23 Oct, 16 | by Sheree Bekker
[SB] Our guest blogger is Russ Milner – reporting on his experiences at the recent Safety conference (follow him on Twitter @RussMilner)
[RM] I was fortunate enough to win the inaugural Australian Injury Prevention Network (AIPN) Travel Subsidy to support my attendance at Safety 2016, the 12th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion in Tampere, Finland.
As delighted as I was to receive this news, I soon realised that arranging the various approvals and logistics to allow my attendance was a pressing issue that I had minimal control over. After a couple of anxious weeks, I had every box ticked and a suitcase to pack – but what to pack? I wasn’t familiar with Tampere prior to the conference, but it was described to me as (close to) “the home of Father Christmas”, and we all know Santa dresses for the cold. The conference information gave the vague dress code of “smart casual”, while other people suggested I invest in thermal underwear. I packed as best I could to include casual wear, warm options, and suitable clothes to represent both the AIPN and my employer, the Department of Health Western Australia, at a World Conference of international experts in my profession.
The journey to Tampere, in a nutshell, involved 18 hours in the air, 11 hours in airports, 30 minutes on a bus, and a couple of short walks. Teleporters* need to become a reality sooner rather than later. 30 hours in total, but hey, that time had to be spent somewhere, and I had plenty of time to peruse the comprehensive conference program. Said program was filled with plenary speakers, state of the art sessions, parallel sessions, pitching sessions, poster displays, poster walks, business meetings, side events, and social events—well and truly jam-packed with content. As much fun as I had in transit, all good things must come to an end, and finally I reached my accommodation. With an evening free I stretched my legs with a short walk, freshened up, unpacked, and got ready for a busy four-day conference.
According to the conference program, the official opening ceremony started at 15:00 on the Sunday, but keen beans had the opportunity to attend pre-conference sessions from 10:00. For better or for worse, one of these sessions was entitled ‘Achieving population level changes in health: A dialogue on pathways to progress’ piquing my interest enough to make me an aforementioned keen bean. As chance would have it, I entered the impressive Tampere Hall (“Tampere-talo”, to the locals) 20 metres behind a colleague from Perth. It’s a small world after all. An interesting series of presentations and group discussions quickly revealed that across the globe, many issues and challenges are shared by injury prevention and safety promotion (IPSP) practitioners. It was comforting to realise that we’re all in this together, yet concerning that we haven’t found a way to solve the problems altogether. I mustered the courage to take the roving microphone in this session and reflect both on what I’d heard during the session and my experiences from back home in Perth. Thankfully, my comments were praised by the moderator and generated some further discussion from other interested delegates in the room. We were off and running.
The afternoon rolled around and we were officially welcomed to Tampere the city and the conference itself. Luminaries from the Government of Finland, the World Health Organization (WHO), Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, and the International Organizing Committee all made us very comfortable while stressing the importance of IPSP. This welcome was capped by a video message from Michael Bloomberg who in August 2016 was named the WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, a role Mr Bloomberg strongly emphasised included injuries. This is a fantastic coup for the IPSP community, to have someone of such prominence as our Global Ambassador.
Some light entertainment followed, which included a string trio performing classical music, before a series of circus acts of contortion, corde-lisse and jump rope – all performed safely to the relief of the audience!
The first plenary session was scheduled to run from 17:00 to 18:30 on a Sunday – a curious timeslot for those of us used to Australian customs, but they were as captivating as they were entertaining – a great way to spend a Sunday evening, truly! Professor Adnan Hyder kicked off with a passionate presentation on what remains unacceptable across the field of IPSP, providing seven suggestions for turning evidence into policy and practice, and challenging delegates to take one thing from the conference they could implement after returning home. The session was concluded in theatrical fashion by Australia’s own Dr Dale Hanson, who proved to be a multitalented performer while brilliantly performing a one-man show on the 1854 cholera outbreak in London – a case study I vividly remember from Public Health 101 from my university days, albeit not so well presented.
The Sunday program concluded with a get together reception hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies, providing the first real opportunity to mingle and meet other delegates over canapés and drinks. Delegates compared travel stories and commented on how enjoyable the opening day of the conference was. The scene was set for an engaging few days to come.
If I’m honest, Monday was a bit of a blur. The conference program ran from 08:30 until 18:00, followed by a welcome reception that started at 19:00. As I walked back to my hotel to freshen up in the hour between events, I reflected on the fact I had seen 36 world-class presentations throughout the day, while countless** others occurred in other rooms during parallel sessions. Not only that, but I’d also browsed the many posters on display during a much-needed coffee break, only adding to the sea of content I found myself swimming in. Twitter also played a part in keeping highlights trickling through under the hashtag #safety2016fin. As such, it’s a fruitless task to try and summarise the content into a paragraph or two. However, for the record, I attended sessions focussed on Indigenous safety; Falls; Traffic safety; Child and adolescent safety; and Strategies, legislation action plans and policies. Thankfully, the BMJ Injury Prevention, October 2016, Volume 22, Issue 5 contains abstracts on every presentation from the conference, a useful resource into the future.
