Read the latest issue of our newsletter – Section Connection!

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are proud to share with you the latest issue of our newsletter, Section Connection.

Please click here to access our latest issue of Section Connection:

We hope you continue to stay connected and involved with our section,
Jean Armas, Heather de Vries McClintock, and Sarah Edmonds
The IH Section Communications Team

Nominate your colleagues for an IH Section Award, Deadline June 6th

Dear APHA International Health Section members,

It is time again to solicit your nominations for awards to be presented at the next annual APHA convention, this October 24-27, 2021, in Denver, Colorado, and online. The deadline for submission of nominations is Sunday, June 6, 2021, 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time). This is how we can recognize our colleagues who have made significant contributions to international health and our Section. The IH Section has five award categories, descriptions and award criteria being described below:

1. Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health
2. Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology and Practice
3. Mid-Career Award in International Health
4. Distinguished Section Service Award
5. Young Professional Award

We encourage you to think about who in APHA and our Section might merit public recognition through an award. It really doesn’t take a long time to nominate someone. We ask for only a page or so that describes how the nominee meets the award criteria, plus the C.V. of the proposed awardee. If you have an idea of someone who might merit an award and desire some feedback, or need to verify whether they are APHA or IH Section members, please contact us at  

Instructions for submitting nominations are found below. You can also access the award descriptions and criteria, along with the names of past awardees as compiled by IH Historian Ray Martin, on the IH website,

The IH Section Awards Committee consists of Jean Armas, Paul Freeman, Omar Khan, Ray Martin, Henry Perry, Hallie Pritchard, Gopal Sankaran, Rose Schneider, Sarah Shannon, Curtiss Swezy, Laura Altobelli, and Mini Murthy, IH Section Chair ex officio.


Laura Altobelli, IH Awards Committee Chair
American Public Health Association
International Health Section


Annual Awards Guidance

The International Health (IH) Section recognizes each year outstanding individuals who have contributed in an important way to the field of international health and/or to the IH Section. Guidance is provided here on the process and criteria for selecting the individuals to receive the five major awards:

Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award,
Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology, and Practice,
Mid-Career Award in International Health,
Distinguished Section Service Award,
Young Professional Award

A. Process for award nominations and selection

The Awards Committee of the IH Section is entrusted with the awards process, with collaboration and input from IH Section leadership when needed.

The annual request for nominations for IH Section awards is prepared by the IH Section Awards Committee. This request is sent out to all IH Section members on multiple virtual platforms managed by the IH Section Communications Committee.

A nomination can be made by submitting to two items: (1) a letter of nomination of no more than two pages that specifies the name of the nominee, the title of the award, and how the nominee meets the specific criteria for the award (listed below); and (2) the nominee’s current curriculum vitae.

All complete nominations are reviewed by the IH Section Awards Committee. The committee members then vote independently on the candidates. The nominee who gets the highest number of votes in the award category is selected to receive the award.

Awardees are honored at the following Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

B. Awards Criteria

Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health
The Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health honors the visionaries and leaders who have shaped or continue to shape the direction of International Health. Carl E. Taylor was the founder of the APHA International Health Section and a pioneer in and global champion of international health in the 20th century. The evaluation criteria for the Lifetime Achievement Award include: (1) Quality, creativity, and innovativeness of the individual’s contributions to the field of international health; (2) Application of the individual’s work to international health practice (as opposed to primarily theoretical value); (3) The individual’s contributions as a leader, visionary, and role model in international health; and (4) Current membership in APHA, and preferably membership in the IH Section.

Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology, and Practice
The Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology, and Practice recognizes outstanding achievement in international community-oriented public health, epidemiology, and/or practice. This award was established in 2006 by the IH Section. John Gordon and John Wyon were pioneer epidemiologists and mentors in this field, so encouraging and recognizing others in this field is one important way of remembering and honoring them. The evaluation criteria include: (1) Outstanding achievement in international community-oriented public health, epidemiology, and/or practice; (2) Demonstrated creativity in expanding the concepts pertinent to the practice of international community-oriented public health; and (3) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

Mid-Career Award in International Health
The Mid-Career Award in International Health recognizes an outstanding mid-career professional in the IH Section. Evaluation criteria include: (1) Demonstrated achievement and commitment to international health promotion and development over a suggested period of seven to 20 years; (2) Demonstrated creativity in expanding the concepts pertinent to the practice of public health with an international focus; and (3) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

Distinguished Section Service Award
The Distinguished Section Service Award honors outstanding service to the IH Section. The evaluation criteria include: (1) Dedication to the IH Section mission and goals as demonstrated by exceptional contribution to its activities; (2) Serving in IH Section elected positions or chairing its committees with outstanding or unusual effort and achievements; (3) Excellence in team work with peers in the IH Section and the APHA; and (4) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

Young Professional Award
The International Health Section recognizes the important contribution of young professionals for their leadership, innovation, and demonstrated contribution to international health with its annual Young Professional Award instituted in 2018. The evaluation criteria include: (1) Demonstrated contribution to the field of international health through leadership, innovation, and impactful practice; (2) Age younger than 35 years at the time of application; and (3) Current membership in the APHA IH Section.

