The APHA opening session on November 3rd in Boston was informative, inspiring, and energizing.

Sir Michael Marmot and Sarah Weddington, JD gave opening addrresses, encouraging us to pay attention to data, be guided by our dreams, engage with youth, laugh, and work together to improve health and well-being in the US and around the world.

marmot Michael Marmot showed compelling data that the United States is lagging behind other higher income countries when it comes to the wellbeing of children.  Again and again he made the point that we can and must do more to address poverty and improve child health.  It wasn’t so much that studies in the United States suggest this, but rather that the experience in countries with per capita incomes much lower than ours, like Latvia, prove it.  Just when I was admiring the quality and effectiveness of the presentation of data, Marmot shifted genres — from epidemiology to poetry.  Shielding children from the impacts of poverty and improving child health is supremely possible, he said.  Taking charge of the spin, Marmot diagnosed himself as an optimist, Quixotic, and idealistic.  He confessed to being a man who cries easily — the beauty of justice can overwhelm him, and so can the beauty of a healthy child. Channeling Sancho Panza, he asked us to be practical dreamers, and laid out some health improvements that can be achieved in the short-term with technical expertise, and a commitment to social justice.

In his final words Marmot gave us some practical advice.  “If you are not doing anything, do something,” he began.  “If you are doing something, do more.  If you are already doing a lot (like Sweden?), do it better.”  And then we were  back to poetry, as Marmot quoted Pablo Neruda.   “Rise up with me against the organization of misery.” And everyone did rise up to applaud.  Everything seemed possible!

Marmot’s presentation in 3 parts:

weddingtonSarah  Weddington’s story goes before her. As a 26 year old lawyer in 1971, she successfully argued Roe v. Wade, securing the possibility of safe abortions and choice for women. Today she came to share her wisdom and encourage us, as we work to improve health and well-being. Assessing the moment, she chose to talk about about how we could reenergize ourselves so that we can endure on the journey toward change. Like many of us she has been engaged in the same struggle for a long time, and like many of us she draws energy from working with young people.  She relies on laughter, she said, and conversation with like minded people.  She refuels herself with dreams and plans about how to lead, how to bring about change. She reminded us to honor those who serve in the military,  and also to question military expenditures that keep us from investing more in health.  She reminded us that no one wants to have an abortion — but that we can’t turn away from women and girls who have a right to choice, and a right to safe health care.  Learn from other leaders, she said.  To an audience accustomed to stacking up the data and explaining the footnotes she reminded us that less can be more. We should all slow down when we state our fundamental truths.  Slow down as you speak about justice and how evidenced-based public health practice can make the world a better place for everyone.

Slow down.      Speak about justice.    Make the world a better place for everyone.

Sarah Weddington shares her wisdom about leadership.

Review the online program with hundreds of presentations at  The online program is a great resource that allows you to learn about what is happening in your area of interest.  If there is a presentation you are very interested in I suggest writing to the author to see if they will share their powerpoint with you.  You may also find a presentation of the work on youtube.