Public Health’s Annual Meeting #APHA2016: My Reflections

Hey guys!

I hope you all have been enjoying my 30 Day Challenge revolving around gratitude. Let me know if you want me to do more of these 30 Day challenges, as I’m open to trying out new things. The whole point of the 30 Day Challenge is for my own personal development, but at the same time an opportunity as readers to participate as well. You never know what you’re going to learn right?

Any how, I recently attended the American Public Health Association’s (APHA)’s Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver, Colorado, in which I learned a whole lot about what’s happening in public health as well as network with tons of people in various organizations from academics, government, to those working on the federal level. It was truly an inspiring time to be amongst colleagues and peers who are so interested on everything public health. So in a nutshell, let me just tell you a little bit of what I experienced while at Denver last week.

  • 12,000 colleagues and peers from the US as well as internationally all came to Denver for this week to talk, discuss, and share about various things happening around health as well as public health.
  • Topics and scientific sessions were vast — topics included climate change, public health and nursing, interprofessional trainings at the academic level, pharmacy and public health, substance abuse, maternal child and health, tobacco, marijuana, and so much more. The book they gave us for this meeting, which included all the sessions and posters that students were presenting on…I kid you not…was 1 INCH think. I am not kidding…
  • Social Media and Public Health is in. Can I just say finally? Yeah? Hoping for more public health bloggers like myself?
  • Freebies — You guys….I nearly maxed out my suitcase with freebies….things that I acquired came from schools and organizations alike. However, let me just say, I did not collect items from schools that were advertising for MPH programs, because I already have mine, so…I saved those for students who were interested in MPH programs…
  • Walking — The recommended number of steps one ought to take in a day is 10,000. Without doing very much tourist like activities…I averaged 15,000 steps daily. This means, I got over 10,000 steps in each day, a majority of it was walking from session to session throughout the day which started at 8:30AM and almost always ended at 6PM, socials went till 8PM.
  • I never gave away that many business cards before. Seriously, if you forget anything…don’t forget business cards…because this multi-day event, perfect place to connect and network with people.
  • I lied…in the above bullet. Bring nice clothes. The attire is business casual, however, I will say this — most for the first 2-3 days of the event, are in suits, slacks, business dresses, etc. While no one will look down on you for dressing down, let’s face it..if you’re going to network, and peopel are recruiting for their companies….you should dress up. After all, this conference is a professional event.

Some photos (check out my instagram for some extra photos, it’s @PHPortfolio for those who are interested)

If that didn’t already persuade you at the intensity of this conference, I don’t know what will. I did talk to someone while going to the airport on the last day in Denver, and they did mention that a few years back, there were 15,000 people who attended this conference. Let me just say, as an introvert…12,000 was tough. 15,000? My family was in awe that so many people domestically and worldwide would come to something this. My argument though is this — it’s such a vast field with so much potential, such that we are working not on individuals…but a population, a community, and we want to be able to learn how to help our communities is the reason people are willing to come to something like this.

The theme for this year’s APHA Annual Meeting was “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health.” Talk about a feat, because creating such a nation isn’t easy. THere are a lot of factors in play that makes this quite a challenge. However, as we all know, small changes lead to larger ones. The fact that the sessions and topics were so vast reveals, at least to me, the fact that there are a lot of issues in our nation as well as abroad that makes us unhealthy. From the design of cities in its allowance of physical activity to violence (not just gun violence, but violence in general) and it’s affect on communities, the fact is that every attendee there knows that there’s a lot that makes communities unhealthy. The fact that so many are tackling such issues by going into the community as well as bringing them into the work of public health, is in my personal opinion, a difficult yet rewarding task that needs to be done. Such issues cannot be solved by one party…it requires many. If it takes a village to raise one individual, then I hate to say this…but it takes a village to raise a healthy generation. It really does. Absolutely. The thing is — we’ve got a long way to go.

This is my first conference, and one of the reasons that I decided to go was the fact that I needed some continuing education credits for my Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) license. From a budgetary standpoint, I only get so many units attending webinars and the cost to take classes whether in person or online gives me units that just won’t allow me to meet my annual requirements that I’ve planned out for CEUs. Essentially in 5 years, you must have 75 units of CEUs to keep your license. Otherwise, the license becomes null, and you must retake the exam to regain your license. By attending APHA and going to qualified sessions, you get the opportunity of earning nearly triple the amount of units in 4 days paying a little more than what a class would offer. You’re learning what you want to learn about multiple subjects while networking with people in the field from all over the country and worldwide. Despite my agency not wanting to fit any part of the bill to attend the conference, I decided it was worth the splurge, because it allowed me the opportunity to gain CEUS. Little did I know, that I would actually gain a lot more insights as well.

