Medical Care
Section Newsletter
Summer 2005

New “Trade and Public Health Working Group” Formed

At the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., last November, APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin convened a meeting of several sections (Medical Care, Occupational Health and Safety, and International Health) to consider how APHA can address the public health issues arising in the numerous international trade and investment treaties currently in negotiation and already proposed. Benjamin asked the three sections present to take the lead in pulling together an informal working group on this issue. I am representing the Medical Care Section in the Working Group. Other participants include Garrett Brown and Tom Connor (Occupational Health and Safety), Donald Zeigler (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs), Doug Farquhar (Environmental Health), William Wiist (PHEHP), Janet Gottschalk (Public Health Nursing), and Mary Anne Mercer, Sarah Shannon, Beth Rivin and Marty Makinen (International Health). Affiliate representatives include Kristen Smith (Southern California Public Health Association – also a Medical Care Section member), Larry Platt (California Public Health Association-North), Health Will (Florida), Karen Valenzuela (Washington State), and Karla Armenti (New Hampshire).

APHA has a policy resolution of trade issues from 2001 (Policy Resolution 2001-21), submitted by the Medical Care Section, and Immediate Past-President Virginia Caine has been outspoken in her concern about the adverse health effects of NAFTA and its successors. The January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health has an article on the impact of trade agreements on global health, which I co-authored. It is also available on the Web site for the Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health at <>. Occupational health-specific impacts of trade agreements have been analyzed by OHS Section members Linda Delp ( and Garrett Brown (

Since the Annual Meeting, there have been several monthly conference calls of the Working Group, and trade and health issues were discussed at the January meeting of the APHA Executive Board. Additional Sections and state affiliates are being contacted to join the effort.

The goals of the Working Group are to educate the APHA membership on the issue, to reach out to and involve more sections, affiliates and individual members, and to have APHA weigh in during the Congressional debates concerning the pending Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the many other pacts now in negotiation. Longer-term goals include reaching out to other public health-related organizations for joint legislative and public education efforts.

Kristen Smith and Doug Farquhar (who works for the National Council of State Legislatures) reported on state legislation that has passed in Maryland, and is under consideration in several states including California. Here is the issue: Trade agreements can require states to open up their procurement processes to foreign companies, but the states must consent to be included. States often prefer to restrict some contracts and other purchases to local companies or companies that meet certain standards, and they could lose this right if the state is included in the trade pacts. Now, governors typically make the decision about including their states, without consulting with legislators or the public. The Maryland bill requires the governor to consult with the legislature, making the process more democratic and accountable to the public. APHA affiliates in other states may want to work with their representatives on similar proposals.

At the Working Group’s request, at the 2005 APHA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, one of the four large “plenary sessions” on Tuesday morning will address the theme of “Public Health Impacts of Trade Agreements.” There will also be a session jointly sponsored by Medical Care, OHS, ATOD, and Environmental Health on the various aspects of the issue, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005 at 4 p.m. (Marty Makinen of the International Health Section retracted the IH Section’s offer to co-sponsor); and an organizational/business meeting of the Working Group which will be open to all interested APHA members, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005 at 2 p.m.

Any and all interested Medical Care Section members are invited to join this effort by contacting Ellen Shaffer at <>. Among the tasks that need volunteers from our Section are:

1) Contacting other APHA sections and state affiliates to involve more APHA members in the issue;

2) Mobilizing Medical Care Section members to contact Congress about CAFTA and other trade related issues; and

3) Providing outreach to other state, national and international health and medical groups.

This issue will be increasingly important during 2005. Please do not hesitate to contact me to get involved!

MWPHA Disparities Committee Supports Hotel Workers' Labor Struggle

The Metropolitcan Washington Public Health Association Disparities Committee affirms that access to health care, safe and secure jobs, living wages, and cohesion among workers contribute to community health. It acknowledges that racism is a practice that discriminates against people of color resulting in huge disparities in health status and life expectancy, and a philosophy that divides ordinary people with the same needs into antagonistic racial and ethnic groups.

Participating in labor struggles can help achieve important benefits for workers that lead to better health outcomes and unite people. Many of these struggles address racism by fighting for higher wages, health care, and job security for lower income black and Latino workers. For this reason, the MWPHA Disparities Committee added its support to the hotel workers' struggle for health care, job safety, and a stronger union. It also visited Metro Union’s (ATU Local 689) with information on health disparities. Over the last several months, the Committee:

  • Sponsored the Forum on Public Health and Labor to discuss the common interests of public health organizations and unions (see below);

  • Leafletted the APHA meeting with UNITE HERE Local 25 union organizers to generate support for the hotel workers’ demands;

  • Spoke and marched at a hotel workers’ rally at local hotels where workers “received” holiday gifts from the hotel bosses, such as a package of “health care” that contained aspirin, Ben Gay, and a back brace;

  • Leafletted hotel guests and the public at key hotels before the Inauguration;

  • Presented an interactive talk on health disparities at a Metro union conference;

  • Displayed MWPHA exhibit on health disparities at a Metro Union meeting and at APHA; and

  • Sponsored a continuing education session on popular education methods.

See the attached document for a summary of our Forum on Public Health and Labor, which presents some of the important ideas and discussions about this collaboration. The Forum was sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association’s Disparities Committee, the GWU Public Health Student Association, the GWU SPHHS Advocacy Committee and DC Jobs with Justice.

Related Files:

Committee on Veterans Health Needs a New Chair

Effective at the APHA Annual Meeting in New Orleans in November 2005, I am stepping down as chair of the Committee on Veterans Health because I have lost my connections with the field and just can't keep up-to-date. My own veterans organization, the American Veterans Committee (AVC), being basically a WW II organization, finally found itself too worn out to keep functioning, and so we formally went out of existence. The Medical Care Section now needs someone who does have contacts at the DVA and the Veterans Healthcare Administration to maintain a flow of information for our members. Connections too with the Pentagon's far-flung health activities would not hurt.

I have tried to arrange Annual Meeting activities with two foci. First, we ought to be a place where people doing biomedical and health services and related research can report their findings and have a place to get together and compare notes and plans. Second, commensurate with our interest in health services access for all Americans, we ought to be the place where quality of care and access to services, which are (and ought to be) available to veterans and service personnel and their families, can be monitored, and solutions to problems can be devised and advocated. To these ends, for example, we held a session on medical errors and their prevention in Boston.

Anyone interested in the post should contact current Section Chair John B. Wayne at <>.

Announcing the "You Can!" Celebration

The Administration on Aging encourages "You Can!" partners to join in celebrating ways for older adults to be active and healthy this September. Holding a local "You Can!" Celebration can help you spread the word about the importance of healthier lifestyles...and it can be fun!

During any seven-day period of September, AoA invites "You Can!" partners to create celebration activities. These are activities where participants can make a pledge and engage in healthier lifestyle activities. If they see how easy and enjoyable it can be, hopefully they will continue the nutrition and physical activity behaviors and help others to improve their health, too.

All community partners that sign up and complete the contest entry form have a chance to receive awards. The contest will culminate with a ceremony in the Washington, D.C. metro area in October where the best entries in leadership categories will be recognized.

For more information visit: <>.

If your organization wants to participate and is not yet a "You Can!" partner, you can enroll at <>.