Monday, January 27, 2014

A blast from the past: More offerings from last year’s APHA Annual Meeting

While some of you might still be recovering from last year’s massive public health gathering, your faithful bloggers are back…and with even more news from November’s APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Boston.

First, let’s start with the news — literally. The January issue of The Nation’s Health, APHA’s official newspaper, is chock-full of coverage from the 141st Annual Meeting. Whether it’s stories about new research released at the meeting, coverage of newly adopted APHA policies or just lots of photos of public health folks having a good time, it’s all in this month’s special edition. Of course, for those of you who don’t get the nation’s premier public health newspaper at home, you can read all about it online (though you’ll need your APHA member username and password to access some articles.)  

They say you can’t relive the past. But with APHA’s E-ssentialLearning, you kind of can. Audio and PowerPoint presentations from hundreds of last year’s scientific sessions are now available for streaming online. For more on E-ssentialLearning, visit the APHA website.

Wishing you had more photographic souvenirs from the Boston meeting? We’ve got you covered. Hundreds of photos from the 141st Annual Meeting can now be viewed and purchased online at EZ Event Photography. If you’re prompted for a password, enter “publichealth.” Hard copies of photos are available for $7 for 4x6 prints, $10 for 5x7 prints and $15 for 8x10 prints. Electronic versions are also available and can be ordered through the site. More photos from last year’s Annual Meeting are also available on APHA’s Flickr page.

While it’s only January, preparations are already underway for this year’s 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans, which has a theme of “Healthography: How Where You Live Affects Your Well-Being” and will take place Nov. 15–19. APHA is now accepting abstracts, so don’t miss out on your opportunity to present! Program planners from the Association’s many Sections, Special Primary Interest Groups, Caucuses, Forums and the Student Assembly do the heavy lifting of selecting scientific session offerings, and so abstract submission deadlines vary between Feb. 10–14. For a full list of abstract deadlines and more information, visit the APHA Annual Meeting site.

And as always, we humbly encourage you to subscribe to this very blog to receive automatic updates by email. We have a feeling you’ll be hearing a lot more from us this year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Above, two of the nearly 400 people who had their photos snapped at APHA's membership booth at last year's Public Health Expo in Boston.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Closing session challenges public health workers to ‘move this nation forward’

As he sat on the panel of speakers at the Closing Session of this year’s APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition, Donald Warne told a story.

Three sisters were walking along the river, when they saw a group of babies in the water. One sister jumped in to save the babies.

One sister said, “We need to teach these babies to swim.”

The third sister kept walking up the river. When the others called to her, she said, “I’m going to find out who’s throwing these babies in the water and I’m going to stop them.”

He paused.

“That’s public health.”

It was a fitting story to help wrap up this year’s Annual Meeting, which ended with a Closing Session about “Improving the Health of Native Peoples” and featured a keynote address by Evan Tlesla Adams, British Columbia’s first Aboriginal Health physician advisor and current deputy provincial health officer for Aboriginal health.

Adams sought to bring to light some of the issues faced by native people in the U.S. and Canada, but also to note that many indigenous people are actually faring quite well.

“I don’t want to tar us,” he said. “We are also very happy, very vibrant people. Only some of us are at risk. Many of us are flourishing.”

As evidence, he pointed to statistics regarding youth suicides among First Nations — or indigenous — people in Canada. In British Columbia, which has 32 languages, 203 tribes and 226,000 indigenous people, almost half of the tribes had no youth suicides from 1992 to 2006.

“We have solved the problem of youth suicide in those places,” he said. But on the other side of the coin, the news is much darker. Ninety percent of the youth suicides that did occur happened in 10 percent of the villages.

Many of the social determinants of indigenous health are the same as they are for the rest of the population — poverty, education, housing — but native people also face issues of self-determination, or the right to participate in decisions about the issues that affect them.

Adams said Canada has made strides in that area, signing partnership agreements that grant more self-determination to native people and bringing them to the table for discussions.

“Nothing about us, without us” has become the rallying cry.

The panel discussion after Adams’ keynote focused on the needs of native people in the United States and became a conversation about how much more progress Canada has made addressing such needs.

For example, Warne, who comes from the Oglala Lakota Tribe of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, noted that tribes rely on block grants for funding. But block grants from the federal government don’t go directly to the tribes; they first go to the states, which distribute the funds.

“Are all states friendly to American Indians? No,” said Warne, who directs the Master of Public Health Program at North Dakota State University.

