New policies at APHA 2015

Date: Nov 03 2015


CONTACT: Mandi Yohn,
919-632-0218 (Nov. 3-4)

American Public Health Association adopts 18 new policy statements at Annual Meeting
New policies address abortion access, climate change and human trafficking

Chicago, November 3, 2015 – The American Public Health Association adopted 18 new policy statements at its 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition in Chicago, covering topics ranging from abortion access, to climate change, to human trafficking.

The following are brief descriptions of the 18 policy statements adopted by the Governing Council on Nov. 3, 2015. Two policy statements were late-breakers, meaning they were not open to the same review as the other 2015 policy statement proposals, and will serve as interim policy statements for one year. For more information on any of these policy statements, email

(Disclaimer: These brief descriptions are not comprehensive and do not include every point, statement or conclusion presented in the policy statements. Upon finalization and copyediting, full policy statements will be available online in early 2016.)

20151 Abortion providers and hospital privileges — With a number of states enacting stringent, medically unnecessary laws that require abortion providers to secure hospital admitting privileges — laws often referred to as targeted regulation of abortion providers or TRAP — calls on state and federal policymakers to reject such policies and adopt measures that ensure abortion remains safe and accessible to all women. Urges hospitals to develop broad and inclusive admitting privilege standards that facilitate access to health services without creating burdensome barriers for those providers who are required to gain hospital privileges. Encourages all abortion providers to maintain best clinical practices and the highest standards for quality patient care as is recommended by the National Abortion Federation and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

20152 Access to abortion as a human right — Noting continued attacks on access to reproductive health and abortions services as well as new laws intended to restrict the ability of abortion providers to practice, calls on APHA members and leaders to support the re-establishment of public funding for abortion as well as abortion coverage within Medicaid. Encourages the wider public health community to address the disproportionate impact of abortion stigma facing low-income women and women of color. Also urges public health practitioners to educate policymakers on the effects that stigmatizing abortion has on economic inequality as well as explore how public health emergency laws may be an effective tool in overriding abortion payment restrictions or invalidating regulations aimed at restricting abortion provider practices.

20153 Universal access to contraception — Noting that most countries do not recognize universal access to contraception as essential to human rights, urges all governments, health providers and funding decision-makers to ensure the right to contraception without exceptions. Calls on governments and international organizations to respect and fulfill sexual and reproductive health and rights, including steps to make contraception as well as safe, legal abortion universally available and affordable to all. Encourages health systems to address any barriers to contraception and ensure appropriate referral procedures in the case that a health care provider has a conscientious objection to providing such services. Also supports evidence-based reproductive health education for health care providers.

20154 Preventing prescription painkiller abuse — In the midst of a U.S. epidemic of prescription painkiller overdose deaths, calls on public health and public policy education programs to implement evidence-based training programs on mental health, substance abuse and overdose prevention. Urges public education on the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs as well as provider education on identifying alternative pain treatments when appropriate. Calls for educating health care providers on using state-based Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, which allow providers to view a patient’s prescription history and helps prevent prescription diversion and so-called doctor shopping. Encourages widening access to the medication naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

20155 Environmental cleanup in Iraq, Afghanistan — Knowing that the U.S. military used open-air burn pits to manage waste in Iraq and Afghanistan and that such emissions can contain toxins known to be harmful to human health, urges federal policymakers to prohibit such activities. Encourages U.S. military leaders to implement a training program in partnership with Afghan forces with the aim of eliminating such burn pits. Calls on federal policymakers to fund research on the health and environmental effects of burn pits and encourages congressional lawmakers to pass legislation requiring the U.S. military to repair any ecological damage created as a result of military action abroad. Calls on veterans affairs officials to fully launch the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.

20156 Reducing flame retardant exposure — Citing the growing body of evidence that chemical flame retardants adversely impact human health, calls for updating building code requirements for foam plastic insulation with a goal of reducing public and occupational exposure to flame retardants. Urges public health groups to educate union members, construction workers, fire safety professionals and government agencies on the dangers of flame retardants in foam plastic insulation. Recommends required toxicological testing for all flame retardant chemicals prior to them being used in insulation and calls on manufacturers to forgo the use of flame retardants whenever possible. Also encourages the International Code Council to approve updated flammability requirements to reduce flame retardant use in cases when fire safety standards will still be maintained.

20157 Climate change and human health — Citing the human health effects of climate change, such as heat-related illness, malnutrition and political violence, calls on federal, state and local health agencies to enact climate change adaptation and mitigation plans to manage predicted health impacts, while promoting equity and sustainable development. Encourages health agencies to commit to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. Also calls for climate change curricula in medical, public health and nursing education as well as encourages education on the health effects of climate change for elementary through high school students. Urges U.S. policymakers to take steps to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase funds for sustainable development projects that also benefit human health.

20158 Preventing Ebola and other global disease threats — Citing the two Texas health care workers who contracted Ebola while caring for a patient diagnosed with the virus as well as gaps in related occupational safety and public health protection efforts, calls on policymakers to restore and maintain public health preparedness funding, which had been reduced in the decade prior to the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Calls on Congress to fund the certification of personal protective equipment and urges the development of programs or protocols for surveillance, reporting and recording of occupational exposures to infectious disease. Urges federal policymakers to direct the secretary of labor and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to fast-track an infectious disease standard to better protect workers from disease exposure.

