PHM-US Newsletter: September 20, 2011

20 Sep 2011

1. First PHM US National In-person Meeting a Success
2. Save the date: Third People’s Health Assembly, July 2012, Cape Town, South Africa
3. Next US IPHU: Petro Metro (Houston/Galveston area), spring 2012
4. PHM US website updated
5. Caring Across Generations conference

6. Report from the Doctors for Global Health General Assembly
7. Advancing the Right to Health on a Sick Planet: Security, Militarism and a Changing Climate
8. PHM related publications

First PHM US National In-person Meeting a Success
By Laura Turiano
28 People’s Health Movement activists participated in the 1st PHM US National Meeting held July 28th and 29th in Los Angeles. We discussed what PHM is and what it means to endorse the People’s Charter for Health and to be a part of the movement. Drawing upon the results of the membership survey conducted before the meeting, and attendees’ current political work, we developed four issue areas in which PHM US will focus its domestic movement building activities.
A SWOT (Strengths/ Weaknesses/ Opportunities/ Threats) analysis helped us identify an overall strategic approach for PHM in the US. Unlike most US organizations, PHM is not issue–based. Instead we offer an explicit framework of values and analysis based in the People’s Charter for Health that can be used to address any issue or problem. This framework integrates "treatment" (e.g. access to health care, meds and other services, etc.) and "prevention" (e.g. addressing social, political, and economic determinants of health) in a way that facilitates connections between groups working on different issues. The PHM network offers relationships to leading experts and activists in health related fields from around the world.
Within the issue areas identified at the meeting, the overall strategy of PHM US is not to do the work that existing organizations are already doing, but to share the analysis of the PHM to support activists to use health arguments and human rights strategies effectively, to link organizations across issues, and to take advantage of international solidarity relationships. Because the knowledge and experience underpinning the Charter integrates various fields including public health, political economy, and human rights, most new PHM activists need some training to fully utilize the framework. This activist training is provided in PHM through International People’s Health University short courses, and two are planned in the next two years.
Over the next 2-3 years PHM US will focus our outreach to the following issue communities. If you would like to participate in workgroups, use the email addresses provided to contact them.
Environmental Justice:  EJ activists and IPHU New York participants from Houston and Galveston will organize a “PetroMetro,” IPHU with an EJ theme in spring 2012. Among the goals of the IPHU are to strengthen EJ communities by making the connection to health, and incorporating it into advocacy efforts: to improve coordination and communication among communities internationally; and build on the solidarity generated by understanding how problems and solutions are shared locally, nationally, internationally.  There are also discussions underway about how to provide some kind of medical support for people with BP oil spill related health problems. Contact:

Health systems and US Health Care reform: “Health for All” doesn’t just mean getting insurance companies out of medicine in the US, although that is a necessary step. This work group will be reaching out to key organizations and individuals working on health care reform and related issues to discuss how using a health systems and human rights approach can broaden the movement for real reform. The inclusion of all US residents in all health programs will be stressed. We’ll also be making an effort to present the international consensus on health to student health professionals. Under consideration is an IPHU in 2013 with a health systems theme. Contact:

Militarism: The US military impacts health in the US and globally through multiple mechanisms. Work group members will be sharing the PHM framework with the organizations they are already working with on various related issues, including anti-war, the military budget, nuclear weapons and energy, environmental impacts and military bases, to support them in using health analyses against militarism, to help build international solidarity networks, and to bring together groups working on the myriad aspects of this topic. Contact:
Economy/worker health and safety: A small group within PHM has already been working individually on this issue both nationally and internationally. They will identify key groups in the areas of domestic workers rights, living wage, worker safety, poverty, race and inequality, to support them to include health impacts in their analyses and campaigns. Contact:

There are a few other issue areas not addressed at the meeting that we know are important to PHM USA members.  These include trade and health, food sovereignty, and essential medicines. The coordination group will be reaching out to people who were unable to attend the meeting who we think can take these areas forward.
Other discussion at the meeting included launching the Global Health Watch 3, mobilization towards the 3rd People’s Health Assembly, and how we should organize with PHM global to address the US power and its effects on health worldwide.


