Ex­perts ad­dress grow­ing risks to pub­lic health

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —An­dis Robeznieks

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.

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