– Updated and approved by the IH Section Awards Committee, April 2021

Public health professionals condemn threats to health for Palestinians

By Cindy Sousa, International Health Section

The Palestine Health Justice Working Group, a committee of the American Public Health Association’s International Health (APHA-IH) Section, issued a statement last week focused on health justice for Palestinians. In it, they went beyond calling for a cease-fire to condemning ongoing settler-colonial violence and oppression by the Israeli government against Palestinians. The statement launched on Wednesday, May 19. Within 24 hours, they had 350 signatures from public health professionals across the globe (public health workers, social workers, physicians, nurses, medical students, and researchers, among others). By Saturday, May 22, this number had risen to 500 supporters.

To read the full text of their statement and to sign on: click here.

Pharmacy and Entrance to UNRWA Nuseirat Health Clinic, Gaza Strip, 2015. Photo by Ron J Smith.

Over the past month, Palestinians have seen spiraling violence at the hands of Israeli military forces, police, and private mobs. But the attacks of last week – following Palestinian resistance to the eviction of Palestinians in the neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah by Israelis – were the worst in years. Between May 10 and May 21, the Israeli military killed at least 230 Palestinians in Gaza, including 66 children; injured almost 2,000; and temporarily displaced more than 77,000. In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed 27 Palestinians and injured 6,794 more. Israel destroyed or damaged six hospitals and nine healthcare centers in Gaza, including a clinic that housed its only coronavirus testing lab, and killed two of the most prominent physicians in Gaza: Dr Ayman Abu Auf, head of the internal medicine department and Coronavirus response at Gaza’s largest hospital al-Shifa and Dr. Mo’in Ahmad al-Aloul, one of the few neurologists in Gaza.

The violence has taken an extreme toll on Palestinians, a community already suffering from hostility, such that on April 27 of this year, Human Rights Watch released a report condemning Israeli authorities for “crimes of apartheid and persecution.” Israel has undermined Palestine’s public health system for decades, through blockades and direct attacks. These efforts have undermined efforts at containing COVID 19.   Vaccine access disparity reached such a critical point that many described it as institutionalized discrimination and as medical apartheid. These practices are especially damaging when viewed within the framework of ongoing occupation and deliberate gutting of the Palestinian health-sector under Israeli settler-colonial rule. On this point, Osama Tanous, a pediatrician and volunteer with the mobile clinic of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in Gaza, described the larger context of the most recent attacks on Gaza, pointing out, “Healthcare infrastructure in Gaza was already heavily damaged by decades of Israeli de-development and siege. Now it has suffered additional, direct attacks on facilities and workforce.”

While the group was heartened last week by the news of cease-fire, their statement called for more, including independent investigations into the short- and long-term physical and mental health implications of the actions of the Israeli government. They are especially concerned about ongoing attacks on civilians, healthcare, and healthcare workers, which are in clear violation of international law and the ethics of public health. Palestine Health Justice Working Group also emphasizes that their statement – like their ongoing work – is not just about the most recent events, but about decades of violence and oppression against Palestinians. Group co-chair and global health scholar Yara Asi, asserted, “While our statement addressed the immediate need for a lasting ceasefire, this statement goes further, to situate the violence in its historical context. The public health community is very much seeing the need to act on our professional ethics to promote ongoing justice in Palestine and Israel – not just for this week, but for the long-term.”

Regarding the need to situate the violence of last week within a larger context, last week human rights experts from the United Nations called for an International Criminal Court investigation into not only the most recent Israeli attacks against civilians and healthcare facilities, but also wide-spread evictions and illegal transfer of Palestinians by Israelis, along with the ongoing constraints on Palestinian housing, education, and freedom of movement.

In support of the statement, Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician trained in emergency medicine who has been working with Palestinian doctors for four decades, said, “I’m a medical doctor. I’m trained to treat root causes of suffering, not just symptoms. The Israeli occupation, colonization of Palestine, and brutal apartheid that underlies the health crisis in Palestine must end.”

