When it comes to public health policy, one of the most difficult barriers can be gaining consensus. But with the right approach, it’s possible to find common ground and realize significant advances in health, according to organizers of an upcoming APHA event.

APHA’s third annual Policy Action Institute will serve as a primer for advancing public health policy in today’s social, political and economic climate. To be held virtually April 8-9, the event will feature public health experts, elected officials and policymakers, who will share their experiences and advice on building bridges to public health policy.

 “Policy is at the core of making advances in public health,” said Susan Polan, PhD, APHA’s associate executive director for public affairs and advocacy. “To create and enact policy that helps people live healthier lives, we must be adept at creating linkages.” 

The theme of the two-day event, “Building Bridges: Creating Health,” is especially relevant in light of ongoing divisions in the U.S., encompassing factors such as beliefs, trust and ethics. Such divisions have slowed work against the COVID-19 pandemic — with some people refusing to wear masks, distance or follow other safety recommendations — and are hampering vaccination campaigns. 

But even on an issue as contentious as COVID-19, it is possible to find commonality. A recent survey from the de Beaumont Foundation found that people from both major political parties agree that COVID-19’s risk to their family is a strong motivator for getting themselves vaccinated. Family is also vaccination motivator across racial and ethnic groups. 

“The divides along racial, urban-rural, political and generational lines are significant when it comes to vaccine acceptance, but we’ve learned that there are certain words and phrases that will work for all audiences,” said pollster Frank Luntz, PhD, who worked on the survey and is scheduled to speak during the institute on “Community Across the Aisle.”

In addition to keynote speakers and “fireside chats,” there will be four main panels over the two-day event. On Thursday, APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, will moderate “COVID-19: An Update,” and John Auerbach, MBA, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, will moderate “Policy Priorities for Building a Robust Public Health System.”

On Friday, Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, president and CEO of the National League for Nursing, will moderate “Expanding Coverage and Access to Care,” and Avenal Joseph, PhD, vice president of policy at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will moderate “Achieving Health Equity.”

Other invited speakers for the April event include members of Congress, heads of U.S. health agencies, community activists and policy specialists.

Registration for APHA’s Policy Action Institute — which has sold out in past years — is now open, with discounts for students and APHA members.