American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference Reflections





Hay Network Hay,

It’s me, e.shor, sitting on a plush leather couch in the lobby of the Washington DC Convention Center at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting. This place is a whirlwind for a first timer, filled with fast moving sessions, lots of talk about methods, odds ratios, and limitations of research studies. Public health is growing so fast that this conference is now spread over three buildings in downtown DC with over 13,000 attendees and thousands of sessions and posters on hundreds of public health topics. One of the opening speakers was from the National Parks and talked about the positive health benefits from being active in the natural world…pretty cool huh?

There is so much good work being done by such a diverse group of public health practitioners at this conference. It really is impressive the strides and research people are doing in tobacco control, alcohol, nutrition, physical activity, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and how different populations experience and face different health disparities. However, it was really tough to walk into the LGBT Caucus meeting to find that there were only 6 session on LGBTQ health, most of which focused on MSM (men who have sex with men) and HIV. Out of the thousands (not an exaggeration) of sessions and posters presented  only SIX sessions and about 12 posters were directly related to LGBTQ health.

This shows me exactly our place in this whole thing…

I went to a session about “Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health” where we covered studies dealing with mental health, substance abuse, sexual health and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Most of the data that the researchers presented was fascinating and illuminated risk factors that are tied to sexual minority status (now that is the jargon) and that health disparities really do exist for LBQ women! At the end of this session a person asked whether data in these studies account for transgender people and transwomen in collection and analysis…most of the presenters apologized and said that they used data from large data sets like NHANES where LGB people are sparsly represented because most large, national data sets to not over-collect in LGB communities, and trans folks are virtually invisible. I call this disparities in data collection…

Good news in: Healthy People 2020 has a new initiative to address LGBTQ health disparities! One of the issues that was identified is the complete lack of data on transgender and gender non-conforming people in our communities. Thank goodness! There were a number of states that have been awarded funding from Healthy People 2020 to start working on many different projects, including LGBTQ health initiatives…to find out more about your state click here! This is an amazing opportunity to Mobilize, Asses, Plan, Implement, and Track in local communities, with local health organizations, and to collect data and find out more about the health needs of our communities. I am from Minnesota, and there is quite a bit of scandal around the use (or lack there) of our HP2020 funding and the fact that we yet to reach out to local agencies working on health disparities. When I get home I will definitely be looking into this and holding the Minnesota Department of Health accountable to me and to my communities.

I know statistics are boring sometimes, and a lot of the stuff they say at conferences like this don’t make sense to a lot of people because they are all “log odds ratios” and “95% confidence intervals,” but having the data and knowing about LGBTQ health needs and trends is so important to figuring out how to grow healthier communities. Keeping asking for it…keeping fighting for it.

Let’s talk soon,


2 thoughts on “American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference Reflections

  1. I plan to start working with RHI on this issue. If you can find out about applying for grants to help conduct these studies, I’m in. I didn’t exactly follow what you meant about misuse of funding, but we can talk when you return. We have RHI – H stands for health, and MTHC – H stands for health and we can tell these people something about our health issues???? We have to fix this.
    Thanks, Leigh Smythe

    1. Hi Leigh,

      I would love to talk more with you about this. I currently work on an RHI project and on an MTHC project, so I am very familiar with both organizations.

      I agree, we will be telling these people about our health issues (and triumphs)!

      Take care,

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