Wednesday, August 8, 2012
During the past two weeks, Washington DC has been the site for two conferences of note to those interested in health law. One was a conference of optimism and excitement, the other a conference of empiricism and concern.
The 19th International AIDS Conference was held July 22-27. The DC location was itself grounds for optimism: the lifting in 2010 of the US restrictions on entry by persons living with HIV meant that the conference could once again be held in the US. Information about the conference--including rapporteurs notes about sessions as they are posted--can be found at http://www.aids2012.org/. There are also many wonderful blogs about the conference, including the National Latino AIDS Action Network, http://nlaan.org/main/, and the blog*AIDS*gov with conversations from AIDS 2012, http://blog.aids.gov/2012/07/conversations-from-aids-2012-ron-valdiserri-and-terrance-moore-on-addressing-hiv-disparities-among-black-gay-bisexual-men.html. The conference was addressed by a glittering list of political, entertainment, and philanthropic superstars. The theme of the Conference was "Turning the Tide Together" and the official press release billed it as beginning "the march toward the end of the AIDS epidemic." Coinciding with the opening day of the conference were local Washington events, including a "keep the promise" march and performance by Wyclef Jean. Here's Victoria Pickering (my sister)'s photo of the march:
Far more sober was the second conference, the National Conference on Health Statistics, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/events/2012nchs/ There was no address by Secretary Sebelius or Bill Clinton or Bill Gates. There were no parties or receptions--not even the potato chip gathering that used to serve (I am told) as a way for health statistics folks to schmooze. Instead, there was an opening session devoted to the tremendous economic importance of good public health statistics overshadowed by the deep fear that government cutbacks are gutting this essential resource. There were many wonderful sessions about the data that are increasingly being made available, about data standards and usability, and about the health progress that is made through good data. All slides from the conference will be available on the web site relatively soon. My own hope is that public policy makers recognize the importance of these public resources before they starve.