Take part in #NPHW this week and join the movement to create the healthiest nation in one generation!

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Yesterday we kicked off National Public Health Week. And although our focus here in our section is on advocating for international health, it’s just as important that we also remain committed to advancing public health here at home.

As public health professionals, we have a lot of accomplishments to celebrate. We are living much longer than our grandparents and great grandparents, thanks to the amazing work our predecessors have achieved. Public health achievements such as immunizations, motor vehicle safety, safer and healthier foods, family planning, healthier moms and babies, and reduction of tobacco use have largely been responsible for a 25-year increase in life expectancy in the U.S. since 1900.

Unfortunately, for the first time since 1993, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has declined. Even more disappointingly, in many parts of the U.S., life expectancy can vary considerably from the average depending on where you live. This can even happen within the same city. Take for example New Orleans. The highest life expectancy in one neighborhood is 80 years, while in another it’s 55 years. That’s a whopping difference of 25 years!

Health indicators comparing the U.S. to other nations paint a similarly unfavorable picture. Among 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. ranks 26th in life expectancy. In the same OECD ranking, the US ranks 29th in infant mortality, an indicator often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation. These numbers are disappointing considering how much the U.S. spends on health. The U.S. spends 16.4% on their GDP on health making us the highest spenders among OECD countries. The next highest spenders, the Netherlands and Switzerland, spend only 11.1%. Their life expectancy? Switzerland ranks 2nd and the Netherlands ranks 14th.

So what can we do to change all this? Participate in National Public Health Week this week (and for that matter, every week you can) and figure out how we can work together to ensure this doesn’t become the trend. Help us become the Healthiest Nation by 2030 and join the movement!

  1. BECOME A PARTNER – Show your support for public health and prevention!
  2. SUBMIT AN EVENT – Add your NPHW event to the hundreds of celebrations nationwide.
  3. TAKE ACTION – Take one small step each day for a healthier life.
  4. ATTEND AN EVENT – Join your community to celebrate NPHW.
  5. STEP IT UP – Join the 1 Billion Steps Challenge. Let’s get everyone moving!
  6. JOIN APHA’S TWITTER CHAT APHA will host its seventh annual NPHW Twitter Chat on April 5 at 2 p.m. Join the chat using your Twitter account to participate in the public health conversation during the event. RSVP for the Twitter Chat here: http://vite.io/k4azyx1dio.

We all have a role to play. 

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Learn more about the different ways we can work together to ensure health for all here.

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The Relevancy of the United Nations and Multilateralism in an Increasingly Unilateral World

The League of Nations was created after the first World War in order “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.” Sadly, the League proved to be ineffective and failed to prevent the second World War. The League was eventually replaced by the United Nations. In 1950, after the second World War, representatives from 50 different countries met in San Francisco to create the United Nations charter which binds its members to commit to maintaining international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, and promote social progress, better living standards, and human rights. The charter was eventually signed by 51 countries and its membership has now grown to include 193 countries.

The United Nations and its extended family of funds, programs and specialized agencies have had countless successes over the years, evident in the 11 Nobel Peace Prizes they have won. They have helped save millions of children’s lives, protected hundreds of world heritage sites like the Galapagos and the Giza Pyramids, and contributed greatly to the reduction of famine. They’ve even eradicated smallpox and helped reduce the emissions of chlorofluorocarbons to protect the ozone. Like any other organization, the United Nations has also experienced their fair share of failures over the years. One of its biggest disappointments was the failure of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda to stop the genocide of thousands of Tutsis. In addition, a UN peacekeeping force was held responsible for one of the worst outbreaks of cholera after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

As such, critics of the United Nations abound. More recently, they have been under intense scrutiny for failing to put an end to the Syrian conflict and being slow to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Accusations of corruption, inefficiency, waste, bureaucracy and bias have materialized over the years from both developed and developing countries. Although the UN has recognized its mistakes and tried to address them, things have not been getting better. A recent wave of frustrated member countries are currently considering withdrawing from some of the United Nations’ various councils, programs, and funds. The United States has recently been considering quitting the UN Human Rights Council as well as slashing its contributions. Several African nations have also been considering withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, citing bias against Africans.

