Welcome From APHA Executive Director

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP


October 07, 2003


Welcome to the Public Health & Prevention Web site, a new collaboration between Medscape and the American Public Health Association (APHA). This unique initiative recognizes the important intersection of public health and clinical medicine, and is broadly focused on the health of populations and the variety of professionals that it takes to improve the health status of Americans and people around the globe.

The APHA is the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world, representing more than 50,000 members from over 50 occupations of public health. When APHA was formed in 1872, it was notable for welcoming physicians, engineers, lawyers, municipal officials, other professional groups, and lay reformers to its membership. Over its lifespan, the organization has maintained its inclusive approach to public health and prevention, bringing together researchers, health service providers, administrators, teachers, and other health workers in a unique, multidisciplinary environment of professional exchange, study, and action.

We anticipate that this new Web site will be a cutting-edge resource for a variety of health professionals, offering timely information about important public health issues of the day and tools for improved practice. In addition to the excellent coverage of the world of health from Medscape, you'll find news highlights from our newspaper, The Nation's Health; selected articles on the latest science in public health from our journal, the American Journal of Public Health; information about careers in public health from our CareerMart; news about important professional meetings; and new publications on public health topics. We hope that you will find this to be useful information that helps you in your daily practice.

The Public Health & Prevention home page is a timely addition to the Medscape site. Perhaps never before has public health been broadly recognized for its critical role in protecting the health and safety of families. Public health practitioners are increasingly becoming more visible. While traditionally most people have thought about health as a very personal issue, recent events have demonstrated that determinants of health connect people and communities and require a more systematic approach. Just within the past 30 years, we have seen 35 new infectious diseases around the world, several within our own borders. Deadly diseases have reemerged in drug-resistant forms. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and other chronic conditions now account for 70% of all deaths in the United States each year. Injuries are still a leading cause of death. Racial and ethnic disparities in health status persist and are widening.

In order to protect citizens around the world from these and other health threats, it is essential that we establish a strong public health system, staffed by a well-trained workforce, that blends the strengths and resources of a variety of sectors. In 1988, The Institute of Medicine defined public health as "what we as a society do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy." This approach to health from a broad perspective takes into account the effects of social connectedness, economic inequality, social norms, and public policies on health-related behaviors and health status. It helps to explain why public policies such as seatbelt laws and tobacco-control regulations have had such a positive impact on health outcomes. It challenges us all to think of what we together can do to improve the health of society.

It is precisely this challenge that brings the American Public Health Association to the table. We are called to develop partnerships that leverage effective action to improve health. This new Web site is one such partnership. We are optimistic that its impact will be large.

We gratefully acknowledge our colleagues at Medscape for recognizing the tremendous value of this collaboration, and for helping develop a site to address the needs of professionals practicing public health and prevention.


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