Archive for December, 2014

APHA

By Ashley Fehringer, BS

Prior to the start of this conference, I was excited but overwhelmed by the enormity of the APHA conference. There were so many things that I wanted to see and do and I wish I had three more of me so that I could go to all scientific sessions that interested me and still spend ample time at the expo. But even with just one of me, I managed to gain a lot of insight and new ideas from this year’s APHA conference.

Right from the start I was inspired by the opening session. The current president of the APHA gave a passionate speech about why we do what we do that nearly brought me to tears. And Isabel Wilkerson spoke with elegance about the journey of her book, The Warmth of Other Suns. I am pleased that I had the opportunity to read Ms. Wilkerson’s book before APHA, because the book complements many themes addressed throughout the conference and it gave me historical context to the current issues our country is facing with racial disparities in health.

My favorite session was put on by the March of Dimes Foundation. Of course I have heard of this foundation, but I was unaware of all it does to promote healthy moms and thus healthy babies. Professionally, I am interested in birth outcomes and how the health of the mother before, during and after the pregnancy can affect these outcomes. I learned about programs such as the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait campaign and the Gulf Coast Region Mobile Health Care unit. I was particularly interested in the mobile care unit as I was unaware that such health clinics existed in the United States. The mobile unit brings quality pre- and postnatal care to underserved women in urban and rural settings. The clinic allows women to have successful pregnancies regardless of place and the care they provide is personal and makes a large difference in the lives of patients.

My take-home message from APHA is that there are so many things that I can do within the field of public health. I learned about many organizations that I never even knew existed and I learned about new approaches to changing health. I think this information is extremely important to me right now. As I have just started my master’s degree, I am still trying to determine what exactly I want to do with my degree and where I want to work. APHA did not give me all the answers, but it gave me more ideas and places to start looking.

Ashley Fehringer is a first-year MPH student and MCHLT scholar, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health.

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December 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

APHA: An inspiring experience

By Audu Stephen Amodu MBBS, MPH

Initially, I was apprehensive at the thought of attending the APHA conference, but got over this after attending the seminar on making the most of the APHA meeting by the MCHLT. This strengthened my resolve to make the best of the meeting as I had the information to organize my plans from the opening ceremony to the last day of the conference.

The theme of the 142nd APHA annual meeting and expo – “Healthography” – was not only inspiring, positive and challenging, but the opening ceremony and speech set the bar high and further reinforced my goals of serving people across all spectrums to create a better standard of living, particularly in the underserved regions of world.

Attending the APHA meeting was very educational, exciting and fun. From the various sessions, poster presentations, expo booths, and interacting with leaders in the field of public health, making new connections in my network is something I really valued and appreciated.

The most fascinating and informative sessions were the business meetings where leaders in the field of maternal and child health and other fields in public health were very open in sharing and discussing issues, advancements and challenges from a practical point. This was very helpful to me, as I was able to get advice on advancing my career to meet the current and future needs in the maternal and child health field.

In addition, I found the different presentations to be informative as different and unique perspectives and research findings on social determinants of health as it relates to the field of maternal and child health were shared, from both the developed and developing world. This inspired me beyond words as it narrowed my goals to serve women and children in communities with greater health disparities.

Beside the educative and informative sessions, I had fun meeting up with old friends, and making new ones, sharing experiences and hanging out to experience New Orleans cuisines, architecture and people.

I am positively looking ahead to next year’s APHA conference “Health in All Policies” in Chicago, to further explore the experiences of public health leaders making positive impact in the quest to better the lot of humanity.

Finally, getting to create networks that I am positive will be of immense value in my search for jobs post-graduation was the icing on the cake for me.

Audu Stephen Amodu is a final-year MPH student in the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. His research interests include social determinants of health as it affects women and children in the developing world, orphans and vulnerable children, and HIV and STI prevention among underserved population.

