Summary Report: 15th World Congress on Public Health:
1st to 7th April, 2017 Melbourne Australia
Dr. Tewabech Bishaw Secretary General, African Federation of Public Health Associations (AFPHA)
The participation of Dr. Tewabech Bishaw Secretary General of the AFPHA at the15th World Congress on Public Health, in Melbourne Australia was made possible through the financial support from WHO/AFRO, Brazzaville. The AFPHA extends its special thanks and gratitude specifically to Dr. Delanyo Dovlo, Director for Health Systems Strengthening Cluster at the WHO/AFRO in Brazzaville who facilitated the support.
The 15th WCPH was jointly organized by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) and the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA. Dr. Michael Moore President of the PHAA and the Current President of the WFPHA hosted and chaired the Congress.
An estimated 3000 participants from Australia, from countries in the Region and from other parts of the world attended the meeting. Most of the participants seem to have come from institutions and universities in Australia. African participants were very few. Most were postgraduate students from universities in Australia and New Zealand.
The Congress had 16 plenary sessions that covered a wide range of relevant topics addressing important and timely regional and global public health and related issues. These topics were addressed by knowledgeable and eminent personalities on the subject. The topics and speakers of the plenary sessions included:-
• Public health in the era of populist politics- by Prof. Martin McKee
• A time for hope. Pursuing a vision of fair, sustainable and healthy world – by Prof. Sharon Friel
• Good Governance and Best practice – Michelle Deshong
• Health is a Political choice – Dr. Ilona Kickbush
• Public Health in Africa: Current Challenges and future prospects Prof. Alex Ezeh
• Are we at a turning point in Public Health? Dr. Maria Neira
• Sustainable Development Challenges in the Pacific Region – Dr. Colin Tukuitonga
• Introduction of Inf. Dis. Surv. Early Warning and Contl. in China-Dr. Y.Weizzhong
• Corporate Polit. Activity and dangerous Consumptions.- Prof. Peter Miller
• Death and Taxes. The hazards smoking – …by Prof. Prabhat Jha
• Tobacco Free Portfolios…- Dr. Bronwyn King
• Food Silver Bullet or Early Grave? – Dr. Alessandro Demaio
• New Roles for Public Health In a Globalized World – Dr. Rudiger Kerch
• Acheivement, challenges and threats to the Braz. UHS. Luis Eugenio de Souza
• Pathways to health equity in the Asia and Pacific Region – Dr. Shin Young-soo
• Violence Against Women: an urgent health priority – Coaudia M Garcia Moreno
• The Killer Defense – Peter Doherty
Following the plenary sessions, panel sessions were held under the “World Leadership Dialogue” section that addressed important and timely public health topics of National, Regional and Global importance. There were 26 such sessions with three to five prominent panelists presenting their papers. These were followed by discussions that led to conclusions and recommendations. In addition there were numerous oral and poster presentations and discussion on various topics..
Participation by Africans and from the African Region was very limited. The Ethiopian Public Health Association and Ghana Public Health Association were the only two National PHAs that were represented at the Congress. This is in addition to very few participants from NGOs in Africa. I think there is an opportunity lost for meaningful interaction, knowledge and experience exchange between African Public Health professionals, researchers and academicians with those from other countries and Australia. After all the Congress is an opportunity for public health professionals from around the world to join together and make our collective voices heard on important Global, Regional and National Public Health issues. This was the main purpose of the WCPH which is providing a common platform for wide range of Public Health and related Professionals to network and join hand, hearts and minds together for effective knowledge and experience exchange, for advocacy and to push the equitable health for all agenda forward.
The relatively low participation from outside Australia and New Zeeland and especially from Africa could be attributed to distance and associated cost of travel and accomodation. However the AFPHA strongly suggests that it is important for the WFPHA and host PHAs to explore mechanisms so that future World Congress on Public Health maximize participation from Africa to successfully encourage participation of more Public Health Associations, Professionals, Schools of Public Health, Researchers and Practitioners to join the platform and maximize the networking, knowledge and experience exchange processes.
The AFPHA in the 15th WCPH:
The AFPHA actively participated and contributed in the various sessions of the Congress including the WFPHA organizational meetings. In addition to Plenary Sessions and World Leadership Dialogues, other sessions that focused on issues pertinent to the African Region and Global Health were given priority to attend. The opportunity was also used for networking and partnership building as well as to introduce the AFPHA and its objectives to some participants who had no prior knowledge on AFPHA. Side meetings such as on Maternal Health, Young Professionals, Health Workforce Training, and Environment were attended.
During the week, the AFPHA joined a group invited to visit the Melbourne University Nossol campus where discussion and exchange of experiences took place on Health Programmes.
African Region Meeting
The meeting was led and facilitated by Dr. Tewabech Bishaw, AFPHA Secretariat who gave a brief account on AFPHA’s key achievements, challenges and immediate future plans.