20159 Protecting against Lyme disease — As Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., calls for the establishment of a federal Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee to coordinate related research and prevention efforts. Urges the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen surveillance and reporting of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases to better understand disease incidence and to evaluate the feasibility of creating a national monitoring system for tick populations. Calls on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require employers to provide Lyme and other tick-borne disease health education in appropriate languages for outdoor workers at risk of tick-borne illness. Recommends increasing federal support for tick-borne disease prevention education as well as for research into a possible Lyme disease vaccine.

201510 Human benefits of alcohol disorder research — Noting that billions of dollars have been spent examining addiction and its treatment in animal models, calls on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to declare that addressing human relevance is a priority in alcohol use disorder research and to make human relevance a priority during funding decisions. Urges the Institute to allocate more funding for human-based studies, with the focus on strategies aimed at treating and preventing alcohol use disorders, including a particular emphasis on at-risk populations. Also urges the Institute to launch a public education program on the risks of alcohol consumption and urges federal policymakers to make alcohol abuse a national research priority by endorsing research that focuses on human relevance and prevention.

201511 Pre-emptive law and public health — Noting that federal or state laws that pre-empt localities from acting on a particular issue can threaten local public health efforts, urges legislators to consider the public health impact of pre-emption and avoid overriding the ability of local governments to further public health goals. Calls on federal and state lawmakers to consult the public health science community on whether pre-emptive legislation is evidence-based and what kind of impact it would have on public health. Recommends federal and state lawmakers protect the ability of local government to take public health actions as well as engage local leaders and stakeholders during the legislative process. Also encourages public health and public policy education programs to educate students on the legalities of pre-emption.

201512 Protecting health in trade agreements — In an effort to consolidate existing APHA policies on trade and health and acknowledging the potential health and safety consequences of trade liberalization, calls on the U.S. trade representative, federal policymakers and the global public health community to ensure trade agreements prioritize public health over commercial interests. Urges all negotiating parties to make sure trade agreements do not interfere with a government’s ability to protect public health as well as to support measures that exclude tobacco and alcohol control from all agreements. Recommends negotiating parties assess the health and human rights impact of trade agreements and steer clear of creating barriers to health care services and medicine, such as limiting clinical trial data transparency.

201513 Access to worker fatality data — Noting that current federal efforts that collect and publish data on work-related injury, illness and fatality are not always comprehensive enough to provide public health workers with enough information to develop effective prevention strategies, urges federal occupational health and safety agencies to coordinate the release of publically available, case-level fatality data. Calls on such agencies to encourage their state partners to gather more thorough information on the circumstances of occupational fatalities. Recommends federal agencies hold public hearings on the collection, coordination and dissemination of workplace fatality data as well as establish related pilot projects in a number of states. Also recommends the creation of a U.S. worker fatal injury database that maximizes information from a variety of sources.

201514 Promoting physical activity among older adults — Citing the need for environments that facilitate active aging as well as gaps in public health competencies related to older adults and physical activity, calls on public health and transportation officials to collaborate on designing active-friendly environments and creating transportation systems that support older adults in using active transit. Urges public parks and recreation departments to offer culturally and linguistically appropriate activities for older adults. Recommends health care systems and payers prioritize physical activity promotion as well as create reimbursement mechanisms for physical activity assessment and counseling. Also encourages state and local health officials to create physical activity and health units within their chronic disease prevention divisions and ensure practitioners can assist diverse populations.

201515 Health education specialists and health reform — Noting that health education specialists are especially well suited to help communities adjust to a new health care system that rewards health outcomes and disease prevention over quantity of health services rendered, calls on federal health agencies and private groups to include such specialists as a distinct occupation in workforce data collection. Urges health agencies to fund research on the role of health education specialists in improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities. Calls on the Institute of Medicine to convene a roundtable on health literacy that addresses the role of health education specialists and encourages schools of public health to include information about such specialists in their curricula.

201516 Public heath approach to human trafficking — Acknowledging the severe physical and mental health effects of human trafficking, calls on all health professional schools, societies and certifying bodies to incorporate human trafficking into their curricula and enact policies on the involvement of health care workers in identifying trafficked people in clinical settings. Encourages state and federal governments and private groups to fund research on the incidence and prevalence of human trafficking as well as on the best methods for trafficking prevention and intervention. Also recommends governments and private organizations fund research on the physical and mental health impacts of human trafficking, including the effects on women, girls, men, boys, transgender people, men who have sex with men, unaccompanied minors and youth in child protective services.

LB-15-01 Leveraging development funds to improve health — Noting that the significant investment of community development dollars in low-income neighborhoods is often conducted without input from the health sector, calls on public health, health care and community development professionals to collaborate with the goal of leveraging knowledge and resources toward the revitalization of low-income neighborhoods, with a particular focus on the social determinants of health. Encourages the two sectors to work together to develop health-oriented standards and best practices for community development projects as well as to develop the kinds of research questions that lead to health-informed investments. Also urges hospitals systems to solicit input from community development practitioners in Community Health Needs Assessments as a way to make more informed population health investments.

LB-15-02 Opposing HIV testing for employment — With many countries still requiring that groups of foreign nationals undergo HIV testing as a condition of receiving an employment visa, urges the U.S. government to pressure the Republic of Korea to eliminate its own HIV testing requirement for employment visa applicants and to ensure that employers of such workers also no longer require HIV testing. Encourages UNAIDS to revoke the Republic of Korea’s status as a nation without HIV-related restrictions as well as revise its own protocols to ensure countries are unable to misrepresent their HIV/AIDS policies. Also calls on human rights group to emphasize that all HIV testing is voluntary and that all people living with HIV/AIDS deserve access to counseling and medical care.

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