The majority of signatories are from the United States, with others signing from the UK, Egypt, Canada, Spain, Israel, and Palestine. Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei, a psychiatrist in Palestine and head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, said, “This statement sends a positive message to all supporters of the Palestinian struggle. We see justice getting closer and closer. No matter how difficult life is for us now, our dignity and our rights to health and to freedom are increasingly recognized, in this case, as the statement demonstrates, by a growing public health community concerned with justice for Palestine.”

The statement by the APHA-IH working group joins with at least four other statements issued by health professionals aimed at addressing not only immediate fatalities, but also the health harms of the ongoing Israeli settler-colonial project in Palestine. Statements were also issued by People’s Health Movement; Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Health Advisory Council; Equal Health’s Campaign Against Racism; and a group of Canadian Health Workers. Other professional groups have issued calls, including a wide-ranging group of scholars; The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA); Middle East Studies Association; the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association; and others.

Rachel Rubin, another co-chair of the Palestine Health Justice Working Group, who is also on the steering committee for the JVP Health Advisory Council, notes, “What we have seen this May is an increasingly urgent insistence that justice in Palestine is a compelling health issue, one that requires us to act on our ethical imperatives to promote freedom and oppose all forms of violence including settler-colonial control of Palestine.”

It was exactly this sentiment that led to the formation of APHA’s International Health Section Palestine Health Justice Working Group several years ago. The working group began as a network formed within the International Health Section to pass an APHA policy statement on the health harms of Israeli settler-colonial violence and oppression in Palestine. Serving as a forum for interaction, support, information exchange, and activism, the group works to raise consciousness about the issue among APHA members and other health professionals – through education at the APHA annual meeting and other venues, and through promoting the work and leadership of Palestinian health professionals.

As an organized body within APHA focused on health justice in Palestine, The Palestine Health Justice Working Group works not only externally, but also within APHA to pressure the organization to use our collective voice, as one of the leading global public health organizations, to voice opposition to Israel’s continual assaults on Palestinian health and freedom, as APHA has in contexts of Iran (#277718), Iraq (#200617), South Africa (#9122), Nicaragua (#8306), Yemen (LB19-13), and other locations.

The group’s statement aligns with several APHA resolutions, which have held that the prevention of genocide (#200030), the health effects of militarism (#8531), the health of refugees (#8531), law enforcement violence (#201811), attacks on healthcare workers (#201910), and health within armed conflict and war (#20095) are public health matters deserving of our attention and action. The statement also pushes APHA itself, as the Governing Council has–in four separate attempts (2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013)–failed to pass proposed resolutions expressing concern about how the Israeli occupation has undermined the health of Palestinians.

Site of the Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, Gaza Strip. Destroyed in Israeli bombing raid July 23rd, 2014. Photo by Ron J Smith.

“People’s views are changing,” says Amy Hagopian, long-time section member and 2018 recipient of the section’s Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace, who co-authored these resolutions, “APHA members are beginning to see through the rhetorical devices used to shut down debate on Palestine. This topic scares people because they think it’s too complicated, or they don’t want to be accused of being anti-Semitic, or the don’t see the connection to public health.  Maybe the meaningful conversation about Black Lives and police violence in the U.S. over the last year has helped people connect some dots. The widespread support for this statement – and others like it – demonstrate that APHA could have this conversation in a respectful way, and step up to advocate for health justice for Palestinians.”  

To get involved, people can join our Palestine Health Justice Working Group meetings at APHA’s annual meeting each year, or send a message to Please be sure to attend their invited session at APHA’s 2021 Annual Meeting: Sovereignty as a core determinant of health: The imperative for both social connection and independence, as well as other sessions that will be held on Palestinian health justice.

“What’s happening is a scandal”: Health is Still a Target in Syria

Credit: Image by dj2216 under Creative Commons license via Pixabay

Dr. Naser AlMhawish speaks with admiration for his fellow health care workers in Syria. A surgeon turned surveillance coordinator for the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), he describes how a colleague smuggled himself into a village stuck between conflict groups and gathered potential polio samples. Before returning the samples to Turkey, the colleague was arrested and questioned.

“They couldn’t understand that someone would risk his life [to carry samples],” said AlMhawish, noting the samples were eventually used to identify an outbreak. Other members of the team have been attacked and even killed while working to end polio. In some areas, AlMhawish said the association with an organization like ACU made otherwise routine health work “like a suicide mission”.

Prior to joining ACU, AlMhawish practiced surgery in his home town of Raqqah, Syria, where he survived bombings and faced ethical dilemmas. “You are dealing with patients regardless of their background,” he said, remembering the messages he posted at a hospital announcing “No Guns Allowed”. He had to leave Syria when it became impossible to avoid coercion to work for conflict actors.

