World Federation of Public Health Associations Fédération Mondiale des Associations de Santé Publique Federación Mundial de las Asociaciones de Salud Pública Всемирная Федерация Ассоциаций Общественного Здравоохранения 世界公共卫生联盟 الاتحاد العالمي لجمعيات الصحة العامة

Reflections on the 2017 World Congress on Public Health

With over eighty countries represented at the World Congress on Public Health, the aim of having a truly international Congress was achieved. However, there was also a deliberate attempt to ensure that it retained an Australasian flavour. The intention, from the conception of the idea more than five years ago, was to ensure that public health was firmly on the agenda across the political spectrum in Australia and the region. The opening addresses of Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt demonstrated success in that area.

However, there were many other challenges. Having young professionals taking on stronger advocacy roles, ensuring Indigenous people internationally have a stronger voice, strengthening public health relationships across the Asia-Pacific region and further internationally were all successful outcomes of the 2017 Melbourne 2017 World Congress on Public Health.

And so much more was achieved. Professor Martin McKee set the tone for the keynote addresses. All were outstanding and reflect the incredible effort of the National Organising Committee chaired so ably by Professor Helen Keleher under the oversight of the Governing Council of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA). The academic program including the World Leadership Dialogues, Workshops, concurrent presentations and posters were of outstanding quality.

I would like to thank all of those who contributed so much. This includes those who attended, registrants who presented, workshop and World Leadership Dialogue organisers and our keynote speakers. Behind the scenes were those who made the Congress actually work – a very big thanks to so many in such a range of ways. The Commonwealth government Department of Health and Ageing was the principal sponsor. To them, and to all of the other sponsors and exhibitors we all owe a debt of gratitude.

The organisations that partnered to make the Congress so successful demonstrated the importance of a coordinated approach for the best possible public health outcomes. The World Federation of Public Health Associations partnered with the Public Health Association to bring the Congress to Australia. However, other partners were willing to put aside other responsibilities to work for the success. The Health Promotion Association of Australia, the Australasian Epidemiologists Association, the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine, the Australian Women’s Health Network and the Public Health Association of New Zealand all played a key role in oversight, engagement and ensuring the success. Their leaders and members deserve serious recognition.

All those involved in organising could never have predicted the incredible reach of the Congress. Over one hundred million impressions on Twitter is just one indicator of the effort made by so many to share the learnings from the Congress. The presence of the Congress in traditional media was also outstanding with almost all of our speakers willing to front media across a range of issues.

Sometimes the parallel meetings, acquaintances, networking and relationship building are as important as the Congress itself. In the current term of the Governing Council of the WFPHA there was an Indigenous representative elected. Adrian Te Patu has not rested on his laurels. The Congress provided the impetus for him to work with other Indigenous people to form an Indigenous Working Group of the WFPHA. It is a beginning and I look forward to supporting the outcomes.

This is just one example. There were many other groups and relationships formed at the Congress. I expect many will be sustained. This is why the theme was one that sought to hear the voices of the attendees, to develop an appropriate series of visions and then to put them into action. Voices, Vision, Action. What a privilege it has been as President of the WFPHA to oversight this incredible event and to work with so many extra-ordinary and committed public health professionals.

Michael Moore AM
President WFPHA