The American Public Health Association (APHA) is a Washington, D.C.-based professional organization for public health professionals in the United States. Founded in 1872 by a group of physicians, APHA has more than 25,000 members worldwide.
The APHA supports left-of-center policy goals across a wide range of issues with direct or tangential connections to public health, including the role of government in healthcare, gun control, climate change, and abortion access. The organization supports left-of-center goals regarding “health equity” and eliminating alleged systematic racism in society, and was the first major organization to declare racism a public health emergency after the death of George Floyd. The APHA conducts studies, surveys, and puts out statements to support its political goals.
The APHA consistently opposed the public health policies of President Donald Trump (R) through numerous open letters and court briefings.
From 1998-2013, bills endorsed by the American Public Health Association received support from Democratic U.S. Senators 88% of the time, compared to 21% from Republican U.S. Senators. 1
The APHA supports increased gun control and considers gun violence to be a public health concern. 2 The APHA supports denying gun ownership for high-risk individuals, including alcoholics, the mentally ill, or those indulging in homicidal or suicidal ideation. The group also advocates for mandatory national background checks for firearms, and a ban on the sale and manufacture of certain rifles. 3
The APHA supports increased government intervention to combat climate change, which it considers a public health concern. The organization signed a series of climate policy recommendations for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, and encouraging non-white Americans to become involved in environmental policy decision-making. 4
After the death of George Floyd, the APHA became the first major organization to declare racism a “public health crisis.” 5 6 The organization has stated that, “racism is a longstanding systemic problem in this country that must be dismantled through policy and practice changes and transformations, which must start with brutally honest conversations and assessments of our systems and structures” 7 and “At its core, racism and social injustice of any kind is a public health crisis.” 8 In October 2021, the APHA conducted an analysis of states, cities, and other organizations which declared racism a public health crisis and the actions they had taken to address it. 9
The APHA is a partner in Rx Racial Healing, 10 a “methodology [that] works to eradicate the belief in racial hierarchy altogether” founded by APHA member Gail Christopher. 11
In July 2019, Christopher gave a presentation to the U.S. Helsinki Commission as an APHA representative on the cost of racism in the United States, which she estimated at $2 trillion annually. She stated: “conscious and unconscious belief in a racial hierarchy fuels the reluctance of political leaders and policy-makers to acknowledge the inequities and devote adequate resources to addressing them,” and blamed the continuing costs of racism on the U.S. never hosting a truth and reconciliation commission. Christopher’s recommendation to the American government is to institute policies at all levels to overcome institutionalized racism, including reforms regarding “land use, zoning, housing and transportation policies, mortgage finance and resource development.” 12
The APHA wrote a letter to President Joe Biden (D) recommending the immediate repeal of President Donald Trump’s (R) moratorium on racial and gender bias training in government agencies and federal contractors. 13
Criminal Justice Reform
The APHA supports “moving toward the abolition of carceral systems” to reduce health problems associated with imprisonment. It does not have suggestions for alternative means of dealing with criminals, though the APHA supports government funding for research into alternatives and the enfranchisement of released prisoners. 14
The APHA supports legal abortion. It called the overturning of Roe v. Wade “a catastrophic judicial failure that will reverberate differently in each state and portends to jeopardize the health and lives of all Americans.” 15 The organization supports the decriminalization of self-induced abortions. 16
The APHA supports a government-run single-payer healthcare system 17, including Medicare-for-all. 18
In November 2021, the APHA endorsed President Joe Biden’s (D) vaccination mandate for large businesses through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 19
The AMPH supports government programs to reduce individual debt, including enhanced “consumer protection” and more access to low-cost loans. The organization claims that individual debt has a causal relationship with many negative health outcomes, primarily due to stress. The AMPH also claims that non-white individuals are more prone to individual debt due to systematic racism in American society, and therefore anti-racist policies [are] needed immediately to improve health equity, address centuries of racist lending policies, and contribute to a resilient economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” 20