The sessions I attended were related to some part of my work as well as areas that I am personally interested in. I’m personally interested in learning about how public health folks (think one a group on one mountain) and healthcare (think of all things clinic and hospitals on another mountain) can work together (bridge). It’s not an unknown secret that while public health and healthcare all have the same goals…we work in what we like to call silos. There are several reasons why, and I know for me, I’ve heard them myself, but…let’s face it…each on it’s own aren’t capable of doing much. In fact, we waste resources doing this. So I attended a lot of sessions on interprofessional work and how various parties can come to the same table to talk about how to create and implement programs surrounding health of our communities. It’s an ego blow for me, when as much as I wanted to build clinical community linkages, that the pushback from healthcare that I get is “You don’t understand healthcare.” It’s hard. Yet, in the most humbling of ways, it’s very true.

I also attended several sessions on public health nursing. While in the back of my mind, I wanted to really learn about how to bridge nursing and public health, one lesson that I learned is that as much as the scope of nursing does have the potential of bridging the gap between PH and Healthcare. The fact is — we are really far away. Whether it’s the workload or a students’ understanding of population health, the barrier that is incredibly unfortunate, is that many aren’t just invited to the table to talk. Whether it’s because nurses don’t want to or the ones who do are more academic focused, the reality is that there aren’t many nurses focused on how they can really promote public health as a nurse. It’s unfortunate and in my opinion quite sad because the scope of work of a nurse matches so well with nursing, that a potential here is lost. When I shared with a speaker at such a loss, not only did they agree, but I had the opportunity to actually meet one of the executive board leads of the Public Health Nursing group and share my thoughts as a public health professional and what I do know about the scope of work of nursing was. I was personally challenged to invite nurses to the table, because the best way to promote nurses and show them just how public health and nursing can combine efforts.

Let me just also say…as a techie…I’ve never had so much frustration with an app and technology..until I came to APHA. I love how there was WIFI…I love how I can use my electronics to take notes….what I do not like…is when an app was created with the sole purpose of making things electronic doesn’t work. Honestly, for the first time…I must say…it’s easier to read the paper manual to find sessions to go to and which ones I ought to go to for getting CEUs, that the app was pointless. I couldn’t even use the QR scanner for the expo. When manual work like reading the conference book (not booklet) is easier to use than the app, you know you have problems. My personal feedback for APHA would be that the app sucks. I rarely have bad things to say when it comes to technology. However, this app, sucks! APHA, if you’re reading this…awesome conference…absolutely bad app….please please please make a better app next year.

Now, I know when I started this blog, I mentioned that I decided to go to get CEUs. As a public health professional, I would like to encourage MPHers and public health professionals to go to one. It’s quite expensive to go because of registration costs (going as a student is a lot cheaper), living, and food. However, I think it’s worthwhile to go once (or multiple times), because if you’re in a rut when it comes to your work (let me just say, it’s hard, public health work, it’s not easy…because it’s always the subject that’s not considered priority in the realms of public policy or politics), this will inspire you to fight on in the work that you do. Think of this as a work retreat.

However, and this may be where the good news comes in…so hold your horses guys…

Around mid-September, the goal of going and learning as a public health professional changed slightly, in that while I was there to learn as a public health professional, I also learned that I got accepted into Samuel Merritt University into their Accelerated Bachelors of Science Program. I was hoping to get accepted into their Entry Masters of Science in Nursing Program, and I actually am waitlisted right now. However, I did opt after much thought for the 1 year program (ABSN), because it’s quicker, and this allows me the opportunity to look into other options to become a family nurse practitioner. So long story short, I was also going to APHA as an incoming nursing student. As crazy as it is, and a lot of times, I ponder what I’m doing as an early 30s girl with friends getting married and having kids, of why I’m choosing to do this, I was so glad to go…because I got so much support. In so many ways, so many both men and women alike, when I told them I’ve got my MPH, working in public health in the local health department, which is almost like the ideal work for many, and going back to school to become an FNP, having gotten into the ABSN program, people were like “You go girl!” In fact, so many were trying to recruit me for the Doctorate of Nurse Practitioning, that it was quite overwhelming at the kind of suppor that I received.

Over all, as a public health professional and an incoming nursing student, I felt encouraged, inspired, and in many ways overwhelmed by what I learned, was exposed to, and experienced at APHA this year. Next year’s session is entitled “Climate Change and Health,” at Atlanta, Georgia on November 4-8, 2017. I’m not sure quite yet if I’m able to attend, because I’ll be in the last leg of school at that time. Without knowing what my schedule is yet, to commit on my blog of being able to go is premature, so if I go, I’ll let you all know. However, I am hoping (crossing fingers) to be able to go in 2018. I do believe that it may be in San Diego, California. However, I’m not sure since it’s no longer up. However, I do hope that I have the opportunity to attend in 2018, although even then, I may be in school as a MSN for FNP or DNP (depending where and what I get into..we’ll see…)

So there you have it guys! My reflections on APHA 2016 as well as some good news. Stay tuned, as I blog about orientation prep (pre-start of ABSN program), a 5-5 Make Up series, and why I chose the ABSN program as opposed to an ELMSN program.

Ciao guys!

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