Annual Meeting, Day 3: Governing Council Action and Section Goals

Apologies for the delay in posting this, but it has taken us all a little while to regroup after the Annual Meeting.

The major event every year on Tuesday of the Annual Meeting is the Governing Council session.  The IH section was, as always, active and vocal in this year’s session.  Nominations Committee Chair and Governing Councilor Amy Hagopian provides a great summary of this year’s session:

The governing council meetings this year were the usual mix of deadly dull and rivetingly interesting. On Saturday we had a lively candidates’ forum, hearing from the six candidates for executive board and the two candidates for chair-elect. The governing council is the electoral body for these positions (although we did vote on a proposal this year to allow the full APHA membership to vote for chair-elect….um, that failed). The candidates for these positions were very high quality this year, and it was hard to choose! Our section was very happy with the results of the election, which took place on Tuesday: Adewale Troutman for chair-elect; and 3 winners for executive board, Lisa Carlson, Durrell Fox and Paul Meissner.

Tuesday’s full-day governing council meeting opened with a riveting (not) discussion of detailed bylaws changes. We did vote on changes to the membership categories, which will favor members who join during their student years and transition into “new professionals.” We voted on the theme for the 2013 conference, and chose (by 54%): “Think Global, Act Local: Best Practices Around the World.”

We adopted 23 resolutions on a variety of policy matters, including six sponsored by the International Health Section:
B1: Improving Access to Higher Education Opportunities and Legal Immigration Status for Undocumented Immigrant Youth and Young Adults
B2: Improving Housing for Farmworkers in the U.S. is a public health Imperative
C1: Prioritizing non communicable disease prevention and treatment in global health
C3: Call to Action to Reduce Global Maternal, Neonatal & Child Morbidity and Mortality
C7: Highlighting the health of men who have sex with men in the global HIV/AIDS response
D1: APHA Endorses the World Health Organization’s Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel

We also approved two policies supported by the IH section:
B6: Reducing PVC in Facilities with Vulnerable Populations (sponsored by our friends in the Occupational Health Section)
LB2: Opposing the DHS-ICE “Secure Communities” Program (in support of immigrant rights)

The governing board also made some changes to the policy submission process. Some highlights:
1) Late-breakers now must be submitted 10 days before the conference
2) There are no longer two categories of policy submissions (short resolutions vs. policy statements); now all policies should be about 10 pages with plenty of evidence and background

Further, we accepted the report of the ad hoc “Policy Working Group,” which worked for two years to discuss how to manage policy resolutions that can be characterized as largely based on qualitative data or are values-based.

And, finally, there was a fun “wild card” vote on a statement to support the Occupy movement. It passed, 76% to 24%:
“The Occupy Wall Street movement is now active in more than 1,000 cities in the US and has related protests around the world. APHA supports its call for greater social equality, social justice, reducing income inequality, and its demand that corporate crime be investigated and prosecuted. We ask members to identify opportunities to build on the energy and enthusiasm of the nationwide Occupy movement and its synergies with public health.”

The governing council meetings are always open to the general membership at the annual conference. Next year, stop in and watch for a while–it’s always interesting! Even during the bylaws conversations!

The section also held its third and final business meeting, during which members discussed the section goals that emerged from the most recent Strategic Plan and ways to implement those in a concrete way.  The leadership will continue this discussion in more detail during the next conference call, which (as always) is open to any member who wishes to call in.

Annual Meeting, Day 2: A Visit to the Hill, Refugees, and the Awards Dinner

This morning I got a preview of what those of you who are signed up for Thursday’s Advocacy Day will experience.  Since I will not be able to stay in DC until Thursday, I decided to take some time while I was here to visit the office of my own Congressman, Representative Michael McCaul.  While the Congressman was not able to meet me himself, I spoke with DoD fellow Christian Lyons (who manages his foreign affairs portfolio) and made my case for global health funding.  While he was very polite and expressed support for my concerns, he was just as eager to raise some issues of his own, so be prepared to answer questions and be on your toes!

