Conference Highlights

The 4th annual State of the Public’s Health (SOPH) conference was held Tuesday, October 6, 2015 and featured presentations from top national, regional, and state public health leaders. View the conference program here.

Keynote Speakers

  • Jeff Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America’s Health, will explore opportunities and challenges of advancing public health in a reforming health care system;
  • José Carlos León Vargas, International Cooperation and Development Director of Solidaridad Internacional Kanda, will share insights about creating inclusive communities that address health disparities;
  • Kaye Bender, President and CEO of Public Health Accreditation Board, will discuss the benefits and barriers to public health accreditation;
  • Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, will give an update on the state’s current public health initiatives


The following video playlist features commentary from keynote speakers, organizers, and participants. All content, including the session briefs below, were produced by graduate students in the Health & Medical Journalism Program at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.


By Sandra L. McGill

More than 300 health professionals attended the University of Georgia’s fourth annual State of Public Health Conference on Tuesday, October 6. It featured keynote addresses from Dr. Jeff Levi, Executive Director of the Trust for America’s Health, and José Carlos León Vargas, Director of the Solidaridad Internacional Kanda in Mexico.

Funding for the conference came in part from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation.

Also speaking at the conference were Dr. Kaye Bender, President and CEO of the Public Health Accreditation Board, and Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and State Health Officer.

Much of the day was devoted to workshops, where participants address critical topics including tobacco cessation and prevention, building a public health workforce, public health accreditation, ACA implementation and health literacy as a key to public health.

Scholars from throughout the state presented research findings in a poster session featuring more than 40 recent studies.

Looking back to the 2014 conference, “It’s a little humbling to think of all that’s happened in just one year,” said Dr. Marsha Davis, Associate Dean for Outreach and Engagement in the College of Public Health. In her welcome address, Davis cited milestones such as the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act, the banning of smoking on Georgia campuses, the Ebola crisis, the Disneyland measles outbreak, and other incidents affecting the state, nation and world.

Davis also emphasized work that needs to be done. Although more Georgians have health insurance than ever before, the percentage of uninsured residents remains one of the country’s highest. Rural hospitals are closing, too many Georgians die of preventable diseases, and too many children live in poverty.

But Davis ended on an upbeat note. “Everyone has a role in public health,” Davis said. “We’re not alone—we’re all in this together.”

Conference Briefs