Magazine article The Nation's Health

Public Health Advocates Look to Gulf Coast Region: Workers Share Experiences with Occupational Health Leaders

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Public Health Advocates Look to Gulf Coast Region: Workers Share Experiences with Occupational Health Leaders

Article excerpt

SOME OCCUPATIONAL and environmental health leaders believe that no place better exemplifies the importance of workplace and environmental health than the Gulf Coast. It was fitting, then, that such leaders gathered in one of the first events of APHA's 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans.

On the 100th anniversary of APHA's Occupational Health and Safety Section, leaders in the field spent a full day examining how to build environmental and occupation health in the Gulf region.

Organized by APHA, the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the training session was designed to raise awareness about worker health and safety in the area and beyond. Attendees learned about the issues facing workers and residents in the Gulf Coast region, and were encouraged to take the information they gathered and apply it to their own communities.

Between devastating hurricanes and the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010, the Gulf Coast exemplifies the impact of environmental and occupational issues on the public's health. Keynote speaker and former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, pointed out that for many Gulf Coast residents, water is both a means of livelihood and a way of life. But those living in Gulf Coast communities also face health disparities.

In her own Gulf Coast clinic in Alabama, Benjamin said she saw that adequate housing, literacy and clean water were all issues that affected her patients deeply.

"I learned that my prescription pad wasn't enough," Benjamin said. …

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