December 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

An Amazing Whirlwind

By Alison Swiatlo, BS

This was my first year attending APHA; in fact, the 2014 American Public Health Association meeting in New Orleans was the first conference of my career. It was my first oral presentation at a conference, as well as my first poster presentation. Alongside with graduating this December, I truly feel like APHA this year in New Orleans was the beginning of my public health professional life, and a jumping off point for a long and fulfilling career.

My poster and oral presentations were a part of Violence Prevention themed sessions and I learned so much from my fellow presenters. During the poster session, I learned about intimate partner violence research being conducted in Washington, D.C., Oregon, and Philadelphia. During my oral presentation, I was able to chat with my fellow panelists about methods for qualitative research and tips for presenting for different types of conferences. Each session was an incredibly rich learning and networking experience.

I was also able to attend different sessions on my other public health interests – reproductive health and abortion in the U.S. South. I attended a really wonderful session by Dr. Caitlin Gerdts on creating a mobile application for self-induced abortion in Indonesia. It was an incredible presentation, not only on innovative, current research, but also on meeting women in the world where they are at right now, despite political, medical, and cultural barriers to comprehensive reproductive healthcare. I also attended a Population and Reproductive Health social hour and got to talk to amazing local people in New Orleans about obstacles in building the new Planned Parenthood on Claiborne Avenue.

Because APHA was in New Orleans, I had a hectic schedule balancing the conference, work, and school but it was a whirlwind of amazing learning and professional experiences.

Alison Swiatlo is a second-year MPH student concentrating in Maternal and Child Health in the Global Community Health and Behavioral Science Department. Her research interests include reproductive and sexual health in the U.S. South, adolescent health, and gender-based violence.

December 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Networking at APHA

By Ted Miles, MPH

The experience of attending APHA the first time is often mixed, though I think I really got what I came for this year. After attending the opening session with Isabel Wilkerson and it reminding me of exactly why I was interested in public health from the beginning, my motivation going forward was higher than ever.

While the speakers, business meetings, and poster sessions I went to provided enlightening information for my field of interest, my favorite part was by far the networking opportunities. I think these left me with the largest feelings of accomplishment as I could see the relationships I forge in meetings like this being important in my future career. I was even able to meet old friends from past lives, allowing me to tend to those connections that have gotten me to this point in my career.

In summary, the opportunity to tend to my network, while building it out was very invigorating and the conference as a whole provided a motivating force just before the semester ended, which hopefully will keep me going until next year in Chicago!

Ted Miles is a doctoral student in the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University where he is pursuing research in adolescent sexual and reproductive health, particularly among very young adolescents, and the social determinants of health.

December 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

APHA: Finding Small, Thoughtful Groups of People at the Largest Gathering of Public Health Professionals

By Lauren Futrell Dunaway, MPH, RD, LDN

I’ve been to APHA many times and have participated in the capacity of an exhibitor, poster presenter, oral presenter, and Tulane student, staff, and alumna. I do enjoy and get a lot out of the opening session, expo, and larger oral presentations; however over time I’ve found that the most meaningful and productive experiences at APHA come from smaller, thoughtful interactions.

Poster-sessions are always one of the things that I look forward to and that I tell students and other first-time attendees to take advantage of. It’s an opportunity to have one-on-one, non-threatening conversations with researchers in your field of interest. The presenter has time to give you a more candid context to their research and I’ve found this is where I get the best information on ideas for similar projects, measures and methods to use in my research, and often exchange the most business cards in this setting. This year was no exception and I had the change to connect with a team of researchers I knew from University of North Carolina, get some suggestions for the qualitative piece of my dissertation research, and learn about a new social support scale that is very relevant to my work.

 

The session I presented in this year also afforded me smaller, thoughtful interactions. This year I presented in a round-table session on emerging topics in breastfeeding. Although I didn’t know what to expect from the format of this session, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Presenting my project in an informal setting, I was able to give context to our work and projects, and have engaged conversations with the attendees who sat at my table. I highly recommend this presentation format and suggest that more sessions be structured like this.

