APHA History and Timeline

Our founding

The American Public Health Association was founded in 1872 at a time when scientific advances were helping to reveal the causes of communicable diseases. These discoveries laid the foundation for the public health profession and for the infrastructure to support our work.

From our inception, APHA was dedicated to improving the health of all U.S. residents. Our founders recognized that two of the Association’s most important functions were advocacy for adoption by the government of the most current scientific advances relevant to public health, and public education on how to improve community health. Along with these efforts, we have also campaigned for developing well-organized health departments at both the federal and local levels.

Issues we champion

In the years since our founding, APHA has continued to search for and support those policies and practices that are most likely to improve the health of the public. We have played a prominent advocacy role on many issues, including assuring the availability of clean air and water, creating a safe and nutritious food supply, guiding people to adopt healthy lifestyles, monitoring the environment for adverse effects on human health, guaranteeing comprehensive and appropriate maternal and child health services, expediting the full immunization of the population against vaccine-preventable diseases, facilitating the development of safe work environments and expanding access to quality, affordable health care and preventive health services.

Our communities

We continue to seek solutions to public health issues and concerns as they arise. Our headquarters, located in Washington, D.C., provides ready access to the country's major policymakers for our advocacy and public policy efforts. Our 54 Affiliates, including those in all 50 states plus regional Affiliates in northern and southern California, New York City and metropolitan Washington, D.C., serve to connect us with public health issues at the local level. Included among our members are individuals from scores of disciplines who contribute to public health practice. The large majority of our members pursue their interests through one or more of our many Sections and Special Primary Interest Groups.

In 1966, at our 94th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, we sponsored an initial meeting of delegates from 13 different foreign counterpart associations that led to the establishment of the World Federation of Public Health Associations in 1967, convening a group of delegates representing 32 national public health associations during the World Health Assembly in Geneva with 16 core member associations. APHA is an active member of the federation, through which we are involved in public health concerns of more than 70 member countries. We also actively participate in the activities of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.

Our programs

In addition to developing and advocating for public health policies and programs, we engage in a number of other activities, including supporting the enhancement of the scientific base of public health through reports of our members' research activities at our meetings.

APHA has played a major role in providing continuing education for all public health workers through accredited educational sessions and programs.

We publish the American Journal of Public Health, which is a refereed journal, and books, issue briefs and monographs on public health issues. We keep our members informed about major health-related issues through our award-winning newspaper, The Nation's Health, Public Health Newswire, APHA Connect, e-newsletters, social media and more.

We are currently focusing our efforts on ensuring the right to health and health care, creating health equity and building public health infrastructure and capacity. We actively work to enhance collaboration with other professional organizations and develop public-private partnerships to help solve public health problems.

Each year in April, APHA serves as the organizer of National Public Health Week and develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners during the week about issues related to the theme. NPHW is celebrated in every state and we create organizing and outreach materials that can be used during and after the week to advance public health issues.

In 2006, we launched the Get Ready campaign to help Americans prepare themselves, their families and their communities for all disasters and hazards. The campaign includes a blog, fact sheets, podcasts and more.


Notable dates