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Media, Money, and Politics: APHA Annual Meeting 2018 Key Take-Aways from Two APHA Newbies

Health Information

Health Equity may have been the theme of this year’s APHA Annual Meeting, but what really stole the show were the topics of media, money, and politics. While meeting our daily step goals (even without participating in the Steps Challenge) traversing between the San Diego convention center and the Hilton to attend various oral presentations, films, and networking events, these three domains and their impact on our ability to achieve health equity as a nation was ever present.

Starting off the conference week, the APHA Film Festival screened “The Bleeding Edge,” a powerful and insightful documentary that shed light on how politics and money interplay in the $400 billion medical device industry and presented examples of harmful and sometimes deadly technologies that are leaving thousands of people devastated and without recourse.

During a session on the Power of Media in Global Health, we heard how social networking can be used to answer the public’s questions and correct misinformation about outbreaks, like the Zika virus in Brazil.

We also saw a representative from University of Southern California’s Hollywood, Health & Society group present on their work disseminating accurate and up-to-date health and safety information to movie and show-viewers en masse by collaborating with global entertainment industries (i.e., Hollywood, Nollywood, and Bollywood) and providing writers and producers with facts, briefings, and consultations on screenplay representation of public health issues.

Other sessions focused on how giving voice to the voiceless through use of social media, photovoice, or digital storytelling, often at little or no cost, can be a powerful health equity tool.

Finally, at the closing session, Dr. Pamela Aaltonen moderated a panel on the state of Women’s Health in the U.S. with public health leaders, Dr. Debra Joy Perez, Linda Blount, Dr. Michael Lu, and Dr. Cynthia Lamberth, who did not shy away from the topic of politics and the influence our nation’s laws have on the health of our population. The takeaway of the session was that health inequality is political, and in public health, we have to get political in order to have an impact.

So, walking out of this conference, we’re asking ourselves and brainstorming with others, how can we harness the media and smartly use our funding resources to achieve better health for all? How do we want to use politics to help achieve health equity for the populations we serve or want to serve? Ultimately, it is our mission as public health professionals to utilize our vast range of skills and expertise and get to work on answering these questions.