 

I was reminded of my favorite quotes at the opening session and I think it sums up not only the experiences I’ve mentioned at APHA, but also my view-point on much of my work in Public Health:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Lauren Futrell Dunaway is a PhD student in the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, as well as a full-time staff at the Mary Amelia Women’s Center at Tulane. Her work and research focuses on social determinants of early life course nutrition, childhood obesity, nutrition during pregnancy, and neighborhood and structural level determinants of women and children’s health.

December 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Feeding my passion

By Helena Likaj, BA

This was my second year attending APHA. Last year I approached APHA timid, scared, and unsure of what to expect but this year it was met differently. I was excited to explore my interests more deeply, meet an array of individuals who share my passion, and explore my options for after graduation.

Most of the sessions I attended were focused on sexual and reproductive health within the woman and teen population in the United States. These sessions provided an opportunity to meet and network with a number of individuals passionate on reclaiming the autonomy of our bodies, opening the doors to communicating about sex in a healthy manner with each other and our youth, and tackling issues that serve as barriers for women in regards to their sexual and reproductive health such as language, socioeconomic status, demographics and in relation to this year’s APHA theme, where they live. These factors should in no way shape or form dictate a woman’s human right of autonomy and health; it was uplifting to hear about the work being done to address this issue.

Attending APHA has motivated me to continue down the path of sexual and reproductive health after graduation in one way or another. I have a deeper understanding of my role in public health and am absolutely inspired to continue down my path to ensure a healthy and happy life for everyone’s sexual and reproductive health. I hope to work towards breaking down the barriers society has constructed for females and reclaiming our rights to our bodies. I hope to join the work I was introduced to at APHA and have always had a passion for, which are open communication, sex positivity, and reclaiming our sexuality, in hopes of reducing stigmas directed towards female sexuality, unwanted pregnancies, STIs, HIV/AIDS, sexual assault and violence.

Helena Likaj is a second-year MPH student and MCHLT Scholar, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health, with an anticipated graduation in May 2015. Her passion in public health falls within the realm of sexual and reproductive health research and translating this research into practice. She is a research assistant on the You Geaux Girl! project and a health educator at a local youth center, APEX. In her free time Helena enjoys enjoying live music, Beyonce especially, and food that New Orleans has to offer.

December 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Weight and Stigma in Public Health Interventions

By Liz Hasseld, BA

APHA was exhausting and wonderful. I made so many connections and realized public health is exactly where I want to be. I attended mostly Maternal and Child Health themed sessions, but on the last day on a whim, I went to something different. This was a session outside of my normal area of interest but it really opened my mind to the stressor that is ‘Stigma.’ The panelists presented their work which looked at the compounding risk ‘weight stigma’ adds to weight loss programs. Our society is fixated on the ‘obesity epidemic.’ Obesity is linked to countless health problems — so everyone needs to lose 50 pounds, right?? Wrong.

Their work showed that the fixation on weight loss in interventions leads to increased feelings of stigma and stress (also linked to poor health outcomes) and yo-yo dieting. Fluctuating weight can be worse for your health than staying at a stable weight-even it is high. Their main takeaway was that public health needs to shift away from ‘weight loss’ and focus on eating right and exercising. ‘Fighting fat’ leads to eating disorders, discrimination, and poorer health for individuals who are obese. People should not feel shamed for being overweight – not only are they human beings and automatically deserve respect and dignity – but shame doesn’t work to improve health outcomes.

In the future, I plan to be vocal about what language is used in public health when addressing these issues. It has to be about adopting healthy behaviors, not ‘fighting fat’ and cultivating self-hatred. We have all seen the maps of the United States from the CDC and our increasing rates of obesity. This will affect nearly everyone in the coming decades so public health needs to get it right to really achieve its goals.

Check out this link below to sign the ‘health at every size’ pledge:

http://www.haescommunity.org/

Liz Hasseld will be graduating in Summer 2015 with an MPH concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. Her interests include migrant and refugee health, reproductive health, and achieving health equity through policy. As an ESFJ, she loves to travel and meet new people and is slowly teaching herself Spanish.

December 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

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