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2016 Society for Public Health Education Advocacy Summit
Six Appalachian State University Public Health students (Kayla Thompson, Kristie Majeski, Brian Starnes, Sarah Cothren, Danielle Truesdale, and Lauren Shepherd) along with Assistant Professor, Dr. Adam Hege, attended the 18th Annual Society for Public Health Education Advocacy Summit held in Washington, D.C. from October 15-17, 2016. The themes of the summit included: Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities; Health Disparities and the Prevention Agenda; and Social Justice and the Social Determinants of Health. The first two days consisted of attending presentations made by public health scholars and leaders from around the country, including the keynote speaker, Dr. Camara Jones, who at the time was the President of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Jones, keynote address was entitled, “Equipping Advocates for a National Campaign against Racism” and inspired everyone in attendance to be committed to social justice and it being the core value of the public health profession. In her address, Dr. Jones referred much to her well-known allegories on race and racism (TEDx Talk at Emory University http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Allegories-on-Race-and-Racism-%7C/player?layout&read_more=1).
Day Three culminated with students and other leaders making Hill visits to meet with the House and Senate representatives for their respective states. The Appalachian State students and Professor Hege met with legislative policy assistants for both Senators Burr and Tillis; they also dropped off information packets with Congresswoman Foxx’s office but were not able to schedule a meeting with a legislative policy assistant during the trip. During the visit to the Hill, students and Professor Hege did some sightseeing and visited some other key offices including, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are both strong public health advocates, along with the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. The highlight of the sightseeing, however, was when the App State contingent ran into former eight-term Ohio Congressman and two-time Presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, in the hallways of the Congressional building. This was especially a significant moment for public health students, leaders and scholars, as Congressman Kucinich has long been a champion of public health, and he really welcomed a conversation with us and talked with us about the importance of public health policy.