After a long walk back from Capitol Hill, I took my “passport” to the Public Health Expo, determined to put my name in for the drawing (go free registration for APHA12!).  Walking around the expo is a great way to scope out job opportunities, pick up stress balls, and get free smoothies.  For me, it is also a great way to get comfortable with meeting and talking to people.  If networking does not come naturally to you (it has always been awkward for me), the best way to get good at it is to practice.

In the afternoon, I attended a session on refugee health.  Those presentations were particularly interesting to me, as I have done some research and writing on the side related to displacement and refugee health issues.  We heard from researchers who work with refugee populations, as well as a very interesting presentation from a representative from Physicians for Human Rights.

At the IH Social this evening, members got together to chat, make connections, and reminisce as we honored this year’s section awardees.  Congratulations to all of this year’s award winners.  Pictures will follow soon!

Annual Meeting, Day 1: Meetings and Opening General Session

The APHA Annual Meeting kicked off today with the Opening General Session, which featured Pamela Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association; Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Parks Service; and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.  The session began with some very inspiring words from current APHA President Linda Rae Murray; however, I have to confess that I was less than impressed by the speeches – and somewhat baffled by the choices of Jarvis (not quite sure why national parks are relevant to public health) and Daschle (Obama’s first failed choice for Secretary of HHS).  That is just my personal opinion, though – many at the IH section’s first business meeting enjoyed the talks.

For some of us, however, the meeting began before the opening session.  Section members greeted and helped orient international attendees at our International Welcome Booth, which the Global Health Connections Committee is hosting for the third year in the a row.  The GHCC also held its annual meeting in the hour before the opening session.  We discussed our progress on the Global Health Expertise Directory and discussed ways to get involved in the section and make connections with other members.  After the opening session, the section held its first business meeting, where longtime members reconnected and new members learned about opportunities to get involved.

For many of us, one of the main highlights of the Annual Meeting is the wide array of scientific sections, which begin tomorrow – so get excited!  I have my own reason to be excited as well – although I cannot stay for the section’s very first Advocacy Day, I am going to my Congressman’s office to advocate for international aid funding!

Occupy the Future

I had a few hours to kill between landing in DC for APHA’s Annual Meeting and the dinner that the IH section leadership organizes each year.  I normally relish free to time wander, sightsee and explore – indeed, the last time I was in DC, I walked seven miles in one afternoon to see ALL the national monuments – but this year’s nasty weather quickly put the kabosh on that.

So instead, I decided to put on walking shoes that were not warm enough and walk down to McPherson square to check out Occupy DC.

By the time I got to the tent-packed square, it had been raining for several hours.  Cardboard signs with streaked ink and professionally printed banners surrounded many of the tents.  “Fairness ≠ Warfare.” “We are fed up!” “Fight the Power.”  “Spread love, not fear.” I noticed a small group of people listening to one of the organizers, so I hovered behind them to eavesdrop: he was encouraging them to join the group for some upcoming marches.  Meanwhile, volunteers in the makeshift kitchen were helping to haul in donations of soy milk and cereal brought in by one generous supporter.

As soon as they caught sight of me, they whirled around.  “Oh my goodness, you must be freezing!” said one of them as she caught sight of my shoes.  I grinned.  “Would you like an umbrella?”
“Sure. Are you guys from around here?”
“Yeah, we are freshman from College Park. What about you?”
“I am actually here for a conference. I’m from Texas.”
Gasps. “Really? Ohmygod, don’t you love it? Isn’t this wonderful?”
We chatted for a bit about the movement in different parts of the country, then I dashed across the street to a nearby Starbucks – which, incidentally, was also somewhat “occupied” by protesters – to get warm.  I took the only empty seat available and opened my laptop to work through this week’s Devex vacancy newsletter.

Two people on my left were arguing about the camp’s management.  The woman, a hair stylist from Denver, was emphasizing the importance of communal welfare to keep the occupiers warm.  “I mean, we need to get organized and get blankets and make sure that everyone has tarps.  Otherwise, people are going to die, and then the protest won’t matter.  I mean, look at this weather!”

