Wednesday marked the close of the American Public Health Association's (APHA's) Annual Meeting and Exposition, and what a fantastic several days it was. In excess of 12,000 attendees, nearly 500 exhibitors, more than 1,000 sessions (30+ sessions in the health communication section alone), and one take-home message to sum it up: Never lose sight of why we do what we do.
Why public health?
Answers to this question were at every turn this week, before even arriving at the conference. Reagan airport was covered in reminders that "health is everything," as though CVS knew we were coming. I loved the phrase when CVS unveiled its new branding, and it rings true every time I see it. Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak reiterated this point, arguing that: "Without a healthy people, we are nothing. Without a healthy people, we have no future." This idea that health is of utmost importance resounded throughout the conference, but that importance alone isn't in itself "the why" behind what we do.
The other piece of the story is an opportunity for change, for positive impact. Current APHA President Joyce Gaufin kicked off the conference in part by sharing her family's experience providing foster care - and a simple but powerful message for why they opened their home. They believed they could make a difference. "Isn't that why you do public health," she asked. That potential to impact people's lives for the better is certainly what excites me about the work we do at FMG.
So, why do we do public health? Because health is everything, and we believe we can make a difference.
With such an important why, how we go about accomplishing our goals is especially important. Luckily, the conference provided some great takeaways in that regard too.
All in all, sound - and inspired - research is a necessity on the path to our public health goals. Grateful to work with folks who accept nothing less than a synergy of the two. Huge thanks to all the organizers, presenters, exhibitors, and attendees for sharing excitement, sparking ideas, advancing knowledge, engaging in debate, reminding us to take a step back and remember our long-term goals, and providing tips on how to get there. We look forward to Chicago next year and all the progress in-between.
What will keep you motivated until then? Please share the inspiration by leaving us a comment below on why you do public health.