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The annual conference for the American Public Health Association (APHA) took place earlier this month in Philadelphia, a bustling city with an impressive public health pedigree. The city contains what will become the first safe injection site in the United States, and is in many ways the home of important ideals such as justice, racial equity, and equality. A few of FPHNYC’s staff joined thousands of other public health professionals  to talk about these values, the challenges currently facing public health, and exciting directions for the future. Here’s what we learned.

Nora Landis-Shack, Senior Associate – Strategic Partnerships & Fundraising

Changing laws, policies, and funding priorities means that interdisciplinary collaboration is more important now than ever before.  Speakers at several of the sessions I attended spoke about the power of public-private partnerships to enact real, sustainable, and powerful change in public health. The Fund for Public Health is uniquely able to connect individuals and private philanthropy to innovative projects that make us healthy and makes New York City’s Health Department one of the best in the country, if not the world. As I reflect on APHA, I’m thinking about how we can continue to support those relationships to ensure continued innovation is made possible.

Sydney Sasanow, Financial Analyst

The sessions I attended at APHA emphasized the importance of incorporating community feedback into program development and design to build trust and encourage buy-in. This is especially important in the fight against epidemics like opioid use and vaping. Community-partnered efforts can help us more directly and meaningfully address not only the symptoms of epidemics, but also their root causes in the social determinants of health like access to housing, healthy food, and clean, safe environments.

Aviva Goldstein, Senior Director – Strategic Partnerships & Institutional Philanthropy

The field of public health is becoming increasingly diverse with stronger representation from people of color and people of all ages and genders. Several presenters focused on men’s health and one panel focused on unorthodox ways of reaching Black men – barbershops, churches – and how to develop messages that resonate.  It reminded me of a comment our former commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, recently made about how white men and women and Black women achieved life expectancies over 70 by the 1970s. Black men didn’t achieve this until 2004. The Fund has helped the Health Department develop innovative programs focused on men’s health and men’s role in women and children’s health.

Sara Gardner, Executive Director

There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that structural racism is a leading driver of racial disparities in health, particularly sexual and reproductive health. But there is a lack of literature focused on what can be done to address these disparities. Thankfully, APHA featured many presentations focused on advancing racial and health equity. I saw many promising examples of local and state jurisdictions building organizational capacity and investing in transformational leadership needed to address structural racism and implement racial equity agendas, and also attended several presentations focused on empowering community voices. I was struck by a presentation focused on #ListentoBlackWomen, a community-based approach to understand and address structural racism by focusing on and highlighting the experiences of Black women with health and social justice. These programs reminded me of work being done by the Health Department here in NYC to advance justice for all New Yorkers, particularly when it comes to our health.

We look forward to staying in touch with and continuing to learn from all the incredible presenters, organizations, and partners we met at APHA 2019. Interesting in learning more about the Fund? Sign up for our newsletter!