Apr 2015

PHP Summit Kickoff Talk Was a Downer

If you attended NACCHO’s PHP Summit in Atlanta in mid-April, and you sat in on the Opening Plenary Session, I think you will agree it was a gloomy presentation.

Mike Walker, a senior consultant with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, delivered a 70 minute talk in which he detailed a baker’s dozen of global and national threats we all face, including cybersecurity, bioterrorism and infectious diseases.  Now, Walker clearly knows his stuff; his talk was clearly practiced, and backed with facts.  But rather than being inspiring, it was depressing.  He provided what I call a “lengthy litany of lamentations.”

At a time when public health professionals have gathered to learn about successes in tracking down the basis of a measles outbreak in Disneyland, have put themselves in jeopardy to treat Ebola patients domestically and internationally, and dealt with massive landslides in the northwest, monster snow falls in the northeast and potentially deadly train derailments, there was no mention of their efforts, and precious little acknowledgement that public health practitioners work tirelessly to assure that lives are protected and patients are saved.

I am a huge fan of NACCHO, especially the people who put together the annual PHP Summit, but I think they made a serious mistake by having Walker deliver what is essentially the keynote address this year.  Where an opening speaker could and should have congratulated the members of the audience for their hard work and devotion, and inspired them to redouble their efforts, the first speaker at the 2015 Summit piled worry upon worry and offered a dismal forecast little encouragement.

It was an opportunity wasted.

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