Photo Credit: WCPH

Initially planned to take place in Rome, in the early autumn, the 16th World Congress on Public Health (WCPH2020) was held last month – in its digital version – on Triumph Group International online platform. From 12 to 16 October, a packed audience filled the rooms of the virtual congress venue that hosted the WCPH2020 and reached houses and offices from where speakers, guests and participants, became the key players of the most topical issue of the year: World Public Health.

Five days full of contents for over 200 live hours. A major event redesigned for the digital world to accommodate attendees living in different time zones in an incredible programme schedule, organised in 12 twelve theme-based tracks on important topics such as digital health, mental health, vulnerable groups, the Sustainable Development Goals, vaccination and of course a special track entirely dedicated to COVID-19.

309 online appointments, from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm CET, including 7 pre-conferences, 8 plenary sessions, with the participation of more than 40 high-profile experts and policy-makers representing international institutions such as the WHO Regional Office for Europe, the Association of Schools of Public Health in Africa, the European Commission, the Alliance of Associations of Public Health of the Americas, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Development Law Organization, The Lancet and Women in Global Health, as well as 148 workshops, 8 satellite sessions, 112 oral presentations and 26 world leadership dialogues.

The figures are mind-boggling especially those on the attendance recorded by this congress. Impressive participation that exceeded the attendance at the last in-person World Congress on Public Health.

The Congress theme “Public health for the future of humanity: analysis, advocacy and action”, in its sixteenth edition, could not but consider the significant efforts made by public health to tackle the current crisis. This entailed not only to deal with the new circumstances following the Covid-19 pandemic, but also the duty and the importance of never forgetting the many other health threats.

Photo Credit: WCPH

The global temperature is far beyond what has been seen since records began, poverty and inequality that are leading to mass migration and conflicts, and also threats to food and water supply and international agreements that are being torn up, all these factors are increasing divisions at a time in which a favourable climate of global solidarity is desirable.

Co-organised by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), by the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) and by the Italian Society of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Public Health (SItI), the WCPH2020 Congress has brought together the global public health community at a critical time for the planet.

The President of WFPHA, Professor Walter Ricciardi, said: “The theme of the Congress reflects our firm commitment that we, in the global Public Health community, have an obligation to respond to new public health circumstances. We are living through a pandemic, we are changing the earth in which we live, and fake news is travelling much faster than the truth. The public health community needs to work together with other disciplines to tackle these and other health threats”.

The President of EUPHA, Dr Iveta Nagyova, said: “Europe has been one of the regions most affected by Covid-19. However, we must not forget other very important issues that have been on the public health agenda for a long time. EUPHA is particularly committed to ensuring that all public health policy is shaped by robust scientific evidence. This is why our strategy for the next five years builds on three pillars: analysis, advocacy and action.”

The President of the Italian Society of Public Health (SitI), Professor Italo Francesco Angelillo, said: “The Congress highlights the latest science, policy, and practice of Public Health throughout the world and presents opportunities to discuss in a coordinated manner. This is also in recognition of the urgent need to analyse research, review policy and exchange frontline experiences related not only to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Among the many challenges it had to face, Congress succeeded in keeping thousands of people glued to their seats, because beyond the numbers and behind the screens, there was an all-human interaction.

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