“Reminds me of monsoon season,” replied a woman across from us.  “In Asia, they get regular heavy rains every year.”
“Where are you from?”
“Really!” I exclaimed. “What year did you come here?”
“1996. It’s kinda funny, actually – my parents came here to escape oppression, and now I protesting oppression here in America. My parents don’t get it – they’re like, ‘Why are you protesting? You’re free!’ and I’m like, ‘Not really.'”
“There’s oppression where you come from?” asked another one.
“Yeah. Burma has the world’s longest-running civil war,” she explained.

The guy to my right, a relaxed-looking black man watching a movie on his smart phone, glanced over my shoulder.  “I’m looking for work,” I offered.
“International Medical Corps? You a doctor or nurse or something?”
“No, I’m a public health professional.”
He chuckled. “Professional, huh?”
I laughed. “Well, there’s not exactly a good word for my job description, so I just go with that.” I told him about my work coordinating public health surveillance projects.  He was looking for work, too – a friend of his got him a single-person tent in the square as a temporary living arrangement while he networked and applied for jobs.

The “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) movement has spread like wildfire across countries and continents and has seen everything from one-man marches to riots and clashes with police.  Yet it has no clear message, goal, or spokesperson – a fact that has analysts scrambling to explain it and pundits whining that they are wasting everyone’s time.

They are missing the point.  As some have begun to point out, OWS is not your mama’s protest movement.  They are not fighting for rights or reform, but recognition.  They are simply saying, “We are here.”

If Occupy Wall Street resembles any movement in recent American history, it would actually be the new women’s movement of the 1970s. …Although the leaders of the new women’s movement had policies they wanted on the agenda, their foremost demand was for recognition of, and credit for, the gendered reality of everyday life. Likewise, when the Occupy Wall Street activists attack Wall Street, it is not capitalism as such they are targeting, but a system of economic relations that has lost its way and failed to serve the public.

Some, like the walk organizers, are there because they are truly invested in pushing for social change; others, like the college freshman, are enthralled by the atmosphere and the energy. Some view it as their struggle to survive, while others are taking advantage of the opportunities it provides.  What right do we have to criticize them?  Do we not also see the same themes in the Tea Party?  Or among members of APHA?

Tom Murphy writes on his blog “A View from the Cave” that he believes that storytelling will change the landscape of international aid and development.  In global health we are bombarded by images of poverty and despair that, while compelling us to action, reinforce stereotypes and perpetuate ignorance.  This needs to be changed, he argues, by taking time to listen to people’s stories and responding in ways that suit their needs, not ours.  Not every woman from the Congo or in Dadaab has been raped by rogue soldiers and abandoned by her husband; not every South African township dweller has HIV; not every girl in Yemen is a child bride.  Not every OWS protester is an unemployed college graduate.  Each one has his or her own story to tell, and it our job first and foremost to listen before we leap up to help them.  This is the future of social change.

Don’t get caught up in what past movements looked like.  Tell your own story.  Occupy the future.

IH Section Members: Sign up for the International Welcome Booth at the Annual Meeting!

Dr. Georges Benjamin, former Executive Director of APHA, has kindly agreed to allow us to host a Welcome Booth for our overseas colleagues. This will be the third year we will be hosting the Welcome Booth. The booth will be located in the registration area at the Washington Convention Center.

The Welcome Booth is a great place to meet, greet, and help our colleagues from overseas. For some attendees, this may be their first visit to the United States, while for some others this may be their first APHA Annual Meeting! You know that navigating one’s way to various sessions/meetings dispersed among several venues is not an easy task. This is where you could help by volunteering an hour or two each day at the Welcome Booth.

You will get to meet old friends and make some new ones! This is an excellent networking opportunity for everyone.

Please visit the Doodle poll and do the following:

1. Provide your full name (first and last name).
2. Select the days and times when you are available to volunteer.
3. Save your selection before closing the browser.

Please make your selection by 12 p.m. EST on Friday, October 28, 2011. Thank you!