Public Health is a Team Sport

In late September, CleanAIRE NC attended the North Carolina Public Health Association 2023 Fall Educational Conference.

Reflections for the 2023 NCPHA Fall Educational Conference

Public health is a team sport – the overriding takeaway from the North Carolina Public Health Association’s Fall Educational Conference. Public health leaders, researchers, and students gathered in Concord, NC last month to exchange ideas and explore potential partnerships for a healthier North Carolina.

The conference’s official theme was Remodeling Public Health: Tearing Down Stigma and Building Resilience for a Healthy NC, but the presentations and our conversations with others seemed to return to the vital role coalition-building plays.

Building Multi-Sector Coalitions to Create Healthier Communities

The conference was an excellent opportunity to share CleanAIRE NC’s health initiatives and community work with the over 500 conference participants. Through our conversations with other attendees, we laid the groundwork for what we hope will be meaningful and lasting connections and received more than 45 sign-ups for CleanAIRE NC’s programming.

More than presenting our own work, however, we were thrilled to hear from the many other organizations and public health leaders present. Over the course of the three-day event, we learned about the strategies others are employing around the state and discovered exciting new opportunities for collaboration.

These included West End Revitalization Association (WERA) co-founders Omega and Brenda Wilson. The Wilsons highlighted WERA’s landmark work to incorporate environmental justice as an explicit goal for county-level community health assessments (CHAs). We’re proud to report that CleanAIRE NC recently joined this initiative, acting as a major contributor to Durham County’s next CHA.

Also seen at the conference were longtime CleanAIRE NC partners and health advocates Dr. Stephen Keener and Dr. Kimberly Price.

Climate Health is Public Health

Reflecting the emergence of climate change as an urgent public health crisis, the conference featured numerous climate-focused sessions.

One particular highlight was the “Community-focused Efforts to Mitigate the Health Effects of Climate Change” session presented by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Dr. Sarah Hatcher, DHHS’ Climate and Health Program Lead, offered fascinating insights into how DHHS and local communities are partnering to address extreme heat and heat-related illness.

During her presentation, Dr. Hatcher welcomed CleanAIRE NC to present a brief overview on the impacts of climate-fueled wildfires on North Carolina’s air quality, and their devastating consequences for lower-wealth and BIPOC communities.

Other key takeaways included a strong emphasis on mental health, and the importance of creating healthy boundaries. As health professionals increasingly experience burnout, anxiety, depression, and grief, it is critical that they prioritize their own self-care along with care for their patients and the public. Numerous conference participants called on health organizations to support this shift by adopting a trauma-informed lens, and creating healthier work environments in which individuals can be uplifted to better serve others.

Looking Forward to NCPHA 2024

The 2023 NCPHA Fall Educational Conference was overall an overwhelming success. CleanAIRE NC is so excited about the connections we made, the extraordinary work we learned about, and the new ideas we picked up to incorporate into our own programming. 

We can’t wait to attend NCPHA 2024!

Public health is a team sport. Learn how you can stand with doctors, nurses, public health experts, and others around the state who are working to advance climate, health, and equity.