What a time to be in public health

November 17, 2016 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Kiara Cruz, BSPH

kiara

Kiara Cruz at APHA

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s American Public Health Association conference in Denver, Colorado. This year’s theme Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health was emphasized throughout the opening session and the various sessions on racism. The conference opened with APHA President Camara Jones, who immediately talked about the “elephant in the room”- racism – and how to tackle this moving forward as public health professionals. Beyond moved, I shed tears of inspiration. Inspiration from a woman of color in a position so prestigous, and using it to talk about one of the biggest challenges this country continues to face.

She challenged us to think about what anti-racism mechanisms are happening at the community, societal, and policy levels. The main takeaway she instilled is remembering three important notions: valuing all individuals and populations equally, recognizing and rectifying historical injustices, and providing resources according to need and not equally. She stated, “the fact that we do not know, we cannot use it to our advantage,” which has inspired me to seek more knowledge on the various structural systems that contribute to racism and find ways I can educate myself on the different frameworks that can tackle various forms of racism. Camara Jones reminded me to never be afraid to break barriers and speak about things that may not be received well by others; it is essential to discuss the root causes of why we have systems that lead certain populations to have worst health outcomes than others.

Following Camara Jones,was the President of the Federation of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. Her work with Planned Parenthood and the constant fight for the rights of underrepresented populations like women, reminded me why I want to go into Maternal and Child Health. The fight starts with us at the forefront, and I am excited to continue to work towards improving the rights and health of women and children across the world. Whether the board members of APHA planned this or not, having two powerful women speak at the opening session on the passion rooted in their work, was successful in reminding everyone the fight we have ahead in creating the healthiest nation. Change takes patience, but we must never lose hope and must remember why we love the work we do.

CEMCH Scholars (from left) Shanice Roache, Kiara Cruz, Grace Saul, and Bejan Foretia, with APHA President Dr. Camara Jones (center)

CEMCH Scholars (from left) Shanice Roache, Kiara Cruz, Grace Saul, and Bejan Foretia, with APHA President Dr. Camara Jones (center)

My favorite aspect of the conference was the ability to learn how public health is affecting change on various topics like the life course approach, refugee and immigrant health, restorative justice, and the power of storytelling. Having the option to choose from what felt like a million topics was a little overwhelming but contributed to my personal and professional development because I learned that public health is a river of knowledge. I learned about using restorative justice in my future work, using the voices of those affected in storytelling to prompt action in others, and the impact of using different media outlets to reach audiences. In the end, I came away from the APHA conference with more passion, and insight on the various resources I can use to impact change in communities I hope to work with.

Kiara Cruz is a first year MPH student and a scholar in the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health at Tulane.  She received a bachelor degree in Public Health from the University of Rochester and continues her passion for working in public health by interning at the Louisiana Bureau of Family Health. Her interests include prenatal and postpartum care, community health, maternal and infant health, and monitoring and evaluation of MCH interventions.

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Confronting the challenges The importance of anti-racism training

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