Sharing knowledge in the heart of Europe

At the 15th European Public Health Conference, participants will finally be able to meet up again in person. The theme of the conference has increased in importance due to the COVID-19 pandemic: it will explore how our health systems can be strengthened.

“The 15th European Public Health Conference in Berlin is the first in three years where public health experts from all over Europe can come together again in person. And so we are looking forward to it all the more,” says Reinhard Busse, Chair of the 15th European Public Health Conference in Germany’s capital city and Head of the Health Care Management Department at the Technische Universität Berlin. Both the EPH Conference 2020 in Rome and the subsequent event planned for Dublin in 2021 were changed to online events owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the number of registrations reflects the sense of anticipation among many public experts as they prepare to share knowledge in person again. Far in excess of 2,000 visitors are expected to attend the scientific conference, where current issues will be discussed and solutions developed for current challenges.

Portrait of Reinhard Busse, Head of the Health Care Management Department at the Technische Universität Berlin
Reinhard Busse, Chair of the 15th EPH Conference, Photo: TU Berlin

“Strengthening health systems: improving population health and being prepared for the unexpected” is the central theme of the conference, which is being held on 9-12 November in Berlin. The topic was chosen back in 2019, which was obviously before the COVID-19 pandemic. Reinhard Busse emphasises: “Public health experts rightly point out time and again that our health is dependent not only on medical care, but also largely on societal and environmental determinants. That is precisely why this choice of topic aimed to highlight the considerable role naturally played by health systems in the health of populations.” He adds that the strengths and weaknesses of healthcare systems were revealed everywhere in the COVID-19 pandemic, and this naturally also motivates us to examine what has been learned in the process, and how we can ensure that we are as well-prepared as possible for future challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the strengths and weaknesses of healthcare systems.


Use and abuse

One of the five plenary sessions at the 15th EPH Conference explores the topic “Health systems performance assessment for policy: uses and abuses”, and has been organised by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and also the European Commission. What will it involve? “There are extensive and detailed systems with numerous indicators for health systems performance assessments. These indicators refer to, for example, the extent to which health systems are oriented on the needs of users, whether they are accessible for everyone, and also the rate of avoidable deaths, to give just three examples,” explains Reinhard Busse: “The second half of the title, ‘uses and abuses’, makes reference to the fact that policymaking sometimes only addresses certain indicators from these complex systems, the ones that correspond to the interests in question – and the remainder are neglected.”

The four other plenary sessions also examine exciting and revealing content, with the following individual topics:

*       “Evidence on inequity in financial protection in Europe” in regard to health expenses

*       “Benefits and challenges of the European Health Data Space”

*       “Reorienting health services: the transformational potential of health promotion” and also

*       “Sustaining high quality care: interprofessional training for our clinical and public health workforce”.

16 thematic tracks

With 16 thematic tracks ranging from “Food and nutrition” to “Public health monitoring, reporting and foresight”, and also various formats such as workshops, oral and pitch sessions, lunch symposiums, poster walks and network meetings, the 15th EPH Conference will again reflect the broad spectrum of public health topics. It will be staged in hub27, the multifunctional 27th hall on the exhibition grounds, which opened in 2019 beneath the radio tower in Berlin’s western district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. Pronounced “Hub Twenty-Seven”, it consists of a large-span hall that holds up to 10,000 visitors, plus 20 other conference rooms on two floors and a roof terrace.

Exterior view of the exhibition hall hub27 in Berlin
Photo: Messe Berlin

The Social Programme starts with the Welcome Reception on the second day of the event, Thursday 10th November at 7 p.m. “We deliberately chose hub27 as the conference venue as this allows participants to take part without needing to travel far,” says Reinhard Busse. Networking will also be a top priority at the Social Evening on Friday 11th November from 7.30 p.m. It will take place at the Arminiusmarkthalle in the multicultural neighbourhood of Moabit, in the Berlin-Mitte district. This market hall is over 130 years old, and it is regarded by many as the most attractive of its kind in the German capital. With numerous bars and restaurants, visitors are taken on a journey through the culinary spectrum and are invited to taste specialities from the cuisines of different countries, such as Germany, Austria and the USA.

A sustainable conference

The 15th EPH Conference is organised by the European Public Health Association (EUPHA), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and the EPH Conference Foundation – as always together with the Local Support Committee, the International Scientific Committee, the International Conference Council and numerous other partners. Ensuring that the conference is as sustainable and green as possible is especially important to the organisers, which is also one of the reasons why green-thinking caterers were chosen. Delegates can expect re-usable tableware and all meals based on fresh fruit and vegetables. They are also encouraged to travel to Berlin by train instead of flying. As the German capital is an important rail hub in the heart of Europe, the prospects of this are good.