The Southern Health Association (SHA) had its beginning as the Southern Branch of the American Public Health Association (APHA). As quoted from “A History of Southern Branch, American Public Health Association”the concept of Southern Branch was the “brainchild” of the Conference of Tennessee State Health Workers in 1932 and particularly of Dr. E. L. Bishop, who was Commissioner of Public Health in Tennessee. It began with a membership of 81 members from Tennessee and 68 members from throughout the 16 states in the Southern Health region and represented primarily those in the medical, nursing, and sanitation fields.
Subsequently, a steering committee composed of seven leading Tennessee state health workers was appointed to initiate further steps in the organization of Southern Branch. Its first official meeting was held in November 1932 in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Bishop was elected as its first President. Southern Branch met jointly with the Southern Medical Association until 1946. After the separation from SMA, sections representing other disciplines increased rapidly.
Southern Branch reached its peak in the 1960’s and early 1970’s with a full time Executive Director and office staff, and an affiliate membership of approximately 20,000. However, with a change in leadership in the parent association (APHA) financial support began to decline until 1981 when they completely cut all ties with Southern Branch.
The leadership of Southern Branch felt that there was still a need for a regional public health organization to meet the needs in the southern states, and thus the Southern Health Association was chartered in 1981 for the purpose of “closer bringing together of persons interested in public health for the purpose of fostering and stimulating a greater degree of scientific effort in the protection and improvement of public and personal health, and to bring about better understanding, integration and promotion of public health services.”
In order to financially support the organization, affiliate and individual membership fee schedules were established. Affiliate states who joined SHA were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. In recent years, Georgia has joined as an affiliate and Virginia has dropped their affiliation.
SHA continues to be a strong supporter of public health issues on the state, regional and national levels. Each year, SHA holds an annual meeting jointly with one of its affiliate state public health associations. It is governed by a Governing Council composed of elected officers and members-at-large, a representative from each affiliate state, and chairmen of all standing committees.