Global Health Weekly News Round-Up

UNICEF celebrated its 65th anniversary on December 11, 2011 (Source:

Politics and Policies

  • The US Department of Health and Human Services announced that, beginning in 2014, states will be allowed a basic set of essential health benefits for millions of Americans who would qualify for coverage through state based insurance exchanges (Source:
  • The US National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) called for the first ever nation-wide ban on drive use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle (Source:
  • The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) have opposed a rule that required the health care facilities workers to have an annual influenza vaccine or they lose their jobs (Source:
  • First United Nations (UN) report on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, titled, “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, A.HRC.19.41.” was released on Wednesday, December 15th, 2011 (Source:
  • The United States Conference of Mayors issued a report indicating emergency food assistance increased over the past year by an average of 15%. This report, prepared by City Policy Associates, contains each city (29 cities) survey report with their individual profiles – median household income, the metro unemployment rate, the monthly foreclosure rate, percentage of people in city who fall below the poverty line and contact information for individual service providers (Source:



Diseases and Disasters

These headlines were compiled by Vani Nanda, MPH Candidate at West Chester University PA.

Global Health Weekly News Round-up

Politics and Policies



Diseases and Disasters

These headlines were compiled by Vani Nanda, MPH Candidate at West Chester University PA.

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.

APHA Mid-Year Meeting, Day 1: Technology and Socializing

Greetings from APHA’s Mid-Year meeting in Chicago!  This year’s meeting is on healthcare reform, which is fortunate for me – with so much focus on international health news and topics, I unfortunately do not know much about the intricacies of the new healthcare reform legislation, or how it is being implemented on the ground.  I think many Americans are in the same position, however, so hopefully I will gain a better understanding of reform and be able to pass it on to you, the reader!

Upon checking in, I was given a flash drive in addition to a program and a badge holder.  This is such a great resource – it contains speaker bios and (most of) the PowerPoint presentations from each session.  After I arrived this afternoon, I attended one of the first break-out sessions of the conference, “Technology Implications of Health Reform.”  The panel was made up of a representative from CDC, the Kentucky state health commissioner, and the CEO of the Cabarrus Health Alliance (which, believe it or not, is actually a county health department!).  Each one gave his perspective on implementing electronic medical records and building a health information exchange on the federal, state, and county level, respectively.  While I appreciate the excitement surrounding the possibilities of electronic health records (EHRs), I pointed out that even clinicians and health institutions that have them are not able to use them beyond searching for records by patient name or consultation date, plus whatever queries have been pre-programmed into the software by the vendor so that the practice can get the “Meaningful Use” dollars from the government.  I have experienced this in my public health surveillance work – providers have no idea how to pull the information that we are looking for from their records.  We have a long way to go before EHRs are useful on a large scale to public health surveillance and research.

Later in the evening, I had a chance to meet some of the APHA section representatives that were given the same opportunity as I was to attend the meeting.  This is apparently the first year that APHA has been able to bring section representatives to the mid-year meeting, so it is exciting to be a part of it.  The challenge will be thinking about how the information at this meeting can be applied to the activities of the IH section.  What do you think?