PHM-US Newsletter: November 22, 2011

23 Nov 2011

1. Occupy Everywhere and PHM
2. PHM’s 3rd People’s Health Assembly: July 7-11, 2012 in South Africa
3. Report from Rio de Janeiro, WHO Conference on the Social Determinants of Health

Occupy Everywhere and PHM: News and resources from around the country

  1. See the PHM-US statement in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement on our website.

  2. At the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Washington DC in October, PHM members organized a last minute resolution expressing solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Resolutions introduced from the floor such as this rarely make it to a full vote and even more rarely pass. This resolution passed by 74%!

    Here’s the full text of the (heavily negotiated and edited) resolution: “The Occupy Wall Street movement is now active in more than 1,000 cities in the US and has related protests around the world. APHA supports its call for greater social equality, social justice, reducing income inequality, and its demand that corporate crime be investigated and prosecuted. We ask members to identify opportunities to build on the energy and enthusiasm of the nationwide Occupy movement and its synergies with public health.”

  3. Public health workers and students have a resource website on public health support for the movement at

  4. Manuel Silva writes: there's a NYC Healthcare for All working group:

  5. Courtney McNamara, founding editor of the website Healthy Policies, posted 'Why Occupying Wall Street can make the US healthier'

  6. Matt Anderson writes from Occupy Wall St.: In New York City, folks from PNHP, NPA (National Physicians Alliance), Healthcare Now!, unions (notably SEIU and CIR), and residents from our program at Montefiore (as well as others) came together to form a group called Doctors for the 99%, but we seem to have merged with Healthcare for the 99% which has its own Facebook page.We have been staging teach-ins and participating in marches and helping to staff the medical tent in Zuccotti Park. I am working with Laurie Wen of PNHP and a representative of CIR on drafting a set of advice for healthcare professionals who want to help the occupations. There is an extensive historical experience with medical personnel helping out social movements in a variety of ways.

  7. Denise Zwahlen writes from Occupy Boston: I am not aware of any particular focused organizing on Health although 2 weeks ago, we marched with nurses from the Massachusetts Nursing Association, in town for a Congress, under their banner: Heal America, Tax Wall Street. The Right to Health, social determinants of health, issues with access to health care are brought up in the context of other struggles. For example, Verizon workers in contract negotiations which include affordable health care. Veterans For Peace also bring up their own concerns and demands around health. The group I am involved with, Dorchester People for Peace, part of the national coalition New Priorities Network (Fund Jobs and Services, End Wars, Cut the Pentagon Budget), did a teach-in on how the cuts in basic needs are affecting health in many ways.

    What I find particularly promising and exciting with this movement is the potential for moving away from single issue organizing. Another challenge has been to include other segments of the 99% and to recognize that it does not constitute an homogenous group, that there are issues of class and race to be tackled. Activists in Roxbury and Dorchester organized a rally in a predominantly Black and poor neighborhood of the city called Occupy the Hood. Occupy Boston participated now has a tent and space called Community Organizations/ Urban Youth.

  8. Laura Turiano from Occupy Oakland writes: Many PHMers from the Bay are supporting the encampment and and movement in various ways. My husband and I have been working with the first aid and medics collective that staffs the first aid tent and provides street medics for OO actions. If you saw pictures of Scott Olsen being carried away after being shot in the head with a police projectile, that was our crew. This group is mostly street medics with some medical professionals. We¹ve also had material and personnel support from California Nurses Association. Now that the camp is gone I am working with efforts to start neighborhood and other community assemblies so the tens of thousands who participated in the November 2nd general strike can plug in.

3rd People’s Health Assembly: July 7 – 11, 2012 University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

For details, including preliminary program structure, see the new PHA3 web site.

The Assembly will be proceeded by an International People’s Health University Short Course with cross cutting themes of universal health coverage, primary health care and social determinants of health. More information will be posted on If you would like to help organize the US delegation, email [email protected] An online donation mechanism is being established and will be announced soon.

Report: the World Conference on the Social Determinants of Health

by Linda Sharp

From October 19-21, 2011 the World Health Organization (WHO) held the first World Conference on the Social Determinants of Health in Rio de Janeiro, jointly sponsored by WHO and the Brazilian government and preceded by the October 18 “alternative” meeting held by PHM and Latin American Social Medicine Association (ALAMES), “Protecting the Right to Health through the Action on Social Determinants.” At least 50 people from PHM participated, including several of us from PHM-US.

The Occupy movement in the US presents a strikingly similar message to what was discussed in Rio: challenging the dominant paradigm of capitalism and corporate greed, and demanding change.

Fran Baum’s (PHM-Australia’s representative to the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health) opening remarks noted that WHO’s Rio background paper was vague and did little to advance thinking on the SDH.  Its lack of attention to global politics, trade, and the power of transnational corporations was particularly disappointing. Read Fran’s comments on the closing of the Rio conference here.

Many wonderful discussions followed, including: a presentation by indigenous Brazilian women struggling to halt construction of a hydroelectric dam on their land; an update on lessons in SDH from Mexico by Asa Christina Laurell, Minister of Health for Mexico City (especially interesting were her comments on the true causes of migration, such as thousands of small farmers driven off their land); a powerful presentation on the politics of food and nutrition by David Sanders (PHM-South Africa) – watch it here;  just to mention a few. The most important discussions of the day centered around the collective process of authoring the alternative Rio declaration, “Protecting the Right to Health through Action on the Social Determinants of Health: A Declaration by Public Interest Civil Society Organizations and Social Movements,” which can be found here.

PHM-US presented our current work and future directions, including our double mission of working towards health for all in the United States, and changing policies of the US government and US-based multinational corporations that undermine health worldwide.Representatives from PHM around the world commented that they saw the Occupy movement as very hopeful, and there was much conversation about how PHM-US could work with this developing movement to help achieve our goals.  The PHM steering committee also welcomed PHM USA’s participation in the planning and organizing of the People’s Health Assembly 2012 in Capetown, South Africa.

The session concluded with Sir Michael Marmot’s comments. He noted that progress in public health and social change “has always come from organized movements” and that “only civil society can truly accomplish” fulfilling the goals relating to the SDH. I was left wondering whether this was his plea for someone to continue the work, as it seems clear that WHO is not going to lead the way. While the conference was a grand event as far as parties go, it was disappointing to witness the lack of political will and unrealized potential on the part of WHO to complete the work set out by the Commission on the SDH: “Achieving health equity within a generation is achievable, it is the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it.” The WHO Rio Declaration unfortunately does not chart a way forward to get it done.

Again from the Commission report on the SDH: “We are optimistic: the knowledge exists to make a huge difference to people’s life chances and hence to provide marked improvements in health equity. We are realistic: action must start now.”This action is already happening. Dr. Marmot and many at the WHO conference see PHM and other civil society groups as the way forward. There is much being done by PHM and civil society in the US and around the world. Please take a moment to read and reflect on the alternative declaration and consider how PHM-US can achieve these and our goals.

Please send any ideas, news about your activity, resource links or articles for the next PHM-US newsletter to Todd Jailer [email protected] or Laura Turiano [email protected]

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