Al Gore, American Public Health Association Revive Climate Meeting
APHA and former U.S. VP Gore—along with a number of other nongovernmental organizations—are racing to execute a replacement to the cancelled Climate and Health Summit. Along with informing the nation about climate change, the meeting will act as a prelude to APHA’s climate-focused annual meeting this fall.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), received a surprising phone call last week.
Former Vice President Al Gore was on the line, asking for Benjamin’s cooperation in reviving the Climate and Health Summit, which the Centers for Disease and Prevention had cancelled about a week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
While the original meeting was scheduled for three days, the new event will only be one day—February 16—and will take place at the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta. In addition to APHA and Gore, sponsors include nongovernmental groups like the Harvard Global Health Institute, Turner Foundation, and Gore’s education and advocacy group, The Climate Reality Project.
While APHA was disappointed with the cancellation of the conference, Benjamin said the prospect of rekindling the meeting—albeit an abbreviated version—is very exciting. “Just the opportunity that the [former] vice president would reach out to us was exciting and rewarding,” he said.
“I think what this shows from the association perspective is how important associations are in both educating the people that we represent, as well as educating the public,” Benjamin said. “What was kind of a sleepy three-day meeting for the converted in Atlanta has now become a national discussion.”
Benjamin said that APHA’s role in the original summit was part of a larger yearlong association strategy to build national discourse around the risks of climate change on human health—and the media buzz around this resurrected meeting is helping do just that.
With just about two weeks to go until the Climate & Health Meeting kicks off, APHA is now hurriedly helping to think through the meeting’s agenda, invitation list, and roster of speakers. Benjamin will present at the meeting, along with Gore; all of the other speakers lined up for the original conference will either be invited to attend or speak.
When it comes to attendees, Benjamin said “it’s pretty much going to be first come, first served,” but he added that people who don’t get a spot can still register for APHA’s annual meeting, taking place in Atlanta in November. This year’s theme—“Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health”—will focus on how public health professionals can work toward protecting communities against climate risks. Benjamin also said he hopes that the CDC will collaborate in some way with APHA on that fall conference.