Of note, it was nice to see Australia well represented throughout the day, with 9 of the 36 presentations I saw coming from ‘back home’, including one on the falls prevention grants program delivered by the Injury Control Council of WA in partnership with my team at the Department of Health WA. I was both pleased and proud to note how well our presentations stacked up against those from other countries on the world stage. Throughout the day I tried to actively tweet [see Twitter timeline] a few highlights as they caught my attention. Based on the amount of others doing the same, and taking photos of slides rather than scribbling notes, it seems modern technology has redefined how notes are taken these days, rather than the traditional pad-and-pen method.
Needless to say, I was pretty happy when my head hit the pillow on Monday night.
Tuesday was another big day, with lots of content and a couple of social events. The plenary session for the day focussed on Safety and Sustainable Development, before parallel sessions where I jumped from Child safety to Drowning and water safety – both topic areas I am involved in back home. It was great to see a presentation from Kidsafe WA on their Child Safety Online Demonstration House, another initiative delivered in partnership with my team. Continuing the theme of strong linkages to the WA setting, I attended a state of the art session on Safety in rural and remote areas in the stunning Maestro theatre of Tampere Hall. A morning and early afternoon well spent with some great presentations to ponder, and more importantly, names and faces with experience to share.
Those of us who were active in the Twittersphere took the opportunity to meet up in person during the afternoon coffee break, which was great to put a physical face to a digital name. From memory, in the quick half hour I met four Finns, three Canadians, one Australian and one Estonian. No partridge in a pear tree, however.
The later sessions included presentations on Technology – solutions and applications for safety, and Consumer Safety. The first presentation highlighted another partnership between the Department of Health WA and the Injury Control Council of WA—the Know Injury knowledge hub (http://knowinjury.org.au/), in particular the CONNECT.ed networking program (http://knowinjury.org.au/connect/connected/)—both links I would encourage readers of this report to click.
The great majority of delegates then boarded a convoy of buses and headed out to Tampereen Messu- ja Urheilukeskus at Ilmailunkatu 20 (ahem), or “Star Arena”, as it was described at the English-speaking conference. This was the site for the conference dinner, where many a good time was had. I joined an Australian and New Zealand contingent and made a table with a group of Finnish locals who made us very welcome. It was only at this point that I gained an appreciation of the fact that for the Finns, English was most certainly a ‘second’ language that they had to concentrate to speak fluently, and importantly, understand the various accents of their global guests. Despite their admitted limitations, one could be forgiven for thinking they spoke English as well as we do. They were fantastic hosts. They were also fantastic dancers, hitting the dance floor the moment the band played their opening licks and stayed on their feet (no pun intended, well, maybe a little) until the last song had been sung.
Now, this was my first world conference, but I was told by multiple reliable sources that the early morning session after the conference dinner would be the least well attended of the program. I can confirm that to be the case to any readers who may be awaiting their first conference (Bangkok in 2018, by the way). Regardless, those who did muster the energy early on the fourth and final day had an early choice between six different parallel sessions or 22(!) different poster walks. Did I mention it was a busy conference?
The late morning session offered the last of the state of the art sessions, I selected the Child and adolescent safety option. Stoically forgoing the scheduled lunch break, I instead joined a World Health Organization-hosted business meeting that I had been graciously invited to over dinner the previous night. Entitled, Implementing the Regional Action Plan for the prevention of violence and injuries in the Western Pacific (2016-2020), the meeting seemed to pose the question of “how can the injury prevention sector across the Western Pacific region better work together?”. Hopefully, the Know Injury knowledge hub and CONNECT.ed program I hyperlinked above can contribute to the solution.
The final afternoon included a plenary session on Solutions for the future and a Closing ceremony that included the awarding of International Safety Media Awards and proclamation of the Tampere Declaration. Finally, the baton was passed to Bangkok for the 13th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, and delegates were able to say their goodbyes and prepare for their journey home. AIPN President, Associate Professor Kerrianne Watt and I posed for a photo to mark the occasion.
So, after four days of a conference that attracted 1,200 delegates from 80+ countries, and produced 1,000+ presentations and 5,000+ tweets, how can I summarise a few key take home messages for readers of this report? A tough task indeed. Hopefully the following points are of value:
- Networks of people are important. There is so much to be shared and learned across the IPSP portfolio, yet too often we are ‘siloed’ by geography or topic area.
- IPSP issues across the globe are very similar. The contexts and settings may change, but the key topics largely stay the same. Programs in other countries may be modified and adapted for your local context.
- Research, Context and Practice are equally important components of a successful solution. The best methods, with the best fit, and the best practice.
- The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were commonly referenced by plenary speakers. Available here.
- We know more than we give ourselves credit for. Many effective prevention strategies are already well understood by IPSP professionals. The key is to translate this to the communities we live in. Share, communicate, network.
- Information, tools and resources are available. We need to share and promote these to each other and the community.
I would like to sincerely thank the AIPN for the funding and opportunity to attend Safety 2016. Thanks also to the Department of Health WA for supporting my attendance. It was an experience I greatly enjoyed, and will no doubt provide benefit to my future endeavours to prevent injury in Western Australia. Kiitos!
*In typing this, Microsoft Word informed me that ‘Teleporters’ is not a word. Not yet, Microsoft. Not yet…
**137, I counted for the sake of this report.