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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 1, 2015, Vol. 33, Issue 01

More Than Just Monitoring Outbreaks

Take Your Role in Public Health to the Next Level

By Darcy Vavrek, ND, MS

Did you know public health includes much more than just monitoring outbreaks, epidemic prevention, smoking prevention, or the encouragement of regular exercise? In addition to health issues surrounding infectious disease and food-borne pathogens, public health encompasses issues regarding disability, occupational safety and health, injury prevention and health promotion.

In fact, these issues are so huge that entire sections of the American Public Health Association (APHA) are dedicated to them.

When you join the APHA, you get to choose a primary and a secondary section. There are many great sections that could hold a strong interest for the practicing chiropractor, present an opportunity for networking, and serve as a good way to influence health policy locally, nationally and even internationally. Here are my top 10 recommended APHA sections for you to consider as secondary sections (section self-descriptions are in italics) after choosing Chiropractic Health Care as your primary section.

  1. If you're excited about the WFC's Stop Smoking program, this section may call to you: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other DrugsPromotes public health policy approaches to prevention and treatment of alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems at all levels.

  2. As wellness is a huge issue in the chiropractic profession, your passion for nutrition or functional medicine might be a perfect fit for this section: Food and NutritionContributes to long-range planning in food, nutrition and health policy which affects the nutritional well-being of the public.

  3. Influence policy, did you say? Well, if that is your primary passion, then this section might be perfect for you as a secondary section: Community Health Planning and Policy Development Influences the design of health systems and policies that are responsive to a changing society, by bringing together technical information and the expertise of communities, health professionals, business, and government.

  4. If you are active in the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC), then this section might be a nice adjunct for your work there: International Health Acts as a focal point for APHA international health activities; encourages consideration of international issues in APHA activities.

  5. Speaking of the WFC, if you're excited about WFC's international Just Start Walking campaign, this might be the perfect section for you: Physical ActivityCreated to provide a credible and visible home within APHA for Physical Activity practitioners, researchers, advocates, and partners. Our objectives include implementing annual meeting activities to meet the needs of professional and student members. We also seek to enhance the development and dissemination of evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence. Furthermore, we will strive to facilitate the inclusion of PA in public health policy and advocacy.

  6. Are you passionate about your PTA (parent-teacher association)? Joining this section would allow you to help influence health in the school systems at the national level: School Health Education and Services Focuses on development and improvement of health services, health education programs, and environmental conditions in schools, colleges, and early childhood care settings; advances public health in all school settings.

  7. Low back pain was named the most common cause of disability worldwide in 2010. For this reason, chiropractors may find it beneficial to join this section as their second section: DisabilityWorks to broaden the knowledge base and awareness regarding disability and related phenomena among all public health professions, and to provide policy advice to APHA on public health policies and programs for prevention and services to enhance the quality of life of persons with disabilities, including increased public and professional awareness.

  8. Chiropractors who work with on-the-job injury claims might be quite interested in joining this section: Occupational Health and SafetyStrives to promote a healthy and safe working environment by organizing around current issues; contributes to policy development regarding occupational health and safety.

  9. Wellness, and the definition thereof, is a hot topic in the chiropractic profession. I postulate that this is because health promotion is such a large emphasis for many in clinical practice. For this reason, I believe this section may have a strong draw: Public Health Education and Health PromotionPromotes the advancement of the health promotion and education profession and provides a forum for public health educators and those involved in health promotion activities to discuss ideas, research, and training; promotes activities related to training public health professionals.

  10. Sports medicine often involves the prevention and management of injuries. And since many of the chiropractors I know are heavily involved in the treatment of sports injuries or have become chiropractors because of the way it helped their own sports injury, I feel this section might be very interesting: Injury Control and Emergency Health ServicesProvides a national forum for professionals in injury prevention, emergency health care services, and disaster preparedness to work towards a comprehensive approach to the control of injuries, the services provided during emergencies, and the management of hazards.

There are 29 APHA sections in all, each representing some aspect of public health. These are all listed and described on the APHA website. The 10 sections above are my top recommendations for any chiropractors interested in making a difference. As a naturopath (ND), I found the integrative nature of the Alternative & Complementary Health Practice special-interest group to be the best match for me, and might also be attractive to my chiropractic colleagues.

The APHA is a meeting of the minds for epidemiologists, physicians, nurses, policy-makers, and public health workers. The annual conference attracts more than 12,000 attendees and has over 1,000 sessions. The 143nd Annual Meeting and Exposition is in Chicago this year, Nov. 7-11, 2015. Please join us.

If you are interested in participating in collective public health efforts with chiropractic and other members of the American Public Health Association, contact the Chiropractic Health Care section membership chair, Dr. Kim Khauv, at , or click here to join the APHA. Remember to select Chiropractic Health Care as your primary section affiliation. Then consider one of these 10 – or any of the other sections – as your secondary section!


Dr. Darcy Vavrek is the program planning chair of the APHA Chiropractic Health Care section and an assistant professor at the University of Western States. Contact her with questions / comments at .

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