The APHA Trade and Health Forum was formed last April. Some of you have asked for an update as to what the forum is, what it has done, and plans for the coming year.
This past year’s APHA conference in Washington DC included the first face-to-face business meeting of the new Forum on Trade and Health. Over 25 people from a variety of sections gathered to discuss how global trade affects public health, and what we can do about it. The Forum sponsored three oral sessions and one poster session, and co-sponsored several other events. The Forum welcomes new participants from any section!
The APHA Executive Board approved the Forum in the spring of 2007, based on what was formerly a “working group.” The forum is a new category within APHA, and is defined as a “membership unit composed of APHA members who are working together on a specific issue that is important to public health, crosses disciplinary and section or SPIG boundaries, requires expertise that may reside in more than one section or SPIG, and supports APHA’s mission.” Sections that have supported the Forum to date include Occupational Safety and Health, Medical Care, International Health, Public Health Nursing, Environmental Health, and Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs, as well as several affiliates.
The interests and concerns presented by Forum members show that trade does impact and intersect with health in a variety of ways. Topics raised at the meeting included the impact of free trade agreements on access to medicines and intellectual property rules, tobacco control policies, the migration of health care professionals, corporate social responsibility, occupational health and safety, and the role of states, localities and public health advocates in trade policy making
Some of the important Trade and Health issues that the Forum discussed last year included:
- New FTAs with Peru, Colombia, Korea. None of these were passed last year. Peru and Panama are most likely to move forward at the current time; Korea is on hold, as is Colombia due to concerns about violence there, although Bush is trying to identify the passage of the FTA as a national security issue.
- CAFTA – Costa Rica became the last nation to ratify the agreement, after opponents narrowly lost a referendum that was widely criticized after government officials were found to be conducting a ‘fear and smear’ campaign. Central American nations are struggling with instituting enabling legislation.
- IP and Access to Medicine Issues – These have been controversial issues within the negotiation of the Korean, Malaysian, and Thailand FTAs. Also, Thailand issued a compulsory license for HIV drug efavirenz early in the year despite opposition from USTR and Merck. There has positive change in the IP/Access to med language in the Peru and Panama agreements, but improvements are still needed.
- Public Health Representatives appointed to two USTR committees
- Tine Hanson on ITAC 3 (Chemicals, Pharma, Health/Science Products)
- Michele Forzeley on ITAC 15 (IP)
- Fast Track Authorization – At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that Fast Track would be renewed; now that looks unlikely.
- More recently, concern with import of toxic consumer goods.
In the coming year, the Forum will be working to plan sessions and other activities for this year’s meeting in San Diego The 2008 theme “Public Health without Borders” is especially relevant to the Forum’s work. In addition, the group will work on policy and advocacy to help protect public health worldwide.
The Forum holds a quarterly teleconference call and welcomes new participants from any section. Forum officers for 2008 are: Susanna Bohme, chair; Bill Wiist, program planner; Garrett Brown and Ellen Shaffer, co-call coordinators. We welcome recruits to serve as secretary!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to be added to the Forum’s mailing list.
Mary Anne Mercer, IH Section, Forum Liaison