American Public Health Association
800 I Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001-3710
(202) 777-APHA • Fax: (202) 777-2534 •


Who We Are …


Members of the Disability Section are involved with policies and actions focusing on the equalization of opportunities for people with disabilities. These include the promotion of equity in health care and health outcomes, and social change to promote socioeconomic integration.


We come from a variety of backgrounds, including social and rehabilitative services, medical and health professions, and social sciences. Hence, our work includes teaching, research, provision of clinical services, policy development, and civil service.


What We Do ...


·  Share information to build a multidisciplinary knowledge base regarding disability

·  Present scientific sessions at annual APHA meetings

·  Promote accessibility to APHA materials and meetings

·  Produce newsletters to keep members well-informed

·  Collaborate with other organizations working in research, practice and education relevant to disability issues

·  Recognize achievements relevant to our goals through annual Disability Section awards


Our Goals ...


We aim to create awareness and promote actions related to public health issues that affect health, functional, social, and environmental aspects of disability, including:


·  Causes and prevention of impairments and disabilities, especially secondary conditions

·  Health promotion and rehabilitation

·  Barriers and facilitators, both physical and social, that affect participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of society

·  Advocacy for public policies consistent with the goals of the DisAbility Forum

Meet Our Members

Members of the Disability Section represent a wide array of academic disciplines, areas of work, and career stages. Because disability is such a cross-cutting  issue, our members may approach their work from the perspective of kinesiology, law, medicine, nursing, psychology, social work, or another area. They may work in academia, community-based organizations, governmental agencies, or other settings. And they may be senior scientists, mid-career professionals, students, or anywhere in between.  Still, commonalities shared by Disability Section members are embracement of the social model of disability, a belief in the power of public health to improve lives, and a commitment to improving the health of persons with disabilities.


Below is testimony from members regarding why they belong to the Disability Section and what they gain from it.




Over the past 20 years, I've had the good fortune to develop a career in rural health and disability research and program development. As a graduate student working with Tom Seekins, I sensed the need for applied research and theory development to support knowledge translation of evidence-based programs to support the health of rural people with disabilities. With great leadership from the Disability and Health Branch at CDC, I have played a part in the development of the health promotion and disability field during this time through ongoing research and leadership with the Montana Disability and Health Program. I've been a member of the Disability Section of APHA to network with other researchers and practitioners in this young, but growing field. While the health promotion field is large, the number of people who understand the unique strengths and needs the disability experience contributes to the field is very poorly understood. The Disability Section includes leaders in the Disability and Health field who have fostered growth of a small interest group into a thriving APHA Section that continues to push the boundaries of and inform the larger health promotion field. While I've seen exciting developments in the Disability and Health field thus far, the greatest accomplishments are yet to come and the Disability Section which will help shape those developments.




Craig Ravesloot, PhD

Research Associate Professor of Psychology Director, Rural Health Research

Rural Institute on Disabilities

The University of Montana

Disability Section member since 1995



My area of disability and health is health promotion and disease prevention among people with all disabilities. I am especially interested in social determinants of health and decreasing health disparities, including disparities experienced by people with disabilities. I have been a member of the Disability section since 2003, when I was in a doctoral program in Community and Behavioral Health at The University of Iowa College of Public Health. I joined the section because there was no disability track within my school program, but I was interested in working with people with disabilities for my dissertation work and after graduation. Initially, membership gave me increased recognition of the wide range of research occurring in disability and public health. It also helped me develop networks within the field. After graduation, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in disability and health. My postdoc mentor was active in the section, and I met her and became familiar with the fellowship opportunity through networking at the APHA annual meeting. Membership in the section has been invaluable for my professional development.


Jana Peterson 

Jana Peterson, MPH, PhD

Health Disparities Research Coordinator

University of Missouri-Kansas City-Institute for Human Development (UCEDD)

Disability Section member since 2003



I am an educational psychologist, who has worked in the disability area for 30 years.  When I began working in the health field, I was puzzled to learn that health promotion was being discussed as important for everyone - but not with regard to people with disabilities. I and my colleagues began a series of studies initially looking at what people with disabilities believe about health promotion and evolving into research designed to enhance wellness and quality of life for people with disabilities. I value the Disability Section as an arena for interdisciplinary researchers to share information and support each other's work.


Heather Becker, PhD

Research Scientist

School of Nursing

University of Texas, Austin

Disability Section member since 2006



With a background in physical therapy, anthropology and education, as well as international community health education, there is no better professional affiliation for me than the Disability Section of the APHA. After working for ten years with the World Health Organization, focusing on community based rehabilitation, I returned to the United States in the mid 1990s. Initially, it seemed that I would have to limit my interest in disability issues rather than try to keep up with the many aspects we had dealt at WHO. Soon after I was back in the United States, I attended the APHA Annual Meeting. To my delight, I found the Disability Special Interest Group, the DisAbility Forum, and the many people and backgrounds it brought together. I had the pleasure of working with many of those people to promote the growth of the SPIG, and eventually to see it become an APHA Section. Through these contacts, I have been able to keep myself informed on the issues, and the research, that are important to people with disabilities. Although my primary work now focuses on the education of the next generation of physical therapists, I also work with organizations that promote access to healthcare for people with disabilities in the U.S. as well as in developing countries. My ongoing contact with the Disability Section continues to keep me informed and enriches my work with students and other organizations.




Ann Goerdt, PT, PhD

Director, DPT Program for Practicing Physical Therapists

New York University

Disability Section member since 1997



I am an MD/MPH student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the sister of a wonderful young man with Down Syndrome. My experiences as a family member of someone with a disability led me to pursue medical school with the eventual goal of becoming a physician specializing in the health care needs of individuals with disabilities. I was fortunate enough to find an amazing mentor along the way, Dr. Brian Geiger. Through working on a project with him, I realized that public health and medicine were perfect partners. I completed my MPH coursework and was given the opportunity to present at APHA's annual conference in 2010. There, I met a wonderful group of people with the same interests as myself--the Disability Section. It was incredible to see so many leaders in the field in one place and to feel the passion shared by everyone in the room. I knew I had found my home. Words cannot express how meaningful it was for me to find a group of people who care about the same issues that I have been involved with since before I knew what the terms "disability" or "public health" meant. I have been involved with the Disability Section for only a short time, but I look forward to future involvement with this dedicated group of leaders. I am confident that my involvement with this section will directly enhance my ability to care for future patients with disabilities.




Priya Chandan

MD/MPH Candidate

UAB Schools of Medicine & Public Health

Disability Section member since 2010



Membership to the Disability Section at APHA has been vital to my professional development as a Research Scientist in my present position and previously at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Over the past ten years my membership to the Disability Section provided me with opportunities to network with other professionals in the field of health and disability research, presented me with a forum to engage and collaborate with a group of inter-disciplinary researchers and enabled me to stay informed about the latest developments and innovations in disability research, policy, and practice. 




Monika Mitra
Research Scientist
for Health Policy and Research
of Massachusetts Medical School
Disability Section member since 2001