Third People’s Health Assembly, July 2012, Cape Town, South Africa
The People’s Health Assembly is a global event bringing together health activists from across the world to share experiences, analyze the global health situation, and develop civil society responses that promote Health for All. It is an opportunity to network, reassess, redirect and re-inspire ourselves. Please note that there will be criteria for attendance for the PHA3 and delegation limits for the US and Europe.
Join the PHA3 Facebook group


Next US IPHU: Petro Metro (Houston/Galveston area), spring 2012
The PHM US chapter will convene a "Petro Metro" IPHU in the Houston/Galveston area in the spring of 2012. The course will highlight issues of environmental justice and health justice both in the US and internationally, though participants with a wide range of issues will be expected. Date and location will be announced within the next few weeks. If you have questions or are interested in serving as faculty or as a participant, please contact Lexi Nolen at

PHM US website updated
Following the national planning meeting in August, we updated the PHM US website to feature the newly created interest groups, on topics such as Environmental Justice and Health Systems Reform. As these interest groups gain momentum, each one will have its own sub-page where coordinators can post resources and calls to action. In the meantime, if you have any news, announcements, or information you’d like to see on the site, please email

Caring Across Generations conference
By Dorothy Tegeler
On August 20, members of PHM US joined over 500 domestic workers, seniors, people with disabilities, family members, political leaders, and activists at Mission High School in San Francisco for the regional launch of the Caring Across Generations Campaign. Caring Across Generations aims to transform the system of long-term care in the US, so that it meets the needs of both care recipients and care givers. This encompasses diverse goals, from protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and In-Home Supportive Services, to creating decent home care jobs and challenging US immigration policies. Like PHM, Caring Across Generations is rooted in the idea that different groups’ struggles for health and justice are interconnected. 

In California, as part of this larger long-term effort, domestic workers, employers, and their allies are campaigning for AB889, The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would extend basic labor rights and protections such as overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, reporting pay and workers compensation to domestic workers. The bill has passed the California Assembly and the State Senate Labor Committee, and is currently in suspense in Senate Appropriations. Show your support by endorsing the Domestic Worker bill of rights here.

Report from the Doctors for Global Health General Assembly
by Linda Sharp (edited for space by Todd Jailer)
The 16th Annual Doctors for Global Health General Assembly was held July 29th to 31st, 2011 in sunny Los Angeles, CA, on the heels of a wonderful and inspiring PHM-USA planning meeting.  Over 130 participants from all over the United States, as well as representatives from DGH partner communities in Mexico and El Salvador spent the weekend exploring various parts of the conference’s theme “Community Action for Health and Social Justice: Health Begins Where we Work, Live and Play.”  Among conference presenters, there were community organizers, local farmers, promotoras, social activists, undocumented students, physicians, university professors and a state senator.  Attendees to the conference were as diverse- including musicians and artists, students from high school through medical school, doctors in training, educators, social workers, nurses, and many activists. Some highlights of the conference are presented below. For more information, and for details of each part of the conference, visit

Currently in Los Angeles, DGH-LA is working with groups in the US and El Salvador to support and give voice to community organizers in Cabañas, El Salvador, in their struggle against the Pacific Rim Mining Company.  Sadly, many activists continue to be threatened and killed for their courageous stand against destructive mining practices.  DGH-LA  is also working with undocumented students in LA and around the country to support passage of the DREAM Act and to protest Secure Communities and other policies that violate the human rights of migrant communities. If you are interested in joining the DGH Human Rights and Advocacy Committee, please send an email to [email protected]  

Conference highlights
The weekend kicked off with a visit to Father Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program that provides a safe environment where former gang members can take job-readiness classes and are offered employment.  More importantly, each former gang member is offered a chance to live differently, with love and respect for his place in life, and the support to make a life change.  Next, attendees toured Los Angele’s Skid Row -- the largest homeless community in the United States.  Guided by a previously homeless resident of the neighborhood, the group visited a needle exchange, community clinics, and other services offered in the area.  Walking the streets with the homeless left a deep impression of the harsh reality of the lives of America’s homeless. 

Dr. America Bracho, the Executive Director of Latino Health Access (LHA), a center for health promotion and disease prevention in Santa Ana, California, gave Saturday’s keynote address.  Dr. Bracho delivered an energetic presentation with examples of how LHA has shown that community engagement is the single most important guarantor for good health.  A diverse panel followed on the experience of migrants.  Dr. Irma Cruz touched on the journey of those traveling through Mexico, and Norma Price of the Samaritans brought it into sharp focus as she described the humanitarian relief work to support migrants crossing the desert on the Arizona border.  DREAM Act students Carol Montes and Jonathan Perez shared personal struggles of being undocumented and obstacles to achieving a higher education in the U.S.  Finally, State Senator Kyrsten Sinema gave an impressive summary of laws that violate the human rights of migrants, and empowered the audience to take political action.  Dr. Steven Wallace presented a scholarly discussion that dispelled myths surrounding use of public services by migrants.

