Washington, D.C., November 6, 2007 – The American Public Health Association today adopted 20 policies addressing a wide spectrum of public health issues from food safety and obesity to personal hygiene and global climate change.
The following are descriptions of some of the various measures approved by the Association’s Governing Council during its 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 3–7. Full policies will be available online in January 2008.
Address the urgent threats of global climate change. APHA strongly urges policy-makers to immediately take the necessary steps to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, to protect the health of the nation and world. Also, policies related to foreign assistance and global health should reflect the importance of global climate change and include mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce impacts on individuals, communities and ecosystems in the developing world. The Association also calls for increased education about the impacts of climate change for the public health work force and adequate resources for health agencies to support activities related to climate change.
“Global climate change will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on human health and the environment,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (Emeritus), executive director of APHA. “The public health community plays a critical role, both in advocating for mitigation and avoidance of climate change, and in assisting with adaptation to the health effects caused by climate change that cannot be prevented.”
Develop public health interventions for the prevention and control of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs). APHA encourages all health care facilities to enforce rigorous prevention and control practices with a focus on implementing clinically proven methodologies, including hand hygiene, active surveillance and diagnostic testing and environmental cleaning and disinfection. APHA also calls for increased funding for research into the impact of occupational MDRO exposure among health care workers and the development of a safety and health bulletin, supporting publications and enforcement guidance for the protection of health care workers with occupational exposure to MDROs.
“The fact that people seeking care for other health ailments are becoming infected with highly resistant bacteria is very disturbing,” said Benjamin. “We must enforce rigorous infection and control practices in health care settings to reduce the number of these potentially life-threatening infections.”
Call for global ban on lead use. Lead in paint and other consumer products has been scientifically linked to impaired intellectual and physical growth in children and continues to be used in dangerously high levels in some countries. APHA urges a worldwide ban on the continued use of lead in residential and outdoor paints, children’s products and all non-essential uses in consumer products to avoid future public health problems. APHA calls on the federal government to enforce a ban on the manufacturing, import, distribution and sale of products containing non-essential lead and urges that such agencies be provided with the adequate resources to carry out this mandate. The Association also recommends that this ban be carried out through all trade agreements between U.S. and overseas corporations and all trade agreements completed by the World Trade Organization.
Address obesity and health disparities through federal nutrition and agriculture policies. APHA has historically been active on food system issues and has advocated for national policies that address obesity and health disparities. The Association furthers its efforts by advocating for access to healthier foods and a more sustainable food system by tackling longstanding challenges and addressing new and evolving demands in agricultural policy.
APHA calls on Congress to improve access to fresh produce and other healthy foods provided through school lunches and food assistance programs, shift federal subsidies support to products low in fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar and urges the federal government to change laws, specifically those governing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that promote agricultural interests over the interests of nutrition and health. The Association also urges Congress to include public health goals agriculture and nutrition legislation in order to support food security, nutrition education and access to healthy foods in schools and communities.
“APHA has long advocated for national policies that address obesity prevention and the elimination of health disparities,” said Benjamin. “Including public health goals in agricultural policies is the next step in moving toward a sustainable food system, which will make nutritious food accessible and affordable to all while maintaining a healthy environment.”
Oppose feminine hygiene douching practices. Research has shown a relationship between vaginal douching and several adverse health outcomes, including pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis, cervical cancer, HIV transmission and infertility. APHA therefore urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review its regulations on feminine hygiene douching products and require research on the safety of douching. In addition, the Association recommends that the public health community increase its efforts to provide culturally competent information to women about the risks associated with douching.
Recommend breastfeeding for first six months and one or two years thereafter. APHA joins all major other health officials in recommending that infants receive no other food or drink besides breast milk for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding for at least one to two years thereafter, with rare exceptions. APHA encourages policy-makers to provide adequate funding for breastfeeding support in U.S. foreign aid and support legislation that enable women in the United States to succeed in breastfeeding, including protection for breastfeeding in the public, paid maternity leave and worksite lactation protection.
Support school information sharing for public health purposes. Current legislation under the 1974 Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents the collection of essential public health data. FERPA does not allow information sharing for public health purposes without the prior written authorization from students over 18 or parent/guardians of minor students. APHA recommends that federal and state governments establish common standards for the protection and confidentiality of personal health information, while allowing for the necessary sharing of information for treatment and payment, and public health purposes. The Association also recommends that schools be able to share personally identifiable health information with public health authorities, without prior client authorization, for data collection activities essential for carrying out the public health mission.