APHA opposes Bush's war

Over 10,000 public health professionals and workers attended the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, held in Atlanta Oct. 21-25, and roundly opposed Bush's war in Afghanistan.

The policy, almost unanimously adopted, stated that the APHA 'endorses in strongest terms the efforts of international organizations to bring the perpetrators of all terror attacks to justice' but

'declares its opposition to military actions against Afghanistan and other nations as an undertaking that runs counter to the health and well-being of our populations.'

The APHA Governing Council also approved an extensive proposal on the anti-bioterrorism measures. Heading that proposal was the emergency need for massive federal financial support to the federal Centers for Disease Control as well as state and local health departments across the country.

This would enable the entire public health community to become galvanized through a program that promotes the need for a strong public health infrastructure that can respond to anthrax and other acts of biological-based terror. Decades of disregard have been demonstrated by the inability of our country to adequately respond to the crises of anthrax and other infectious diseases.

The governing council, by another wide margin, opposed drug company penetration of the APHA itself. The council voted almost unanimously to remove the name of Glaxco-Welcome from a public health award, which they, in part, financially support.

The anti-corporate actions were spurred on by the unfortunate decision of the APHA's executive director to have Pfizer Drug Company sponsor the convention tote bag, which was given out with the meeting's program. He also gave out over 10,000 copies of a book, authored by a Pfizer physician, that had the APHA logo on the front with the Pfizer logo, along with a personal inscription and photo of the APHA executive director.

Conference participants were particularly angry since the theme of this year's annual meeting was 'Global Health.' The greed of drug companies is recognized by all humanitarian organizations as they refuse to make life extending drugs for people in Africa, Asia and around the world.

The APHA Governing Council passed other resolutions including, one in response to the slow action to protect workers at the World Trade Center. That resolution, 'Occupational Safety and Health Issues Related to Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon: Prevention and Preparedness Needs to Protect Emergency Responders and Clean-up Workers,' recommends the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health develop protocols for medical surveillance for WTC/Pentagon site workers; the federal government provide resources for health care and hospital worker training to support health care needs for clean-up workers, develop guidelines for health practitioners; resources for training and certification in the use of personal protective equipment and other training where necessary.

The final act of the governing council was to reauthorize the executive board task force on universal health care. Given the increased unemployment in our country both before and following Sept. 11, this task force will be front and center by next year.