Participants who attended the meeting included the following:
• Prof. Laetitia Respel, Wits University SA, email@example.com
• Dr. Mengistu Asnake, WFPHA, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Dr. Fikreab Kebede , Ethiopia Public Health Association, email@example.com
• Dr. Alemayehu Mekonnen, EPHA, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Prof. Godwin Aja – Babwek University, Nigeria – email@example.com
• Dr. Khaifa Elmushartaf – University of Ireland – firstname.lastname@example.org
• Chol Chol – University of Sydney, Australia, email@example.com
• Dr. George Amofah – Ghana Public Health Association,firstname.lastname@example.org
• Akelew Adane, University of Queensland Australia, email@example.com
• Zelalem Mengesha, Western Sydney University,Australia, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Gizachew Tessema, Adelaide University, Australia, email@example.com
• Berihun M Zeleke, University of Gondar, Ethiopia, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Dr. Tewabech Bishaw, AFPHA, Ethiopia, email@example.com
Major Highlights Presented
– Back Ground on AFPHA establishment and membership
– Advocacy, Mapping and Assessment of National PHAs and Schools of Public Health
– Mobilizing Human Resources to help in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
– The Joint Organization of Public Health Conference in Nigeria
– AFPHA Participation in important Public Health Meetings in African Region
– Resource mobilization Efforts
– AFPHA’s Position on next DG of WHO
– Planned Upcoming Events
– Main Challenges – Primarily lack of financial resources, lack of response by National PHAs to AFPHA communications and limited inter association information sharing
Discussion and Recommendations
a) Information Exchange:
While participants appreciated the report shared by the Secretary General, members complained on lack of information exchange between members and the AFPHA and recommended that the AFPHA should consistently share such information with national PHAs and with individual members to keep everyone on board. This would require updating contact address of members Associations and individuals and a regular flow of information between members and the Federation.
• Participants recommended that the Secretariat initiate and maintain a regular newsletter for information and experience exchange among members and with other Regional and national PHAs
• Implement strategies to share publications and events of Regional importance through use of ICT technology
b) Membership Fee and resource mobilization:
It was noted that all National PHAs have not completed membership registration forms and also not up-to-date on paying their membership dues. It was recommended that
• The AFPHA continue its effort on the mapping exercise but also focus on pushing associations to register and pay their membership fee.
• Seek for innovative ways to mobilize resources including organization of AFPHA and NPHA joint conferences. The planned up-coming Conference between AFPHA and EPHA is part of the resource mobilization effort.
• The current financial burden that is carried by the Ethiopian Public Health Association must be shared by other national PHAs.
• Continue the AFPHA’s Assessment and Advocacy work that was sponsored by WHO/AFRO and develop a complete Directory of National Public Health Associations and Schools of Public Health in Africa.
c) Expanding networks and partnerships
After deliberating on the importance of strengthening networks and partnerships it was recommended that the AFPHA Secretariat and the Executive Committee should make extra focus and recommended that
• AFPHA should continue to work with the AU and Regional Economic Communities and through the ECOSOC mechanisms. These need to be strengthened to increase AFPHA’s visibility and partnerships for functional collaboration
• The effort initiated to formalize the working relationship between WHO/AFRO and AFPHA through an MOU needs to be finalized.
• The AFPHA should work closely with the AU to ensure the engagement and participation of member countries from EMRO.
• Other development organizations such as the UN Agencies and Financial Institutions need to be mobilized to bring them on board for organized engagement of Health Professionals in Africa for better outcomes.
d) Mobilizing and Engaging Young Public Health Professionals for Continuity
The experience of Y-PHASA (the youth Chapter of the PHASA) was appreciated by participants. It was recommended that
• The AFPHA and its Executive Committee need to encourage and mobilize national PHAs to actively engage with their young professionals in their respective countries.
• Identify Schools of Public Health around the world with high number of African Post Graduate Students in Public Health (the Diaspora) to engage young professionals on issues of African importance.
The WFPHA General Assembly:
The WFPHA General Assembly meeting was held in two sessions.
During the first session, the Italian Public Health Association, the host for the 16th World Congress, reported on their plan of action. It is noted that the European Public Health Association will play active role in facilitating the and supporting the Italian Public Health Association in the Organization of the Congress. Some issues discussed along this was the suggestion by the Italian Public Health Association to get a larger proportion of the profit in the end. This was not accepted by members on the account that even the Ethiopian Public Health Association, a host from a developing country was not granted any privilege on sharing the profit that remained fifty -fifty between WFPHA and EPHA. Hence it was agreed to use the same principle.
In the Second Session of the General Assembly primarily listened to reports by national Public Health Associations, Regional Federations and the World Federation. From the report it was evident that the scope and reach of the WFPHA has expanded. Furthermore the influence of the WFPHA on impacting on Global Health Issues and Global Public Health concerns was growing with increasing credibility and relevance. The WFPHA’s contribution on the Global Charter was a good example.
Organizationally the WFPHA consolidation and expansion of Regional Federations was highly appreciated. This was seen as an important strategy to give better organizational platform for stronger participation by National PHAs, Schools and Institutes of Public Health.
Also important to note was the experience exchange and need on clarifying, strengthening and streamlining of the bylaws especially in terms of the relationships between national PHAs and Regional Federations in respect with WFPHA. was issues that need to be looked in to.
WFPHA Regional Federation Meetings
The meeting was facilitated by the WFPHAs. Each Regional Public Health Federation that includes South East Asia Group, Africa Group, European Group, Asia and Pacific Group and the Americas Group, made presentations on their achievements, challenges and opportunities. The strength and level of engagement varied between Regions.
The AFPHA’s contribution in experience sharing at the 1st Arab Public Health Conference was appreciated as a good example of networking and capacity building. On the other hand its continued struggle to overcome the burden of lack of funds was appreciated and possibility for closer collaboration with established Regional Federation was recommended.
The variation in the technical and financial capacity and level of engagement of NPHAs varied from Region to Region. As example is the EUPHA’s annual budget reported to be around 400,000 Euros as compared to AFPHA with least budget if any.
In general however the positive trend and the growing participation and capacity of Regional Federations were recognized. This should be strengthened and continued for the WFPHA to be an influential body to impact in Global Health and contribute to the acheivement of sustainable Development Goals.
The 15th world Congress on Public Health has been a great success!!
The main outcome of the Congress was the “Melbourne Demand for Action”, that is the key document that we invite all of you to read and spread and implement!
Please visit the WFPHA Website.
Secretary General of the AFPHA