APHA 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo Atlanta Nov. 4-8Last week, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. To quote the reaction of APHA’s own Georges Benjamin, it was a "reckless decision" that will have "disastrous consequences for human health."

The decision to exit the Paris agreement — coupled with the gutting of federal climate change programs — is indeed a heartbreaking setback. Not to mention, this news comes on the heels of a White House budget that proposes slashing funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $1.2 billion — that’s a cut of 17 percent. To say these are challenging times for public health is officially an understatement. But it’s also unlike public health to back away from a challenge – as Dr. Benjamin said last week: “Our work on climate change will not be stopped.”

The determination to confront what scientists say is one of the greatest health challenges of our time will be on full display at this year’s APHA Annual Meeting & Expo, Nov. 4-8 in Atlanta, Georgia. With a theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health,” the Annual Meeting marks both a culmination of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health and what we hope will be the start of many more creative climate efforts in the future. After all, public health is well accustomed to adapting to new (and less-than-ideal) realities. We’re in it for the long haul — just ask Big Tobacco.

Still, continuing our climate change work in the current policy environment will take innovative practices, nontraditional partnerships and communitywide mobilization. At the upcoming Annual Meeting, attendees will learn how to do all that and more, despite the formidable challenges. You’ll hear from leaders in the climate and health movement, learn the latest in climate science and practice, and get the chance to network with a diversity of potential partners. Here’s just a small sampling of what thousands of your fellow public health practitioners, researchers, students and advocates will be doing in Atlanta:

  • This year’s Opening General Session will feature a keynote address from activist Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, a driving force behind Indigenous Climate Action. The last event of the meeting, the Closing General Session, will feature remarks from Jacqui Patterson, director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program; Kimberly Wasserman-Nieto, director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization; Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Choctaw Chitimacha Band of Isle de Jean Charles; Chieftess Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation; and Miya Yoshitani, director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
  • Many scientific sessions will dive deep into the data to highlight how climate change affects the health of different populations as well as society at-large. For example, session 3173 will focus on the impacts to women’s health; session 4217 will highlight the impacts for infants and children; session 3301 will discuss the impact to economic growth and trade; session 3182 will focus on the effects for war and peace; and session 4147 will highlight what climate change means for worker health and safety. (There is SO MUCH more than this — just visit our Online Program and search for “climate change.”)
  • Many other scientific sessions will focus on best practices and lessons learned in addressing climate and health. For instance, session 3025 will discuss the impact of a large-scale climate displacement event, gleaning lessons from the evacuation of Oroville, California, where authorities feared the imminent collapse of a nearby dam; session 3081 will highlight adaptive strategies with a particular focus on CDC’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects framework; session 3276 will highlight global efforts to confront climate change through a lens of human and indigenous rights; and session 4278 will feature a discussion on best practices for engaging elderly communities in climate adaptation.

Of course, while climate change is the theme and focus of many of this year’s offerings, the Annual Meeting’s hundreds of scientific sessions, social events and business meetings will also cover the full spectrum of public health disciplines and practice. Registration and housing are now open for the 2017 Annual Meeting — register before Aug. 10 and you can save up to $115. But don’t wait until November to learn more about climate and health — visit APHA’s Climate Change page today to access a wealth of resources on climate science, preparedness and adaptation.

Climate change is real, it’s here and it threatens the health of people everywhere. We hope you’ll join us in Atlanta as we confront the next great challenge in public health history.