Other highlights included the powerful dramatization of living with HIV in El Salvador, presented by Ilcian and Mayquel from the Asociación Comité Contra SIDA (CoCoSI).  CoCoSI is a group of adolescents that work to prevent transmission of HIV, defend the rights of those with the virus, and promote to change the attitudes formed about living with HIV.  Blase and Theresa Bonpane shared their life work as community organizers in Los Angeles and Latin America, and reminded us that during these troubled times, “don’t mourn, organize!” 

There was a lively discussion on food sovereignty, with panelists sharing the shocking reality of life for farmers in India, Africa and the United States.  Anuradha Kavuri, a human rights activist working for farmers in India, explained how India’s agriculture sector reform led to devastating consequences for farmers including suicide.  Anuradha Mittal spoke about land grabs in Africa, where hedge funds (supported by our major universities!) buy vast areas and force people off the land. Privatization of land has resulted in starvation for entire communities.  Finally, the discussion highlighted the struggles of the South Central Farmers of Los Angeles, who have been working to regain the right to farm on what was once the largest urban garden in the United States. 

Advancing the Right to Health on a Sick Planet: Redefining Security & the Role of Militarism in a Changing Climate
By Maureen McCue (edited for space by Todd Jailer)

Long story, short: The September 9 – 11 Nebraska City, Iowa conference was a great success! For an overview of the program, the resources,   faculty bios and the like, please visit the web site.   We'll be putting up some pictures and plan to create a 30-45 minute film of Symposium highlights to be used in other settings in the near future.

We had about 50 participants from a 16-year-old to an academic couple in their late 70s. There was synergy and respect across academic, professional and activist lines, students and members of the general public--everyone shared and everyone learned from one another. The formal and heavily academic panels were well balanced with a representative from the military college and organizers from Native American and African American communities, and powerful talks by a national student leader and the leader of Veterans for Peace. All had ideas and experiences to share on the intersections of health and human rights threats stemming from our rapidly changing climate, our degraded environment and the role of militarism in exacerbating these deadly processes.
Besides the panels, the conference included two tours of exquisitely beautiful natural areas, the powerful film “Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives,” a dramatic presentation “The Trial of the Humans by the Animals,” violin music played by one of the participants, and an evocative performance by a Kansas City spoken word artist-singer-antinuclear activist.

Evan Lyon and I brought up PHM during two different  discussion sessions, and included a fact sheet about PHM in the conference materials. Even though we were discussing health impacts of global climate change and environmental degradation, much of which is exacerbated by military thinking and actions in the name of security, most folks seemed pretty US focused. It's hard for people to think globally whether in terms of what's happening beyond our shores or in terms of working with others beyond our shores.

PHM related publications:
The current issue of Social Medicine, Vol 6, No 1 2011 features an editorial by Hani Serag from the PHM Global Secretariat, Issues for consideration at the WHO Executive Board.
Abstract: WHO is moving to create an additional governing structure “that will bring together Member States, global health funds, development banks, partnerships, nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and the private sector to address issues critical to global health.” The private sector (which in practical terms means agribusiness, big pharma, and the interests of the medical-industrial complex) already has vast influence over health policy and it is entirely unclear why they need yet one more forum.


After the Earthquake, by Paul Farmer, describes the incredible suffering--and resilience--that he encountered in Haiti. Having worked in the country for nearly thirty years, he skillfully explores the social issues that made Haiti so vulnerable to the earthquake--the very issues that make it an “unnatural disaster.” Most interesting is Farmer’s presentation of the cultures, structures and mechanisms of international emergency response. Complementing his account are stories from other doctors, volunteers, and earthquake survivors, including PHM-USA coordinating group member, Evan Lyon.

Bryan Parras, environmental justice activist from Houston (AKA the “Petro-Metro”) and IPHU NY alumnus is a regular contributor to Bridge the Gulf, a citizen journalism and new-media initiative designed to help Gulf Coast communities convey their stories and their vision for a just, healthy and sustainable future. His latest piece on how Canadian tar sands oil and the Keystone XL pipeline will bring additional health threats to already overburdened communities is available at

Todd Jailer
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