Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Road Trip!

As I may or may not have mentioned, I'm off to Philadelphia for the American Public Health Association meeting. This was going to be my first opportunity to visit New Orleans, where the APHA meeting was scheduled for November, but that sort of didn't work out. But who would pass up a chance to visit Philly in December?

I used to go to APHA every year, and I'd always submit two or three abstracts and give a couple of presentations. I stopped going for a while because, frankly, it's just too big and too much for its own good. There are hundreds of sessions, thousands of presenters, most of the panels are cobbled together out of three or four largely unrelated papers and it's impossible to figure out which ones you really want to go to. I always meet two dozen people who I exchange cards with and then never hear from again. There have been a couple of exceptions -- one year I had the opportunity to meet Mysterious Anonymous Reader, who sometimes contributes items to this blog, and I have run into one or more of the Reveres on occasion, as well as other friends.

One thing is for sure about APHA meetings though -- public health is a unique field of endeavor. It's an academic content area, not a specialty, so we have mathematicians, biologists, physicians, psychologists, sociologists, economists (yes, we let them in for some reason), lawyers, managers -- you name the discipline, we got it. We also have practitioners, the majority of them public employees, and also people who work for community based organizations. I have a foot in all three worlds -- academic, public, and community -- which makes me a bizarre trilaterally symetric extraterrestrial. One thing we all have in common is that we're talking about public health, which means we all believe fervently in the public sphere and the public good. That does mean that inevitably, certain currently popular political ideologies don't get a lot of support there.

This year, in addition to doing a poster session (yes, it's humiliating), I'm going to be on a panel of public health bloggers -- and I'll definitely be associating with my betters. The organizer of the panel is Jordan Barab of Confined Space, and a representative of Effect Measure will also be there. I think my role is to explain how any loser can start a blog.

So I'll be posting from the meeting and I'll let y'all know all the hot news from the realm. For a change, I'm looking forward to it this year, and I hope we'll have some interesting things to talk about.

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