Amid the criticisms and the frustrations of its member states, the question on the minds of many remains, “Is the United Nations still relevant?” While the values of the United Nations have proved to be timeless, execution has been problematic. Their policies are riddled with too much “what to do” and not enough “how to do it.” Many argue that the United Nations system has ultimately failed to prove its value.

The world has changed a great deal since the founding of the United Nations. Mounting skepticism on globalization and increased focus on politics at the local level has led to the rise of populism in France, Britain, and the United States. Global disasters stemming from climate change, famine, and emerging diseases are in the cards and threaten the world order. While it’s clear that the UN’s current mode of operations has had its disappointing moments, withdrawing from membership or cutting funding are not solutions to the problem. Both measures could throw the world order into chaos.

As such, the most insidious threat to world order lies not in impending famine, climate change, or emerging diseases, but in the increasing dissonance among nations over working together to maintain peace and progress worldwide. Critics favoring unilateralism argue that participating in global peacekeeping and progress takes away from achieving peace and progress at home. That being said, accomplishing peace and progress domestically requires countries to acknowledge the growing interconnectedness between our country and the world around us. The world is becoming more connected, not less. Embracing this perspective allows us to see that collaboration and negotiation with other countries is still the way to maintain peace and achieve progress and prosperity. Multilateralism is still the path forward.

This is a critical moment for the United Nations. A moment for them to restructure, reform, and reinvent. A moment for them to respond more agilely to the needs of a changing world. Change, however, is a long, painful (and expensive) process. A process which needs full buy-in, support, and participation from its members in order to succeed. This is the only way for the United Nations to survive and more importantly, for our world to continue to thrive.

Five practical career development suggestions to position yourself for the global health profession

This is the final installment of a three-part series the IH Blog will feature this week called Global health career insights: Lessons on the job market, how to crack it, and what to do once you’re in.


Jessica’s post on the results of the Section’s analysis of the global health job market speaks a lot to the harsh realities of the global health field, and development more broadly. Much like her, I did not start out working in global health – in fact, I entered it 10 years after my public health career already started. I worked for free (well, academic credit) to fulfill my (200 hour minimum) MPH practicum requirement (which I did while working basically full-time and continuing to take classes) on a global health project with my current organization, whom I now work for full-time. When I started my practicum, I already had a very robust set of specialized knowledge and like so many other global health professionals of my generation, I was lucky enough to be introduced to my organization through someone in my public health network.

Throughout my public health career, it has been disheartening for me to see how limited the opportunities are for entry-level public health professionals. In the short three years I’ve spent working in global health now, I’ve learned that for many employers, both big and small, it is the nature of our projects and our funding cycles that often prevents us from taking big risks (and this applies beyond just hiring decisions). It’s not that we don’t want to hire entry level folks! Unfortunately, grants and projects are often done in short to very short cycles, which puts employers in the tough position of needing someone who can really hit the ground running – and running really, really hard.

While the field is admittedly tough to crack, it is not impossible. Global health will always need dedicated professionals who will bring their passion, persistence, and innovative thinking to their “dream job,” whether it is managing projects, analyzing data, or filling that elusive technical advisor role. The goal of the global health jobs analysis project isn’t to discourage our Section’s students and aspiring professionals from entering the global health field completely. Rather, it’s meant to provide a roadmap on how to enter the field. With that in mind, here are five practical strategies you can integrate into your career development:

1. Find a way to live abroad and learn another language. This is more essential for some technical areas than others, but it never hurts – and for many employers, it can make your application stand out even if the position you are vying for doesn’t explicitly require it. Experience living overseas in particular demonstrates that you are adaptable to challenging environments and able to work with individuals with different cultural backgrounds. You don’t even necessarily have to be doing global health work. Even teaching English or a working holiday doing manual labor can showcase your resilience as a job candidate.

