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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 1, 2009, Vol. 27, Issue 01

What If? "Chiropractor Named Surgeon General of the United States"

By Rand Baird, DC, MPH, FICA, FICC

Can you imagine a headline like that being true one day? It will never happen, right? Just like the U.S. public will never elect an African-American as its president! It could never happen, right? Hmm...

Can you picture a health organization having an annual meeting and convention with an attendance of 13,000 people, more than 10 times the total of the ACA and ICA annual meetings combined? Can you picture a meeting where the closing general session has the three most recent U.S. surgeons general as the speakers on a panel while you (and the current acting surgeon general) are sitting in the audience of 4,000-plus health care professionals? Where chiropractors have full equity and parity with all other health care providers? Where chiropractic educational sessions and research papers about contemporary topics are included among more than 1,000 sessions featuring more than 4,000 presentations devoted to health care in America and the world? Where chiropractic organizations have their exhibit booths in a huge hall of more than 700 multidisciplinary exhibits? Where the ACA, the ICA, the ACC, the WFC and at least 12 of the American chiropractic colleges are represented among the other healing arts? And where dozens of the top dignitaries in chiropractic mingle with the top leaders in government and health as full partners in health care? Could there be such a place?

Well, there is such a reality, and it's the 136th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association (APHA), which concluded Oct. 29, 2008 in San Diego. Here's the highlights of what happened at this exciting event.

The APHA 2008 annual meeting theme was "Public Health Without Borders," which explored transnational public health and provided a forum to address topics including refugee health, water and land rights, and pollution management across borders. Infectious diseases, environmental threats and migration were all seen as threats to human health that must be addressed from a global perspective. Coordinating disease surveillance and epidemiologic-response activities across the borders, the worldwide obesity pandemic, and the international transmission of sociocultural behaviors with adverse health implications were all addressed as they impact life and health in the multicultural transnational world of today. Climate changes affecting human and animal health and the environment were addressed as well. In all these areas, the APHA focuses on current and emerging health science, policy, and practice issues in an effort to prevent disease and promote health.

The keynote speaker at the Opening General Session on Oct. 26 was Sir Michael Marmot, MBBS, MPH, PhD, FRCP, FFPHM, FMedSci, the director of the International Institute for Society and Health. Dr. Marmot spoke eloquently and addressed health inequalities throughout the world and the social determinants of health, with particular emphasis on the relationships between poverty and health. It was estimated that more than 5,000 people attended his presentation.

The Closing General Session featured a lively panel discussion by three former U.S. surgeons general: Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS; David Satcher, MD, PhD; and M. Joycelyn Elders, MD. Each spoke of their experiences as the highest health official in the land, the difficulty of balancing political pressures with their sworn mission and, in particular, the importance of always putting science-based evidence foremost in making health decisions and resisting attempts by politicians and others to put other political considerations before science. To say the least, listening to them speak proved quite inspiring.

As is standard at the APHA's annual meeting, most of the major leaders in government and health were present, including the health commissioners of several states; the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the U.S. Public Health Service; the Department of Health and Human Services; OSHA; NIOSH; HRSA; WHO and PAHO; various private institutes and voluntary agencies; several current and former elected state politicians and members of Congress; several college and university officials; and other educators, authors, researchers, dignitaries and various workers from essentially every health occupation.

2009 Chiropractic Health Care Section Officers
(Terms expire after APHA Annual Meeting in the year listed)

Executive Committee
Chair: John Stites, DC, DACBR (2009)
Chair-Elect: Paul Dougherty, DC, DABCO (2009)
Past-Chair: Elaine Cooperstein, DC (2009)
Secretary: Alisa Fairweather, MPH (2009)

Section Council
Jonathon Todd Egan, DC, MPH (2009)
Lori Byrd Spencer, BA (2009)
Gerald Stevens, DC, MS, MPH (2010)
M. Will Evans, DC, MA, PhD (2010)
Jason Bartlett, DC (2011)
Rod Floyd, DC, DrPH, MSPH (2011)

Governing Council
Mitchell Haas, DC, MA (2009)
Dana Lawrence, DC, MMedED (2010)

Committee Chairs
Awards: Gerald Stevens, DC, MS, MPH (2009)
Communications: Claire Johnson, DC, MSEd, PhD (candidate) (2009)
Membership: Jonathon Egan, DC, MPH, PhD (candidate) (2009)
Nominations: Alisa Fairweather, MPH (2009)
Resolutions: Mitchell Haas, DC, MA (2009)
Section Manual: Mitchell Haas, DC, MA (2009)

Intersectional Council (ISC)
Elaine Cooperstein, DC (2009)
John Stites, DC, DACBR (2010)
Paul Dougherty, DC, DABCO (2011)

Action Board Rep
Bonnie Hillsberg, DC, MHA (2010)

These leaders will conduct the affairs of the CHC section within APHA
for the next year. Please give them your support and assistance.

The Chiropractic Program

The APHA program was multidisciplinary, with presentations consisting of scientific sessions, films, poster sessions, policy deliberations, technical exhibits, award presentations, posters and business meetings. Selected sessions were broadcast via live satellite and available in various formats. For the 24th consecutive year, chiropractic was included among the 1,000 sessions of 4,000 scientific and technical paper presentations exploring more than 50 specialty areas of health care. This year, there were five program sessions dedicated exclusively to chiropractic topics. These included some 24 paper presentations prepared by 70 authors and presented to standing-room-only audiences. The five program sessions covered the following topics:

  • Developing Integrative Approaches to Patient Care
  • Current Research in Chiropractic I
  • Current Research in Chiropractic II
  • Educational Research and Processes
  • Health Promotion: Nationally and Internationally

At this year's meeting, the Chiropractic Health Care (CHC) section presented several awards. Dr. Elaine Cooperstein received the Distinguished Service Award for 2008, while Dr. Jonathon Todd Egan of NYCC received the Rising Star Award for young leadership. [Editor's note: Dr. Baird also received the inaugural award for "Lifetime Achievement" in chiropractic public health.]

This year's event held special significance for the CHC section. It was the first meeting in San Diego since 1995, 13 years ago, when the CHC section was created and chiropractic finally achieved full equity and parity with all the other disciplines within APHA. And it was 25 years ago, in 1983, that chiropractors successfully convinced the APHA Governing Council to supersede its former anti-chiropractic policy (#6903) with a new policy (#8331), which recognized chiropractic as "safe and effective for certain disorders of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system and particularly for low back pain disorders."

ACA's House of Delegates passed a resolution in February 2008 urging all chiropractors in the United States to support public health and participate in the APHA. The ACA and the ACC are both ongoing agency members of the APHA. In October 2008, the ICA also rejoined APHA as an agency member. The chiropractic profession was commended this year for these developments by APHA's executive director, Dr. Georges Benjamin.

So, that's the story of the annual meeting of the oldest, largest, most diverse and influential public health association in the world, the American Public Health Association. If you weren't there, you missed a big one. However, don't despair. You'll get another chance this year, Nov. 7-11, 2009, when the 137th APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition convenes in Philadelphia. The 2009 theme will be "Water and Public Health: The 21st-Century Challenge."

Join the Chiropractic Health Care section of the APHA now and unite with us in Philadelphia this November. Get involved in public health and the APHA, and maybe someday one of you will be named surgeon general of the United States. One thing is certain: Without your participation, chiropractors will never have that opportunity.

APHA CHC membership information can be obtained from Dr. Jonathon Egan ( ) or via the APHA Web site:

Click here for previous articles by Rand Baird, DC, MPH, FICA, FICC.

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