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Insights from APHA Conference: Navigating Social and Ethical Challenges in Public Health

By Drew Wood-Palmer


This past November, I had the privilege of attending the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) 2023 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA, from November 12th to November 15th on behalf of Girl + Environment. Attending this year’s conference provided me with a wealth of knowledge and connections in the realm of public health. The conference theme, "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Overcoming Social and Ethical Challenges,"set the stage for engaging discussions and presentations.


Girl + Environment was selected for a poster presentation on the Protecting Our Energy project as part of the Black Caucus of Health Workers APHA Program session. I had the pleasure of sharing this initiative with conference attendees and showcasing the power of grassroots efforts in addressing environmental disparities. The intersection of gender and environmental justice emerged as a crucial focus, highlighting the need for inclusive solutions in the pursuit of a healthier nation. Many expressed interest during the poster session and I was thrilled to share our website and social media pages with those eager to stay connected and informed.


Over the course of the conference, I was also able to attend a few workshop sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Environmental Activism and the Carceral State: Three Important Cases session which included three presentations including El Salvador’s 5 Santa Marta incarcerated water defenders and the “regimen of exception”, the building of Atlanta’s cop city and public health, and abolition success in Los Angeles. Each of these presentations shed light on environmental racism and its potential implications on public health and environmental activism. Learning about how other cities, states, and countries are impacted by environmental activism underscored the urgency of addressing the health disparities arising from these developments. Additionally, these sessions provided valuable insights into navigating the challenges plaguing our communities and the importance of advocating for health-conscious urban planning.


Meeting like-minded individuals who share a passion for the future of public health was one of the highlights of the conference. During a time when global social and ethical challenges are reshaping public health, the APHA Conference served as a nexus for professionals and activists committed to overcoming these obstacles. The collective dedication and exchange of ideas at the conference emphasized the crucial role each individual and organization plays in creating a healthier and more equitable nation. As we move forward, the insights gained and connections forged at the APHA Conference will undoubtedly contribute to our collective efforts in addressing the complex challenges that shape public health worldwide. Thanks GPE for this wonderful opportunity!


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