Opposition to President Donald Trump
The American Public Health Association opposed President Donald Trump’s health care and other policies. In 2017, the APHA and other groups denounced President Trump’s executive order to limit the number of immigrants from numerous Muslim countries. 21
In 2018, the APHA denounced budget cuts proposed by President Trump to the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 22
In July 2019, the APHA and other organizations filed a “friend of the court” brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding State of Oregon, et al., v Azar, et al., which challenged an order issued by President Trump prohibiting physicians who receive certain federal funds from discussing some aspects of abortion with pregnant patients. 23
In September 2019, the APHA and other organizations signed a “friend of the court” brief arguing against a “public charge” rule which would bring charges against illegal immigrants for using medical, nutritional, or housing government benefits. 24
In April 2020, the APHA signed a petition advocating that President Trump reverse his decision to cease funding the World Health Organization. 25
Also in April, the APHA and other organizations signed a statement urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tighten its air particulate pollution standards after the Trump administration publicly refused to do so. 26
In July 2020, the APHA and hundreds of other organizations signed a petition condemning President Trump for interfering with the Centers for Disease Control’s pandemic response policies. 27
Also in July, the APHA was a signatory on an open letter denouncing President Trump for his derogatory comments towards National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci. 28
In October 2020, the APHA denounced the herd immunity COVID-19 response strategy endorsed by some members of the Trump administration. 29
According to OpenSecrets, American Public Health Association typically spends about $100,000-$150,000 per year on lobbying. In 2013, the organization spent over half a million, by far the most it has spent lobbying in any given year. 30
- Otto, Frank. “Democratic Senators Vote for Public Health Policies 4 Times More Often Than Republicans: Study.” Drexel News. January 9, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://drexel.edu/news/archive/2017/january/democrat-senators-vote-for-public-health-more-often.
- “Gun Violence.” American Public Health Association. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/Topics-and-Issues/Gun-Violence.
-  “Gun Forum Panel 1.” American Public Health Association. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/-/media/Files/PDF/topics/gun/Gun_Forum_Panel_1.ashx.
- “Climate Change, Health and Equity at the Department of Health and Human Services.” American Public Health Association. April 2021. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://climatehealthaction.org/media/uploads/2021/04/29/hhs-climate-change-recommendations-28apr2021.pdf.
- Johnson, Marty. “Colorado to declare racism a public health crisis.” The Hill. July 31, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/510008-colorado-to-declare-racism-a-public-health-crisis/.
- “Racism is a Public Health Crisis.” American Public Health Association. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/Topics-and-Issues/Health-Equity/Racism-and-health/Racism-Declarations.
- “What is Racial Equity?” American Public Health Association. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/-/media/Files/PDF/advocacy/SPEAK/210825_Racial_Equity_Fact_Sheet.ashx.
- “Dear President-Elect Biden:.” American Public Health Association. January 8, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/-/media/Files/PDF/advocacy/letters/2021/210108_repeal_race_EO.ashx.
- Analysis: Declaration of Racism as a Public Health Crisis.” American Public Health Association. October 2021. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/-/media/Files/PDF/topics/racism/Racism_Declarations_Analysis.ashx.
- “American Public Health Association.” RX Racial Healing. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://rxracialhealing.com/apha/.
- Why Rx Racial Healing?” Rx Racial Healing. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://rxracialhealing.com/.
- “Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission).” Dr. Gail Christopher. July 18, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://drgailcchristopher.com/commission-on-security-and-cooperation-in-europe-helsinki-commission/.
- Dear President-Elect Biden:.” American Public Health Association. January 8, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/-/media/Files/PDF/advocacy/letters/2021/210108_repeal_race_EO.ashx.
- “Advancing Public Health Interventions to Address the Harms of the Carceral System.” American Public Health Association. October 26, 2021. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/Policies-and-Advocacy/Public-Health-Policy-Statements/Policy-Database/2022/01/07/Advancing-Public-Health-Interventions-to-Address-the-Harms-of-the-Carceral-System.
