The Nations Health, Dec. 2010

The Nations Health

APHA History Update Project to link lessons of past to future

Teddi Dineley Johnson

If history is indeed a portal to the future, APHA members will soon be able to seek guidance from the past. Such is the hope of a group of APHA members who are working to update the Association’s historical records.

Much has occurred in public health in the 37 years since a landmark 100-year history of APHA rolled off the presses in 1972. Taking the helm of the Association’s new History Update Project, APHA Past President Jay Glasser, PhD, MS, is leading an effort to fill in the gaps. The first phase of the multipronged project will culminate with the publication of an updated history of APHA. Harnessing the power of cyber technology, the second phase will create a living online archive in which documents, stories and photos will be readily accessible. At the project’s completion, all of the material gathered will be available as a resource for telling the Association’s story more effectively, for providing materials for articles and presentations, and to increase public health literacy and education, according to Glasser.

“We need to bring our account up to date and enclose that 37-year hiatus,” Glasser told The Nation’s Health. “We want to set this up so that it can be continuously updated — so that it really would be a living online resource of continued stories, challenges, vision, people and communities. It’s our history. We own it. We should tell our story.”
Glasser told the story at APHA’s Annual Meeting in November when he organized a session to review the project’s progress and to enlist the support and participation of APHA member groups. Panelists included new APHA President Carmen Nevarez, MD, MPH, who told why APHA’s legacy matters.

APHA Anual Meeting

Attendees from APHA’s Annual Meeting in 1986 protest nuclear testing in the desert near Las Vegas. Photo courtesy APHA Archives

“APHA’s role has never been more important than now, where our Association is consistently standing on the side of prevention on the eve of the most important change in our national health system in most of our lives,” Nevarez said.

The session also featured panelists who presented highlights of the Association’s history and discussed sources that will yield information to the project. Sources to be tapped, for example, include libraries and schools of public health as well as APHA Sections and Affiliates that have compiled their own histories.

The first stop on the research trail, however, will be APHA’s own archives. Housed within its Washington, D.C., headquarters, APHA’s archives are a treasure trove of information, said APHA archives consultant Karla Pearce, MLS, MA.

“The people at APHA understand that you need to hold onto the history,” Pearce said. “They have been very good about preserving it.”

For more information, to volunteer time or ideas to the project or join the project mailing list, e-mail

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