APHA’s New Networking Platform

IH Section members: This post was originally posted in December of last year. However, APHA has recently made some changes to the platform, so I am re-posting it with updated information.

Happy Holidays, IH Section members! Hopefully this holiday season finds you all happy and healthy, with whatever projects you are working on going well. The purpose of this post is to introduce you to a new networking and communication platform that they have introduced. It is APHA’s Online Community, and it is integrated into your APHA membership profile. The purpose of the community is to encourage members of APHA to connect and discuss shared professional interests and information about events relevant to you and your colleagues. The platform was just recently opened to the general membership, so I have taken some time to explore its different features and thought I would share them here. Please note that you can click on any of the screen shots below

In order to access the community, visit http://connect.apha.org and use your APHA membership ID and password to log in. If you don’t have this information, just go to APHA’s website and request that an e-mail with the information be sent to you (About Us > Membership Information > Update Your Member Profile, then click the link that says “Forgot Your Username and Password?”).

login screen

After logging in, you should come to the following screen. From here, you can access your Member Profile, the groups you are a member of, and your e-mail delivery settings.

welcome screen

The first thing you should do is set up your Member Profile so that other members with similar interests can network with you. If you go to edit your profile, you will come to the following screen:

edit profile

Here, you can edit your name, your photo, your academic background, where you work, tags (keywords that allow other members to search for you based on your interests), address and phone numbers (only if you choose to make them available to other members), a short bio, and any social media profiles you have (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). Once you have input all of this information, you can view your profile as others see it.

view profile

The main focus of the community, however, are the discussions that APHA is encouraging members to have within their professional sections. When you go to access “My Groups” (the link is in the upper right-hand corner of the screen), you will come to a screen that looks like this:

my groups

From there, you can access the group that corresponds to the section(s) of which you are a member.

IH section group

Within each section’s group are the tools for communication and networking with other members. Here, you can search the section membership, access e-mail listservs, put events on the calendar, post to the bulletin board (essentially a message board), upload documents to the library, and post content to the wiki.

This tool has great potential to increase communication and networking among members. I strongly encourage you all to log in, set up a profile, and have a look around!

APHA’s 2013 Fellowship in Government: Deadline is April 9

The deadline for applications for the 2013 APHA Fellowship in Government (including CV and three letters of recommendation) for the 2013 APHA Public Health Fellowship in Government is Monday, April 9, 2012.

Applications and additional information are available on APHA’s website. Please note there are two steps to the application process and both parts must be completed by April 9.

For more information, contact Charlene Bright at charlene.bright@apha.org.

Strengthening of Public Health Associations (SOPHA) Evaluation

By: Dr. Paul Freeman

For 25 years the Canadian Public Health Association, with support from the American Public Health Association, has been facilitating ongoing processes to establish and/or strengthen Public Health Associations in developing countries. In November 2011, SOPHA has organized a mission to evaluate its program through field visits to three countries currently receiving assistance and through the results of a questionnaire answered in 5 other country partner Associations. Omar Khan and I were part of this evaluation process through field visits to Nicaragua, Mozambique and Congo Brazzaville. I accompanied Drs Henri Delatour and Deo Sekimpi to the Congo. It was inspiring to see how enthusiastic the members of the local Public Health Association – L’Association Congolese Pour La Santé Publique et Communautaire (ACSPC) – were. In the midst of poverty they devoted a lot of their own time to establish their association and to conduct ongoing activities that established the credibility of their organization with the community and government.

We huddle to discuss Public Health Association business. Photo credit: Paul Freeman.

The SOPHA program has resulted in both individual and group capacity strengthening and knowledge sharing.  Formal training was given in key aspects of strategic planning and project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. SOPHA support of participation in international conferences and networking improved the profile of the organization and led to learning through sharing. In 2008 and 2010 ACSPC organized scientific conferences where different stakeholders participated. ACSPC members have built both personal and institutional capacity by attended many international meetings.  ACSPC also collaborated with municipal and national health authorities, thus contributing to strengthening the health system at those levels.  The projects contributed to public health capacity building across many health programs, such as sanitation, immunization, road safety, TB control, HIV/AIDS control and malaria control.

They appreciate what can be achieved through association. Photo credit: Paul Freeman.

Institutional capacities were adequately strengthened and they are sufficient to ensure sustainability in the short term, but better fund raising activities are needed for the mid to long term. The ACSPC staff were trained on results based management (RBM) tools which were applied in the development of project plans.   New knowledge was applied in financial management to prepare annual, midterm and final financial reports to CPHA, and strategic planning was used to prepare the strategic plan 2012-2016. Funding is not sufficient; the association is using the skills and tools acquired with the SOPHA program to look for other donors and prepare projects.

Supplying latrines and clean water to schools, a typical project. Photo credit: Paul Freeman

There were several key lessons learned. SOPHA capacity building contributes to increase the confidence and the credibility of the association. Advocacy needs to be undertaken to increase the involvement of other health professionals (doctors, nurses) and government officials in the association and develop their interest for public health issues. The main challenge and issue for project implementation was that the multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral dimension of public health is not yet understood by many stakeholders and decision makers and, partly as a consequence of this, there are few doctors, nurses, or government (Ministry of Health and local health authority) members in ACSPC.

