Experts address growing risks to public health
Healthcare officials and policymakers are bringing attention to poverty, violence, drinking and driving and climate change as they become increasingly relevant to public health.
“If it hurts or kills people, it’s ours,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. The group is meeting this week in Chicago for its 143rd annual meeting. The theme is “Health in all Policies.”
The goal is to get people to promote good health even if they aren’t involved in the healthcare system, Benjamin said. He said public health professionals work with police to make a neighborhood safer for outdoor activity and with city planning officials to ensure that there are sidewalks to run or walk on. This year, a global topic is on the table as well.
“Climate change is a big one for us,” Benjamin said, since it increases the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases and endangers healthcare infrastructure such as hospitals damaged by heavy storms. While most public health professionals are convinced that climate change is a public health issue, Benjamin said many “still need convincing that there’s something they can do about it.” He added that it’s challenging to get climate change on people’s agenda when they have so many other immediate concerns.
Speakers scheduled for this week’s conference include U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, HHS acting assistant director for health Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita, Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.