In 2017, police shot and killed almost 1,000 people in the U.S., according to a tracking project from The Washington Post. Julia Haskins, reporter for The Nation’s Health newspaper, interviews Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA, about the problem of police violence in the U.S., and how it affects the health of the public.
How is police violence a public health issue?
Violence, in all of its forms, is a public health issue because it impacts both physical health and mental health. It's a significant problem, because violence can lead to injury and even death and undermines both the sense of community well-being and the sense of personal well-being. And we know that like other violence, police violence is preventable.
Read the full Q&A with Benjamin in The Nation's Health.
During the 2017 APHA Annual Meeting, Howard Frumkin, MD, DrPH, MPH, professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, discussed the “Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change 2017” report, of which he is a co-author. APHA served as co-publisher of the “Lancet Countdown 2017 Report: U.S. Briefing.” Frumkin shared highlights of the report, and how public health advocates can use it today.
The countdown outlines policy-level steps that can be taken to fight climate change. Why start there?
Well, it’s really important to start at two different levels simultaneously. One is policy. At the federal and state levels, we need to do things like shift our primary energy sources, shift our transportation system and change the incentives in our food system so that all those systems can contribute less to climate change.
But it’s also important to start at the very personal and community levels. We need to shift our preferences in eating toward less meat-heavy diets. We need to shift our preferences in transportation away from gas-guzzling, single-occupancy vehicles to walking, biking and transit. We need to use less energy, insulate our houses better, use fewer resources, reuse and recycle more. All of those traditional environmental behaviors and attitudes are very important at the individual and community level, but they need to be accompanied, of course, by policy changes.
And then, of course, in the public health sector, where we are responsible for driving a lot of adaptation, protecting the public from the impacts of climate change, we need to step up and do even more than we’re doing, protecting people from disasters like floods and fires and droughts, protecting people from the expansion of infectious diseases, protecting people from expanding allergic illnesses, protecting people from respiratory hazards due to worsening air pollution.
Read the full Q&A with Frumkin in The Nation's Health. And learn more about the Lancet Countdown Report and climate change and health.
Since stepping down as CDC director, APHA member Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, has been busy with a new global public health initiative, Resolve to Save Lives. The purpose of the initiative is twofold: Resolve to Save 100 Million Lives aims to reduce cardiovascular disease, while Resolve to Prevent Epidemics will target infectious disease epidemics. Over the course of the five-year program — funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — Resolve to Save Lives will implement best practices in low- and middle-income countries to curb preventable deaths. The Nation’s Health spoke with Frieden, an APHA member, about what to expect.
How will Resolve engage with local public health advocates and stakeholders to pursue improved health outcomes?
Most countries have the determination and the will to improve the health of their citizens, but may need help turning that determination into action. We’re not going to tell countries what to do, rather, we’ll help countries reach the goals they’ve already set for improving heart health or epidemic preparedness. Engagement with local public health leaders is critical to our success and the health of their country.
Read the full Q&A with Frieden in The Nation's Health. And learn more about Resolve to Save Lives.
Now more than ever, people need tools and resources to adapt to a changing climate, according to Mollie Marti, PhD, JD, president and CEO of the National Resilience Institute. Marti, an APHA member, spoke to The Nation’s Health about how climate change affects health, and what people can do to resist such harm.
What should be the public health community’s role on this issue?
I think the role on public health, and psychologists and people who are focused both on building awareness and providing education, must be on building that personal and psychosocial resilience.
Because what’s happening as we don’t have those capacities is there’s a higher level of fear. And there’s fear-based human reaction to these climate impacts, and so that’s going to decrease our ability to think clearly, it’s going to decrease our ability to work collaboratively. And all of that is going to decrease our ability to look at it with a broader perspective and see what is needed. How do we cut emissions, how do we prepare for climate impacts? And humans, when they’re in a fear response, or reaction, aren’t able to be thinking clearly and creatively and innovatively and collaboratively.
If we don’t really focus on building up this resilience base, building up this capacity, then it’s going to be a negative spiral, and that spiral can start moving more and more quickly.
Read the full Q&A with Marti in The Nation's Health. And learn more about the Year of Climate Change and Health.
The Nation’s Health spoke to David Kitchen, PhD, associate professor of continuing studies at the University of Richmond and author of "Global Climate Change: Turning Knowledge Into Action," about what extreme weather events mean for environmental and public health, and how people will be forced to adapt to an increase in such crises.
What role do scientists have in communicating the effects of climate change and making the connection between climate change and extreme weather events?
Ten years ago, I’d have said the scientists just need to present the evidence and the logical community would come to the conclusion they needed to do something. Scientists should be informing policy makers and educating the public. We should be trying to communicate about the issues of climate change.
Read the full Q&A with Kitchen in The Nation's Health. And learn more about the Year of Climate Change and Health.
Debra Houry, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, spoke with The Nation's Health about the ways the center is working to protect Americans from injuries and violence and how health workers can play a role.
Why do Americans need to be concerned about injury and violence prevention?
Injuries are a leading cause of death in this country. In the first half of life, more Americans die from injuries and violence — such as motor vehicle crashes, falls or homicides — than from any other cause, including HIV, cancer or the flu. Injuries and violence affect everyone, regardless of age, race or economic status. And, in America, deaths from suicide, opioid overdose and car crashes have been going up in recent years. In 2015 alone, injuries and violence led to 214,000 deaths, 2.8 million people hospitalized and 27.6 million emergency room visits.
The economic costs are also staggeringly high. The total lifetime medical and work loss costs of injuries and violence in the U.S. was $671 billion in 2013.
Read the full Q&A with Houry in The Nation's Health.