We talked for hours, often by gaslight in small rooms – their offices – in just adequate private housing, that we reached through dirt streets awash with water from recent rain. It was heartening to see what had been achieved and how these pioneer members, with only a few trained health professionals amongst their numbers, had established and barely kept afloat, their own Public Health Associations. Perhaps we could establish links with them for solidarity and to support their growing skill and knowledge base.

Paul Freeman is a physician with advanced training in tropical disease control and general public health, health personnel education, and health program management and evaluation. He has over two and a half decades of experience in capacity building and the design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of primary health care, child survival and malaria control programs in developing countries and for deprived rural indigenous populations in developed countries. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Global Health and the Chair-Elect of the International Health Section.

Addendum: What does health reform have to do with IH?

While I am sure that most of you have been riveted by my recaps of APHA’s Mid-Year Meeting on health reform, many readers are probably asking what the heck I, your friendly neighborhood Communications Chair, was doing there, and why the IH section was asked to send a representative to this meeting. The whole purpose of inviting section representatives and state affiliate leaders was to stimulate discussion about health care reform as it related to each section or affiliate’s work, and how the sections and affiliates could get more involved in the effort. Upon discovering this, my mind drew a blank.

How does health reform relate to the work of our members?

After some thought, I can see two major areas in which our membership would be interested in health reform. The first is in border health: despite the increased coverage that came with the new law, it does not cover undocumented immigrants and even some classes of migrant workers with temporary work visas (for example, those who come to work during the harvest season).

The other area is in sharing information. Our health reform battle has received much global attention, and the international health community is interested in the way the new health legislation will finally take shape and how individual communities will implement it. Also, a lot of the population health and wellness challenges that are being targeted by the Public Health and Prevention Fund grants (e.g. obesity, diabetes, tobacco use) are receiving increasing amounts of attention in developing nations as professionals are realizing that these countries share a disproportionate burden of chronic conditions. IH members who work in communities outside the U.S. may be interested in seeing how communities here address these issues, and they could apply some successful programs to their own communities facing similar issues.

The section representatives and affiliate leaders attended a luncheon that served as a breakout session to discuss these very issues. We were divided into geographic regions by table (which did not seem to make a lot of sense for section members, but it was productive nonetheless) and hashed out our impressions from the meeting and how the sessions related to the work of the sections and/or affiliates. APHA plans to use the notes from these discussions to compile a report for the sections and affiliates to use in their work as it relates to the mid-year meeting.

APHA Mid-Year Meeting, Day 3: Advocacy and Closing Remarks

Day three of the mid-year meeting started off with one last break-out, then moved to the closing general session and a break-out luncheon for the section representatives and state public health affiliates. I attended the “Assuring Population Health: Advocating for Prevention and Wellness” session, which left me wondering how the presentations in this session related to the topic. While I appreciate learning about how different communities are using their Prevention and Public Health Fund grants, I found myself asking where the advocacy was in some of the slide presentations.

One presentation which I did find interesting was one on “The Employer’s Perspective on Health and Health Care Reform” by Larry Boress, President and CEO of the Midwest Business Group on Health. Mr. Boress brought some very good points on the role of businesses in providing and advocating for health coverage (“We pay for everything, so we are advocating for how our money is spent”), as well as the incentive for employers to provide coverage for their employees – “It’s not because we’re altruistic. We do it for business reasons.” I was disappointed, however, when my question about a graph on one of his slides was completely sidestepped. It looked at the breakdown for how businesses answered the question, “How likely is it that drop health insurance coverage and let employees buy individual insurance from the new health insurance exchanges?” Twenty-six percent answered “Unlikely” while 27 percent said “Not likely” – what is the difference between these two? Are they not the same response? Unfortunately, Mr. Boress responded by explaining to me why employers would choose to provide health coverage to their workers.

On a more positive note, I was very impressed with the closing speech given by Dr. Lawrence Wallack, Dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University. Not only did he spare us from a script on slides, he drove home some very important points about why health care and health reform are important, how we need to be framing the debate, and how we should engage the opposition when advocating for it. He said that there are two prevailing mentalities among Americans: the “yo-yos” (You are On Your Own) and the “wits” (We are In this Together). While the yo-yos stress personal responsibility and the idea that a person will do whatever it takes to get what he or she wants, wits believe that communities have to stick together to improve the common good, and that one person’s well-being is intimately connected to that of his or her neighbor. Most of us strike a balance between these two, and we need to appeal to the wit philosophy when framing the need for reform.

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to provide the answers.” Dr. Wallack reminded the audience that we need to stop being distracted by questions that cannot be adequately answered and focus on framing the debate in terms of values that all Americans hold in common. He cited Lakoff’s three levels of analysis:

  1. Big ideas and universal values like fairness, equality, justice, family, community
  2. Issue types such as housing, education, etc.
  3. Specific issues such as beer taxes, toxic waste sites, and health care coverage

During debates, progressives tend to argue from level three down, while conservatives argue at level one. Wallack argues that if we frame the health care issue at level one, we will have success at level three.