American Public Health Association’s first virtual meeting connects workforce

Date: Oct 28 2020

Contact: Media Relations 

Health inequities, COVID-19 and the vital importance of a well-resourced U.S. public health workforce were among the issues that took center stage at the American Public Health Association’s first all-virtual meeting.

About 9,400 public health professionals from around the world came together online to learn about the latest research, explore new strategies and foster discussion around public health challenges at APHA’s 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo, which concluded today.

“The U.S. public health workforce has had an incredibly challenging year, yet they continue to work steadfastly to combat the ongoing pandemic,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “We were honored to offer these dedicated, heroic professionals a platform to connect, gain support, learn from one another and share science.”

This year’s APHA Annual Meeting — which shifted online in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — featured more than 1,250 events, including 1,000 scientific sessions and 315 exhibit booths that showcased public health resources, education and research. APHA 2020 included 76 sessions specifically dedicated to public health’s work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 2,000 participants earned continuing education credits.

APHA 2020 general sessions reinforced the meeting’s theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Preventing Violence” by focusing on the science of violent behavior, policy-mediated violence and the state of hate groups in the U.S., among other topics.

The meeting provided a forum to address a broad range of other public health issues, including a Sunset Tweetup, co-hosted with the de Beaumont Foundation, where participants discussed challenges facing public health professionals, and a Social Media Lab, organized by APHA and John Snow Inc., that provided public health professionals with one-on-one training. A half-day summit sponsored by the California Endowment highlighted ongoing public health work to combat racism.

APHA 2020 also honored leaders in public health, including:

  • U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives: APHA’s 2020 Distinguished Public Health Legislator of the Year;
  • Anthony Fauci MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: APHA’s Presidential Citation;
  • Robert Ross, MD, MPA, president and CEO of the California Endowment: Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health;
  • Robert Cramer, PhD, associate professor and Irwin Belk distinguished scholar of health research in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte: APHA Award for Excellence; and
  • Camara Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, the 2019-2020 Evelyn Green Davis fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University: APHA Executive Director Citation.

“What you do each day makes life for individuals, families, communities and our entire nation safer, healthier and more equitable,” Fauci said during his acceptance remarks. “Individually and collectively, your contributions are simply extraordinary. Thank you for your dedication to the common good. Thank you for your resilience during this grueling COVID-19 pandemic. And thank you for your courage in upholding the guiding principles of public health that keep our nation strong.”

Thanks to the interactive format, participants networked and engaged throughout the five-day meeting. They also took to social media, generating more than 13,000 tweets with the Annual Meeting’s official hashtag, #APHA2020.

Several new distinguished leaders and officers were elected to guide the meaningful work of the Association, including APHA President-elect Kaye Bender PhD, RN, FAAN, and M. Aaron Guest, PhD, MPH, MSW, speaker of the Governing Council. Three members were also elected to APHA’s Executive Board: E. Oscar Alleyne, DrPH, MPH; Nandi Marshall, DrPH, MPH, CHES; and David Reyes, DNP, MN/MPH, RN, PHNA-BC. Deanna Wathington, MD, MPH, FAAFP, was elected as the new chair of APHA’s Executive Board, and Donna Beal, MPH, MCHES, was elected vice chair.

The meeting’s conclusion also marks the beginning of the one-year term of new APHA President José Ramón Fernández-Peña, MD, MPA.

APHA’s Governing Council also adopted 19 new policy statements covering topics such as e-cigarettes, children’s vision care and the separation of immigrant families.

APHA 2020 participants donated nearly $19,000 to the Robby Poblete Foundation as part of the meeting’s Help Us Help Them campaign. The nonprofit organization is located in San Francisco, where the meeting was originally scheduled to be held.

APHA’s 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo will be held Oct. 23-27 in Denver with a theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness.” Abstract submissions for APHA 2021 will open in December.

Scientific sessions were recorded during APHA 2020 and will be available to meeting participants and the media through August. For media access to the recordings, contact APHA Media Relations. For more information on APHA’s Annual Meetings, visit


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at