Dr. Fadi Hakim, advocacy manager at the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), worked in similar circumstances. Before his displacement from Syria, Hakim practiced in Eastern Aleppo where he was the only dentist for miles. “I was myself subjected to attacks on facilities while I was inside,” he said. “It is really terrifying when you hear the jet…when you start to hear the barrel bomb falling down over your head, and you don’t know whether it’s going to fall down on you or next to you”.

He cited the experiences of friends and coworkers surviving multiple attacks and the impact to their mental health and family life. “Imagine the family’s reaction every time they hear about a hit,” he said, “the children always saying bye to dad, not sure if he is coming back or not.”

Both Hakim and AlMhawish work with Dr. Rohini Haar, an APHA International Health (IH) section member, to demonstrate the impact of attacks on population health. An emergency physician in Berkeley, California, Haar began researching attacks on health with human rights lawyer and IH section member Leonard Rubenstein in Myanmar.

Rubenstein is a past president and executive director of Physicians for Human Rights and current chair of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC) which raises awareness about, strengthens documentation of, and empowers local groups to demand accountability regarding attacks on health.

These efforts mingle with the work of IH governing councilor Dr. Samer Jabbour, a cardiologist and professor at the American University of Beirut. Jabbour chairs the Lancet-AUB Commission on Syria which introduced the concept of weaponisation of health.

Several additional collaborations and surveillance initiatives emerged during the past decade, including the WHO’s Surveillance System of Attacks on Healthcare (SSA) and the ICRC’s Health in Danger (HCiD) project. In 2016, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2286 was adopted to extend provisions of international law for healthcare personnel and facilities in conflict situations. In 2019, an APHA policy statement outlined a research agenda and called for protection of health workers and health facilities in war.

Despite other encouraging developments, such as the launch of criminal trials and a recent conviction on crimes against humanity in Syria, attacks on health continue with impunity. “What’s happening is a scandal,” said Hakim, “This is a terror tactic. We are just being hit and nobody seems to care except for sending a statement, condemning, etc.”

While documentation and reporting remain an important part of the accountability and justice process, researchers like Jabbour and Haar express the need to demonstrate impacts on population health. Jabbour said the research should also measure “the efficacy of interventions” like the 2286 Resolution which turned five years old in March.

Various efforts are already underway. In addition to forthcoming research from the AUB-Lancet Commission, Hakim and AlMhawish are working with Haar at the University of California, Berkeley. The Researching the Impact of Healthcare (RIAH) consortium includes Rubenstein and Haar as co-investigator and researcher, respectively. SHCC also recently released a report, “Ineffective Past, Uncertain Future”, that concluded an “absence of follow-through on these commitments” and called for appointment of a special representative or monitor on the UN Resolution’s implementation.

SAMS will continue to focus on violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), said Hakim, including attacks on health care workers and facilities. “Recently we are getting more focused on accountability issues and… building of cases with the hope to be able to someday go to courts and be able to have accountability,” he said.

Other challenges also remain. In addition to the constant threat of violence, for example, AlMhawish wonders about the next funding cycle. “In the field we have more than 200 working,” he said. “So 200 families, and with the economic situation, yes—funding is critical for us.”

With COVID-19 exacting even more stress on the tenuous health workforce, humanitarian access, and funding sources, the situation looks bleak. “We said to ourselves we will not stay silent about what is happening,” said Hakim. “Sometimes people say everybody is tired from hearing about Syria. Ok, let it be so. We want everyone to be tired about what’s happening in Syria. We don’t want to stay silent about what is happening. Because unfortunately right now, this is the only thing that we have.”

As population health impacts of attacks on conflict are more effectively measured and additional voices appeal for justice from governments and policy makers, will perpetrators finally be brought to heel?

The latest Section Connection newsletter is here!

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are proud to share with you the latest issue of our newsletter, Section Connection. In this issue, you will hear from two of our members on their global health perspectives and journeys; get up close and personal with IH section member – Mara Howard-Williams; dive into a little bit of the section’s history; and hear about the work that the program committee does.

We will also share updates from our members, hear about our section’s activities, and learn what our various committee and working groups have been up to.

Please click here to access our latest issue of Section Connection:

We hope you continue to stay connected and involved with our section,
Jean Armas, Heather de Vries McClintock, and Sarah Edmonds
The IH Section Communications Team

PS Don’t forget to submit your abstract by March 21st for this year’s Annual Meeting!