OPHA Conference 2021 recap

The fall season is well underway and so is conference season. I have enjoyed hearing about colleagues’ virtual presentations, as well as the representation of the Institute at two in-person events for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. These conferences included HeroForum21, ASSP’s Safety 2021, and the Oregon Building Trade Convention

Each fall I look forward to attending the Oregon Public Health Association (OPHA) Conference that takes place in October. This year’s conference, held earlier this month, included two days packed with sessions addressing important public health issues around Oregon. We attended via an interactive virtual platform that included a student poster session, sponsor booths and networking tables. This year OPHA had an emphasis on topics addressing diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as COVID-19.

The OPHA keynote talks included speakers James L. Mason, PhD on the topic, “DEI and Public Health: Implications for Leadership” and Dr. Ryan J. Petteway, DrPH, MPH with the eye-opening talk, “If You Can Read This, I am Evidence: Poetry as Antiracist + Decolonizing Praxis for Health Equity Knowledge + Action.” Dr. Mason addressed the importance of examining the challenges in public health inequities that are faced in our communities today, but through the lens of looking at the data, how it is collected and analyzed to ensure the social determinants of health are addressed across diverse groups. Dr. Petteway shared impactful original pieces of poetry and his research around how focusing only on the data and numbers in public health tells only half of the story. Petteway asserts our need to have discussions around the narrative of the data and how that can be translated into stories or expressions. The data and numbers do not always necessarily lead to actions aimed to expand the conversation around health equity and social inequity issues.

OPHA 2021 virtual conference
Photo of OPHA 2021’s interactive virtual platform

COVID-19 introduced many new and uncertain workplace challenges for all industries. How we live and interact with the world has changed and workplaces have had to significantly and quickly adapt. If there’s one pressing observation about the world of work, it’s that keeping the workforce safe, healthy and well is critical. These thoughts helped me structure around a talk given on day one of the conference titled, “COVID and the World of Work,” which was also named after the Institute’s COVID resource portal. The learning objectives for my talk included:

  • Explaining the impact of COVID-19 in different workplace industries
  • Describing effective science and public health communication strategies to reach stakeholders in the community to impact the workplace through the lens of Total Worker Health®
  • Identifying workplace tools and resources to improve workplace safety, health and well-being during COVID.

The conference closed with a plenary panel session, “Oregon Call to Action on Climate, Health and Equity”, developed by the OPHA Healthy Environments Section in 2019-2020.  Panelists explored how policy, design and other planning innovations can shape our communities and how climate change can impact public health.

Visit the OPHA Conference page for a recap of the agenda and our previous blog post featuring conferences and educational opportunities.