2. Build a robust set of technical skills. From my perspective, the toughest job search reality for public health generalists trying to enter this field is the shift favoring the hiring of candidates with more technical skill sets. I work in the mHealth sector of development where there is a huge need for talent. However even if the position isn’t that of a computer programmer, these job descriptions often still look for technical knowledge. So regardless of if you have a degree in anthropology or in engineering, employers seeking candidates need someone who has more than just a passion for global health and good communication skills. They need employees with technical know-how and in my field that’s either knowing project management standards, how to write and debug code, develop databases, write technical reports, run statistical analyses, or create data visualizations. Find out what technical skill set is needed for your “dream job” and work on perfecting your craft. This will help your resume stand out from the crowd greatly.

3. Work somewhere else first. A growing number of entry-level jobs in global health are going to people in country, and this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s absolutely essential for country ownership. However, there is still significant need for trained professionals in a wide variety of fields who know how to function in a professional environment and work well with a wide variety of colleagues. Sure some basic soft skills are essential – flexibility, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn from others can take you far. But many more can be learned on the job. If you really want to make an impact in global health, find a professional vocation you are passionate about, get really good at it, and hone in on your ability to teach and be taught. Whether you’re a nurse, a project manager, an architect, a 5th grade teacher, or a data scientist, there is a need for your know-how somewhere in development.

4. Find alternative ways to work for free that don’t break the bank. I know many of us young professionals are shouldering what feels like a mountain of student loan debt, but if you can find a way to swing this and be practical about it, this is still one of the best ways to get your foot in the door. You don’t have to forego a day job, either. For those of you currently pursuing a Master in Public Health, find an organization that does work in an area you are interested in and ask if you can do a practicum, internship, or fellowship with them. If you’re already out in the workforce, volunteer your professional skill set to global health professional societies (like the IH Section!) or other professional volunteer organizations (like Engineers Without Borders, DataKind, or Teachers without Borders). Even a Google or LinkedIn search of organizations you’re interested in volunteering for should do. If you’re cold contacting an organization, make clear to them what value proposition you can offer and don’t be afraid to be persistent. While it can be a hustle, it is a good way to get experience that will give you a leg up and help you build a professional network. Which leads to…

5. Build a professional network. This advice is true in any field, but it is especially true in development. While requesting email and phone informational interviews can be helpful, getting out and meeting people one-on-one is still the best way to network. Attend relevant lectures at your local university or find a local organization that does (World Affairs and Commonwealth Club offer lectures for those living in my home base in the San Francisco Bay Area) and meet other like-minded folks. You never know who you could be sitting next to. Sign-up for list-servs like Global Health Delivery Online to connect virtually with the global health community. Attend professional society meetings with a global health focus or track like APHA’s Annual Meeting. Talk to the presenters or the person sitting next to you. These meetings are a networking gold mine!

It will take some time for the incoming generation of global health professionals to transform this field. Shifting from short-term funding cycles to long-term ones is only one way to facilitate more attainable entry points into a global health career. Until then, those of us already working in the field must make sure that we invest in aspiring global health professionals, encouraging them to take on leadership roles, and fostering their talents and ambitions through mentorship. Global health and development needs young people and their fresh perspectives in order to keep up with this rapidly changing world.


Now we want to hear from you! Please share your stories and insights on how you crafted your career and positioned yourself to enter the global health field. Get in touch with us at ihsection.communications@gmail.com.

The Time to Advocate for Public Health is Now

APHA’s Government Relations staff recently hosted a webinar discussing APHA’s current advocacy priorities and how APHA members can get more involved with advocacy efforts to help advance and protect public health.  

In this challenging political climate, the need to advocate for public health could not be more urgent. Regardless of which public health issue you want to advocate for, the time to be an advocate is now. As public health experts, it is our duty to help inform not only our elected officials but also the general public about the vast number of public health challenges facing our world today.

