250 delegates from 8 countries, 74 speakers presenting 40 research abstracts and 20 posters, and 10 exhibitors: these are the statistics from the THET Annual Conference 2016 which took place on the 20th-21st October at Resource for London.
Under the theme ‘Evidence, Effectiveness & Impact’, speakers explored how the UK is delivering transformative change through the health partnership approach in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Throughout five years of the Health Partnership Scheme, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and managed by THET, evaluation and research have driven improvements in the quality and accountability of health partnerships, generating lessons to stimulate future work. There is now an exciting body of published work emerging which THET has supported at this year’s conference, and through the Globalization & Health series.
The diversity of abstracts submitted was especially striking, not only in content and context but also in the range of methodologies and disciplines applied, from safer surgery to improving maternal and child health. We were particularly pleased to welcome health professionals from Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Myanmar and Ethiopia – to name a few – and in numbers unmatched by any other THET conference in recent years.
The conference opened with Mr Jim Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Department at the World Health Organization, getting straight to the heart of the question underlining how crucial it is to invest in health employment in order to attain the SDGs. The call for action is urgent. As highlighted by the report ‘Working for health and growth: investing in the health workforce’ released by the UN Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, essential investments are needed globally in order to prevent a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries.
In the keynote speech, the Hon Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, State Minister for Health – Primary Health Care, Uganda, thanked the British people and the Department for International Development (DFID) for consistently providing much needed support towards the health sector in low- and middle-income countries. The Minister praised the health partnership movement and the ideas of co-development and co-learning that are at the heart of THET’s approach:
When our people from Uganda are given the opportunity to work alongside UK professionals, it provides a great learning and mentoring experience that could not have been learned in school. And I am sure our counterparts from the UK will also share key lessons that they learn from our country, such as how one midwife can deliver 20 babies in 8 hours!
Her message was reinforced by Rory Stewart MP, Minister of State at DFID:
Through health partnerships, DFID is using the best of UK expertise to train, mentor and share good practice with healthcare professionals in developing countries. By supporting their healthcare systems, DFID is ensuring that they are able to provide assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable in their societies. This is clearly in the UK’s national interest.
The mutual interest theme is explored in THET’s latest policy report, launched at an event hosted by Dan Poulter MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group-Global Health. Entitled, ‘In Our Mutual Interest‘, the report, which features of foreword from Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, details the role health partnerships have in improving health in low-resource settings and also, crucially, within the NHS. Described by Dr. Gilbert Mliga, Former Head of Human Resources at the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, as “A roadmap for how we can improve partnerships”, the report provides clear answers to many of the questions and challenges the UK development community currently faces, such as aid effectiveness and policy coherence, and shows that despite its critics, the UK gets great value from its overseas aid spending.
In his concluding remarks to our conference, Sir Eldryd Parry, founder of THET, had some inspiring words as well as a task going forward for all delegates:
‘There are no soft options nowadays. We need to apply the hard science of development married to academic rigour. You came to this conference and spent two days with us, but this great event won’t serve its purpose if now you don’t take new ideas and try them out. We have worked hard to get to the top of the global health field, now, we must work even harder to stay there!’
We are grateful for the extremely positive feedback we have received from those of you who took part. Ninety-nine percent of those who completed an evaluation form rated the Conference as ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’. One delegate commented ‘What an impressive and inspiring range of projects that have a well thought out scientific basis and also make a real impact on the health and well-being of people in Ethiopia’.
We are also delighted our exhibitors also took away some valuable experiences. Andrea Charters, Diamedica, commented: ‘We thoroughly enjoyed the conference and found it an excellent networking opportunity’, while Felix Jackson of medDigital/DefinitiveDx is already anticipating our 2017 event:
Please put medDigital down to exhibit again at your conference next year!