2013 APHA Presidential Citation

The APHA Presidential Citation, which is not presented every year but only on occasions of unusual merit, was awarded to First Lady Michelle Obama for her leadership on critical public health issues including promoting basic health values and behaviors.

“As First Lady, your leadership on critical public health issues has been phenomenal and truly appreciated by APHA and the rest of the public health community,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, in a letter notifying Obama of the award. “Your Let’s Move! campaign, promotion of community gardens and work to engage the business community to offer affordable healthy foods are exemplary public health initiatives.”

Obama also was selected because of her work on behalf of women and her “highly visible role as engaged mother and wife,” which, Benjamin said, “illustrate the holistic values that result in healthy families and healthy communities.”

Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988 and joined the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, then served as assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago’s City Hall before becoming founding executive director of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares youth for public service. She was associate dean of student services at the University of Chicago, developing the university’s first community service program, and vice president of community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center.

As first lady, she launched the Let’s Move! campaign in 2010 to bring together community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses and parents in an effort to tackle childhood obesity. She and Jill Biden in 2011 launched Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative to support service members and their families. She continues to be outspoken on such issues as helping women balance work and family, encouraging national service and promoting arts and art education.