Below are a handful of ways you can get involved:

  • Meet with your elected officials in Washington, DC or in your state. For tips and materials you can bring with you, click here.
  • Sign up to receive legislative updates and advocacy alerts on the APHA website.
  • Send a quick action alert message to your legislators through APHA’s Take Action! website.
  • Call your congressperson via the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  
  • Attend a town hall or constituent meeting near you. Here are some tips on how to ask questions in a public forum.
  • Submit an opinion piece or a letter to the editor to your local paper. For a template letter or technical assistance, email mediarelations@apha.org.
  • Share articles and your opinions via social media and other communication channels to help educate your friends, family, and the general public. We encourage you to tag the IH section in your Facebook and Twitter posts on global health advocacy so we can share them with our followers.
  • Volunteer for the IH Section’s Advocacy/Policy Committee to assist with drafting Section policy proposals and contribute to goals and strategies to engage Section members in global health advocacy work. Email Kevin Sykes for more information.
  • And last but not least, consider lending your voice as a contributor to the APHA IH blog. Email ihsection.communications@gmail.com for more information.

The APHA website contains extensive resources to help you in your advocacy efforts. For more information, click here.

During the webinar, we were reminded that even though a legislator’s job is to do what’s best for this nation and its people, elected officials also depend on you to get re-elected. A Representative gets elected every two years and a Senator every six. As you can see in the graph below, your influence can make a difference.

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Source: Communicating with Congress, Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill 

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Learn more about this year’s Public Health Action (PHACT) campaign priority issues:

The Dire State of Reproductive Rights Worldwide

Each day, an estimated 830 women die of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Disproportionately affected are adolescent girls and women living in rural and impoverished areas. Providing women with universal access to family planning is one important and cost-effective way to help reduce maternal deaths. Doing so would decrease maternal deaths by a third. In developing countries, investing in family planning would lead to 2.4 million fewer unsafe abortions (one of the top causes of maternal deaths worldwide according to the WHO) and 5600 fewer maternal deaths related to unintended pregnancies. In addition, it would decrease infant mortality by anywhere from 10 to 20%.

Availability of family planning services has clear benefits in protecting the health of women and children, but it also offers so much more than that. When women can plan the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, women are more likely to attend and finish school; achieve higher levels of education; gain access to better job opportunities; contribute positively to her community; and improves the chances that she will invest in her children’s health, education, and well-being. In short, when women do better, societies do better.

This is all at grave risk now. As part of Trump’s first executive order, he reinstated the global gag rule which when implemented, states that the US can withhold family planning foreign assistance to any foreign non-governmental organization that so little as provides information on abortions, and that’s even if the organization receives funding from other sources. It’s important to note that the US already prohibits any foreign assistance from funding abortions under the Helms Amendment, which has been in place since 1973.

The re-enactment of the global gag rule comes as no surprise, as historically it has been re-enacted by every Republican president since Reagan then overturned by every Democratic president. Ironically although it has been argued that the gag role was put into place to decrease the number of abortions, a Stanford study found that abortions actually increased in years that the gag rule was in effect. It has also been shown that cutting off family planning funding to these organizations severely limits and in some cases, completely ceases, their ability to provide contraceptives and reproductive health services, thus increasing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions and further worsening maternal health outcomes.

The newest reinstatement of this rule however, extends far beyond the scope of the original rule and withholds all US global health assistance, not just family planning foreign assistance, to organizations that perform or provide any counseling, referrals, information, or advocacy on abortions. This revision of the global gag rule will not only hurt the millions of women in some of the poorest areas of the world who heavily rely on US-funded organizations which provide family planning services like contraception, but now impacts vulnerable men, women, and children alike. That’s because many of these organizations provide so much more than reproductive health services. Many of these organizations are hospitals and clinics, which in addition to reproductive health services, provide the full spectrum of medical care including life-saving childhood vaccinations, treatment for survivors of gender-based violence, HIV prevention and care, prenatal and postnatal care, and play a vital role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases like Zika and Ebola.

This is an unprecedented setback for the global health community and a huge threat to the advances that we have made in the fight against emerging infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, and maternal and child mortality to name a few. We cannot let the progress we’ve worked so hard for be eradicated. Let us always remember that progress is something we must work for everyday, a call to action that is becoming more imperative in the precarious times ahead of us.

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US support for family planning foreign assistance currently stands at $575 million to 40 countries. With the institution of this new rule, $9 billion of global health assistance to 60 countries is currently at stake.

Here are a few ways to get involved:

Read APHA’s statement opposing reinstatement of the global gag rule.