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Dornsife Holds More than 100 Sessions at 2019 APHA Annual Meeting

Image of the Dornsife booth at 2019 APHA annual meeting

November 18, 2019

It was an exciting week in Philadelphia – November 2-6, 2019 — when the American Public Health Association (APHA) arrived in town for its Annual Meeting, bringing more than 17,000 public health and medical experts to the City of Brotherly Love.

For the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) team it was an opportunity to hold special events focused on public health trends, contribute to more than 100 APHA sessions (see our photo album on Facebook), and share our latest research.

Conference week kicked off on Saturday at Dornsife with the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues (SAAPHI)’s preconference meeting. The theme of the meeting was "400 Years of Inequity: Social Justice Through Research, Policy & Practice." It featured keynote speaker Dorothy Roberts, JD, the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor and George A. Weiss University Professor of Law & Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the work of young black scholars specializing in medicine, public health, disparities, and history from around the country.

Additionally, DSPH faculty offered APHA attendees opportunities to explore Philadelphia’s public health history with Michael Yudell, PhD, professor and chair of DSPH’s department of Community Health and Prevention.

Nancy Epstein, MPH, MAHL, a professor in DSPH’s department of Community Health and Prevention, co-led the Mural Arts Porch Light Trolley Tour, a chance to explore the link between art and health.

Investigating Community & Neighborhood Health Solutions

The DSPH sessions highlighted here focused on topics central to the School’s research —community health, partnering with policymakers, and global public health issues.

In a standing-room only session, DSPH researchers Jennifer Kolker, MPH, clinical professor and associate dean for Public Health Practice, Kari Moore, MS, research and data core co-lead, and Jana Hirsch, MES, PhD, assistant research professor, joined Raynard Washington, PhD, chief epidemiologist at the City of Philadelphia Department of health to discuss “Linking Local Data for Targeted Action Among Philadelphia’s Most Vulnerable Neighborhoods," highlighting discoveries from the DSPH/Department of Health collaborative report, "Close to Home: The Health of Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods." Among the many significant findings reported were the disparities in life expectancy and health outcomes across Philadelphia and how the report could contribute to solutions to these issues.

Similarly, the session "Importance of Multi-Sector, Place-Based Initiatives to Achieve Health Equity: Lessons learned from Funders and Promise Neighborhood Grantee Cities," featured DSPH’s work in Philadelphia’s Promise Zone. The initiative works "to improve education, health, and economic successes by funding, and in particular linking together programs that already exist in our communities," said Amy Carroll-Scott, PHD, MPH, policy and community engagement core co-lead at the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative (UHC), at the session. Carroll-Scott discussed collecting population-based, longitudinal surveys from families in communities who are distrustful of researchers and federal place-based grants.

Introducing a topic that is the basis of a new graduate minor at DSPH – Arts and Community Health — Nancy Epstein led a groundbreaking session on arts and public health, "Leveraging Arts to Promote Health Equity: Raising Community Voices and Advancing Social Justice through Integrated Research and Practice." Unique perspectives were presented from researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Connecticut about arts and community-based participatory research, arts and racism, and arts programming for at-risk youth. Jane Golden, Founder and Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, was the discussant.

Global Urban Health Challenges

Several sessions also reported on DSPH’s work advancing and informing urban health around the world. The largest was "Health in Cities of the Americas," led by Usama Bilal, MD, MPH, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at DSPH's Urban Health Collaborative, along with Alex Quistberg, PhD, MPH, an assistant research professor in Environmental and Occupational Health at the UHC, Ana Ortigoza, MD, PhD, MPH, MS, a research fellow, and Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, MPH, MSc, an assistant professor of Health Management and Policy at DSPH's Center for Population Health and Community Impact.

They explored the role of high rates of health risk factors prevalent in Latin American cities, including dangerous traffic conditions, income disparities as they relate to cardiovascular disease, the drivers of infant mortality, and policymaker attitudes about the prevalence of health disparities.

At a separate session, Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, assistant research professor, presented her latest work on residential segregation and cardio metabolic risk in Brazil, "Embodying 400+ years of Inequality: Structural Racism and Health Inequalities in the United States and Brazil." She reported that black and brown people in Brazil’s highly segregated, urban neighborhoods faced structural racism that may be a potential driver of racial inequalities in cardio-metabolic risk factors.

Building on the History of Public Health

One of the most impactful gatherings during the Annual Meeting was "Advancing Social Justice: Critical reflections for empirical research on social determinants of health," featuring a talk by Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, dean of DSPH. The session was linked to the 25th anniversary of APHA's Spirit of 1848 Caucus. Diez Roux spoke broadly of the ever-increasing complexity of the structures and social conditions that affect health, and the need for public health researchers to be open to meeting new challenges as they go about their work. She advised that "making the impact of social and structural factors visible to the public … and changing the way people think about health is the only way to really change our society." In addition to sharing the School's research, a select group of DSPH faculty and students received awards (see below) throughout the meeting and at the DSPH’s night of celebration at Drexel's Academy of Natural Sciences.

Congratulations to:

  • Suruchi Sood, PhD, associate professor of Community Health and Prevention, winner of the 2019 Everett M. Rogers Award for outstanding contributions to advancing the study and/or practice of public health communication.
  • Jacquelyn Saez, DSPH EMPH '19, winner of the Outstanding New Community Public Health Award from The Latino Caucus for Public Health.
  • Nicholas Thompson, PMP, DSPH MPH '15, honored by Drexel University’s Alumni Association for his exceptional promise for future success.
  • Barbara L. Bungy, DSPH MPH '07, MBA '15, winner the Dean’s Distinguished Alumni Award for her leadership in the community and commitment to the School’s mission.
  • Shanika DeSilva, a second-year biostatistics doctoral candidate, for becoming a finalist in APHA’s Applied Public Health Statistics' Student Paper Award.
  • Binod Acharya, DSPH, MS '19 and Rennie Joshi, DSPH MPH '18, for being recognized by the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health for their poster presentations.