July 6, 2023
We’re excited for the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo in Atlanta this November and looking forward to seeing you in person at the biggest event in public health. The comradery, knowledge sharing and inspiration that we gain by gathering lead to so many public health improvements in our own communities as we return home and implement new ideas and proven practices.
Some of you may have reservations about traveling to Georgia due to the state’s political climate. I’d like to address your concerns.
Sadly, laws that threaten the rights of individuals to access health care and run counter to public health are becoming more prevalent. Currently, more than half of all states have passed or proposed laws that run counter to APHA’s positions on issues ranging from abortion and voter suppression to LGBTQ+ rights and racial equity. Avoiding them is almost impossible, as new laws are introduced and others are challenged within the courts constantly.
As you know, APHA supports equitable access to health care, marriage equality and other benefits that improve health, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We support the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion care, as fundamental rights and critical factors contributing to health. We support commonsense gun laws to reduce the harm and violence caused by the shocking availability of guns in our communities.
While the Georgia state government continues to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, put limits on abortion access and support lax gun laws which allow guns in all state buildings, including the Georgia World Congress Center, the City of Atlanta, itself, has employed policies more aligned with APHA’s positions on these important issues. Atlanta also boasts a long history of civil rights leadership and is home to the nation’s leading public health agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
APHA has stood up and taken action on these critical issues to improve the opportunity for everyone to be healthy. We have an active LGBTQ Caucus and have advocated both in the courts and in Congress for LGBTQ+ equality, including our recent successful efforts advocating for the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which President Biden signed into law late last year. APHA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court last year urging the court to uphold Roe v. Wade.
More recently, we sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives in support of H.R. 8296, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 and H.R. 8297, the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022. We continue to urge the House and Senate to pass commonsense gun laws such as universal background checks and reinstating the ban on assault-style weapons, building on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that was signed into law last year.
In addition, APHA’s Annual Meeting is such a large gathering that few cities have the capacity to host it. Last year more than 12,000 public health professionals celebrated our 150th anniversary with us in Boston. We expect a similar turnout this year. No matter where the Annual Meeting is held, it provides benefits to the host city. Bringing so many people to one location drives economic activity in the form of increased visits to local businesses and restaurants. Attendees from out-of-state often sightsee and take in history and culture while supporting the local economy.
We believe we have a responsibility to share our concerns with our host city and state. As a result of our efforts in coordination with other organizations, Atlanta instituted a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in January 2020. We will continue to use our leverage as a large gathering to push for public health improvements in cities that host the APHA Annual Meeting and will be sending a letter to the governor, mayor and legislative leads prior to our arrival in Atlanta to express our concerns regarding their anti-public health laws.
As always, we encourage our members who feel passionately about these topics to take action. Contact your congressional representatives and Vote for Health to influence policymaking.
Once again, we are excited for your participation in APHA 2023 and can’t wait to see you at the Georgia World Congress Center this November. If you can’t physically join us in Atlanta, we hope you participate in our digital meeting, with live access to more than 20 key sessions and on-demand recordings of all scientific sessions.
In good health,
Georges C. Benjamin, MD
APHA Executive Director