- “Supreme Court’s Overturning of Roe. V. Wade Jeopardizes the Health of All Americans.” American Public Health Association. June 24, 2022. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/News-and-Media/News-Releases/APHA-News-Releases/2022/Abortion_SC.
- “Decriminalization of and Support for Self-Managed Abortion.” American Public Health Association. October 26, 2021. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/Policies-and-Advocacy/Public-Health-Policy-Statements/Policy-Database/2022/01/07/Decriminalization-of-and-Support-for-Self-Managed-Abortion.
- “Adopting a Single-Payer Health System.” American Public Health Association. October 26, 2021. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/Policies-and-Advocacy/Public-Health-Policy-Statements/Policy-Database/2022/01/07/Adopting-a-Single-Payer-Health-System.
- Sturgis, Sue. “Medicare for All wins backing of conservative Southern Democrats.” Facing South. July 12, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/07/medicare-all-wins-backing-conservative-southern-democrats.
- Muoio, Dave. “Healthcare associations, experts urge employers to swiftly adopt OSHA’s ‘commonsense’ vaccination requirements.” Fierce Healthcare. November 19, 2021. Accessed July 14, 2022. https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/healthcare-associations-experts-urge-employers-to-swiftly-adopt-osha-s-commonsense
- “The Impacts of Individual and Household Debt on Health and Well-Being.” American Public Health Association. October 26, 2021. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.apha.org/Policies-and-Advocacy/Public-Health-Policy-Statements/Policy-Database/2022/01/07/The-Impacts-of-Individual-and-Household-Debt-on-Health-and-Well-Being.
- Fox, Maggie. “Doctors and Scientists Denounce Trump’s Immigration Order.” ABC News. February 1, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/doctors-scientists-denounce-trump-s-immigration-order-n715686.
- Minemyer, Paige. “Healthcare groups bash Trump’s budget proposal: Cuts threaten public health.” Fierce Healthcare. March 17, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/healthcare/trump-s-budget-proposal-faces-opposition-from-healthcare-industry-groups-members-both
- “The Trump Administration’s Title X Rule Will Harm Health Care and Public Health, Amicus Brief Finds.” George Washington University Public Health. July 11, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://publichealth.gwu.edu/content/trump-administration%E2%80%99s-title-x-rule-will-harm-health-care-and-public-health-amicus-brief.
- “Trump administration’s ‘public charge’ rule jeopardizes health care.” News Medical Life Science. September 12, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190912/Trump-administrations-public-charge-rule-jeopardizes-health-care.aspx.
-  “The US: Working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organization.” Organizations for Defending Victims of Violence. April 28, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.odvv.org/blog-3007-The-US-Working-behind-the-scenes-to-sideline-the-World-Health-Organization
- 19 Health and Medical Organizations Strongly Oppose EPA’s Move to Keep Weak Limits on Particulate Pollution, Placing Health of Millions at Risk.” American Lung Association. April 14, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022.
- Cancryn, Adam. “Hundreds of health groups petition against Trump.” Politico. July 7, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/07/hundreds-health-groups-petition-trump-350154
- “Nearly 3,500 public health experts signal support for Fauci.” Center for Science in the Public Interest. July 22, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.cspinet.org/news/nearly-3500-public-health-experts-signal-support-fauci-20200722
- “Experts, Public Health Groups Denounce ‘Herd Immunity’ Strategy Supported By Trump Administration; ProPublica Examines CDC’s Handling Of COVID-19 Pandemic.” KFF. October 16, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.kff.org/news-summary/experts-public-health-groups-denounce-herd-immunity-strategy-supported-by-trump-administration-propublica-examines-cdcs-handling-of-covid-19-pandemic/
- “American Public Health Association.” Open Secrets. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/american-public-health-assn/lobbying?id=D000047006