The 141st American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting was held in Boston, running November 2-6, 2013. More than 12,000 people attended the meeting, and once again the Association of Professional Piercers was among those present (this year represented by Nicholas Adams, Brian Moeller, Laura Jane Leonard, and myself—Jef Saunders).
This meeting is a decidedly different form of outreach than many of us are used to. Instead of working with clients or piercers, we deal directly with public health workers. From doctors, regulators, and students we were blown away by our reception. So many people stopped and said, “Thank you for being here. This is definitely a great public health topic!”
One of the questions we got again and again was “Do you have information on the dangers of piercing and tattoo parties?” And after fielding the question several times I got to thinking that an informational pamphlet (written by our members) would be an excellent addition to our existing literature. (In it we can outline everything from the dangers of piercing outside a well-equipped facility to what one should look for in a piercing studio.)
One of the joys of this expo was meeting with folks from state and local health departments and discussing things that they hadn’t considered health and safety issues. Many of these health department officials were completely in the dark about things like jewelry standards, and it turns out these were things that the officials were very interested in!
The difference between APHA and other types of outreach, like the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention, was tremendous. A tattoo convention is similar to the same type of “outreach” that we do in our own shops every day. Educating the public one at a time is important, but is it a good investment of our resources? (I’m not saying it is or isn’t, just posing an important question.) What I can say is that the APHA meeting convinced me that efforts can, and should, be spent working with public health officials.
Think about it: Consider how influential our organization might be on public policy! Getting jewelry standards, health and safety standards, and even our procedure manual directly into the hands of policy makers and legislators has been of tremendous value to our members and to the public at large. It is for that reason I would strongly encourage the APP to continue attending APHA meetings; I can’t imagine a better investment of our time and resources to reach more influential public health leaders.