Pointing to his own experience in South Dakota, he said that the state had historically been happy to count infant deaths in Indian Country in its overall infant mortality statistics to help get more block grant money. But when that money came in, the funds were never distributed to the tribes.

He called the distribution of block grant funds “low-hanging fruit” and an easy way to make sure funds get distributed where they’re needed most.

As always, the Annual Meeting closed on a note of hope.

APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, after handing off the gavel to new APHA president Joyce Gaufin, said he hoped attendees — of which the meeting welcomed more than 12,500 — will leave with renewed energy.

“I hope this meeting began a dialogue,” he said. “As the new APHA, I can tell you, we’re very much about science, advocacy and health. As you go home today, I want you to think about all the things we can do as an Association to move this nation forward.”

See you next year in New Orleans!

— C.T.

Above from top to bottom: Closing Session keynote speaker Evan Tlesla Adams; session moderator and new APHA President Joyce Gaufin sits with Adams and fellow panelists Donald Warne, second from right, and D. Kawika Liu of the Consolidated Tribal Health Project; and APHA's Benjamin, left, smiles for the camera alongside Gaufin and outgoing APHA President Adewale Troutman. Photos by Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography

Photo finish

For your viewing pleasure, just a handful of the many photos from another successful APHA Annual Meeting. To view more photos from the Boston meeting, visit APHA's Flickr page.

Above from top to bottom: The National Public Health Week booth at the Public Health Expo; attendees at Wednesday morning's APHA Caucus Breakfast; Expo visitors at one of the hundreds of poster sessions; attendees at the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Caucus Social; and snapping photos at APHA's International Health Section booth. Top two photos by Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography, bottom three by Michele Late, courtesy The Nation's Health

A little birdie told me so: Tweet of the day

On this last day of the 141st APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition, the tweet of the day goes out to @the2x2project, whose organizers wrote: We had a wonderful time at #APHA13. It's hard to leave! Loved connecting with so many people passionate about #publichealth. Keep in touch!

Keep that passion alive! We'll see you next year!

Read all about it!

Stories of your public health work are making it well beyond the walls of this year’s convention center. Reporters from the around the nation — and world — have been covering the research coming out of the 141st APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition and bringing your messages of good health and prevention directly to the masses. Below is just a snapshot of this year’s media coverage. For more news from the Annual Meeting, visit APHA’s Public Health Newswire.

Gap seen in exposure to smoke on the job, Boston Globe

Internet can help mums prevent kids' obesity: Study, Times of India

Talking to Partners About STDs Often Awkward: Survey, Newsday

Gabriel Scally: A grotesque parody of fairness, BMJ Group Blogs

Gun Injury Hospitalizations Cost $75k on Average, Becker’s Hospital Review

On the Table: For loads of fiber, eat more beans, News & Observer

Tai Chi and Exercise Keep Seniors Upright, Medscape Medical News

Professor Who Links Nutrition to Birth Defects Honored by the March of Dimes, Sacramento Bee

Fast food companies still target kids with marketing for unhealthy products, ScienceBlog

Kanawha health officials present new app, Charleston Daily Mail

The other local food movement

Most Americans know that nutrition impacts their health. But where you live often determines what you eat — and what you know about healthy food.

The “act local” half of APHA’s 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition theme dominated a Wednesday session on nutrition advocacy in rural, urban and diverse socioeconomic communities. According to presenters, the problem isn’t that people don’t want to eat healthy.

It’s that no one’s educating them on how to do it.

“People aren’t going to go on ( before they chow down on Chinese takeout,” said session presenter Michelle Ramos of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “MyPlate and Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate are great. …But people need prior knowledge of food groups to use them.”

Ramos and her colleagues set out to bring healthier diets to East Harlem, a low-income neighborhood with some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in New York City. The community also has an extremely high density of fast food and take-out restaurants.

Researchers attempted to change attitudes with the Healthy Plate for a Healthy Weight initiative, in which restaurant owners were asked to give instructional, bilingual plates — inscribed with nutritional guidelines — to each customer. While many customers didn’t use the plate, 75 percent of those who did reported eating smaller portions, while 100 percent reported eating more vegetables.

A second part of the initiative, called Save Half For Later, called upon restaurant servers to ask customers: “Would you like to save half your meal for later?” If customers answered yes, servers would wrap half the selection in a to-go box.

