is achievable even in the toughest of times.

How might people who aren’t able to attend keep up with the conversation during the Midyear Meeting?
We will be posting blogs and sending tweets via @Publichealth, @APHAAnnualMtg and #APHAMid12 from the meeting.  Join in the conversation following the Meetings Blog and subscribing to our Twitter feeds. There is a lot you can add to the conversation even virtually!

This Thursday is the advance registration deadline for the Midyear Meeting. Register now.