Across the country, presenters from the University of Iowa sought to promote nutrition through local media. According to researchers, 86 percent of rural adult Iowans read a local newspaper every week.

“To influence rural newspapers to include a great number of, and more, accurate stories about healthy eating, it is essential to understand the perspectives of editors,” said Faryle Nothwehr of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The school’s case studies found that 100 percent of editors thought readers were interested in healthy eating topics, but only 43 percent felt encouraged by readers to include nutrition-related stories. Nothwehr said that editors found difficulty “localizing” nutrition stories without a human interest angle.

Prince George’s County “has it all in terms of people,” said presenter Diane Hill Taylor of the Prince George's County Health Department in Maryland. With a mix of affluent and low-income areas, the department has to share information in equally varied ways. But before receiving a Community Transformation Grant from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, the task proved difficult.

“People knew their grandma’s health department, but it was important to let (county) residents know we’re a new health department,” said presenter Stephanie Cook McDaniel, also with the Prince George's County Health Department. “Our residents were far more tech savvy than we were, so our leadership said we’ve got to get better.”

Through its grant, the department renovated with a dramatic social media push, including roughly 250,000 messages disseminated to its residents every Friday. Free flu shots and “Take Your Loved One to a Doctor Day” communications are changing attitudes in every pocket of the county, McDaniel said.

“By the time our (grant) ends in September 2014, we’ll just be hitting our stride,” she said.

— D.G.

Above, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine partnered with the Communities Impact Diabetes Center on a food initiative called Save Half For Later. In East Harlem, restaurant servers ask customers if they would like to save and box half of their order for a later meal. Video courtesy Communities Impact Diabetes Center

Awards season

Last night, Annual Meeting attendees gathered to cheer on some of the best and brightest in public health at the APHA Public Health Awards Reception & Ceremony. Also during the reception, APHA presented a check for more than $13,000 to Groundwork Lawrence, a local organization working to create healthier communities. The donation was made possible by APHA members who participated in this year's Help Us Help Them campaign. Above are photos of just a few of the night's recipients.

From top to bottom: Past APHA President Deborah Klein Walker, on right, presents Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, with the APHA Award for Excellence; Rex Archer, director of health in Kansas City, Mo., accepts the Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Public Health Work; Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts, accepts the APHA Executive Director Citation; and a representative from Groundwork Lawrence accepts a donation from APHA's Help Us Help Them campaign. Photos by Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography

Building safer workplaces for construction workers

Safety audits of 171 construction sites in New Jersey turned up only eight harnesses, which can protect workers from falls, according to an Annual Meeting session on Tuesday that focused on construction worker health and safety.

Only 43 percent of the construction workers wore hard hats, 32 percent wore hearing protection and 34 percent wore eye protection, according to audits conducted in 2010–2012.

Lack of fall protection and shoddy scaffolding were major problems, said presenter Elizabeth Marshall, of Rutgers University.

“Scaffolds, which are used quite a bit in urban construction, were generally poor,” she said. “They seemed to be slapped up with whatever they could think of. There was very little fall protection and there was a mish-mash of platforms.”

Previous research has shown that Hispanic construction workers have a higher rate of injuries, so researchers in Massachusetts set out to create an intervention and training program to try to increase the focus on safety.

Presenter Luz Stella Marín and her team from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell targeted construction supervisors, who have the power to improve working conditions. They conducted pre- and post-testing after a five-hour supervisor training that focused on protective equipment, social support, and non-retaliation against workers who speak up about unsafe workplace conditions.

The training addressed the supervisors’ responsibility to create a culture of safety and taught them how to analyze job hazards and create a safety plan. The training also increased knowledge of how to prevent falls and reduce silica exposure.

Pre-test, the supervisors said they understood silica dangers, but further questions revealed they were actually talking about asbestos and weren’t as informed about silica. Breathing in silica dust, which is commonly found in building materials, can permanently damage a worker's lungs.

In the follow-up survey of contractors’ attitudes toward safety three to six months later, evaluation scores improved 26 percent, Marín said.

“One supervisor said he had never worn hard hats before [our training],” she said.

Following the study, a train-the-trainers program was implemented.

“Now we have 10 trainers who are permanently teaching our program,” Marín said. “We believe that construction safety intervention that is focused on the key people that have the opportunity and power to change the workplace will be most successful. These types of trainings that focus on the construction supervisor help avoid [incidences in which] workers are blamed for injuries [even though] they don’t have the possibility to change their worksite conditions.”

— M.P.