Review of Five Nations Health Protection Conference in Belfast, May 2007
This year’s Five Nations Conference took place on May 22-23 at the Belfast Waterfront Hall in Belfast. For those who are not aware this conference takes place annually at a different venue in one of the five host nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland). The aim of the conference is to provide a focus for CPD for CCDCs, Consultants and Specialists in PH and their colleagues in the epidemiology, and control of infectious, non infectious and environmental hazards.
This year there were six main themes: risk assessment and communication, travel and migration, delivery of health protection emergency response, incident management and control, surveillance, and late breakers.
The conference kicked of with an amusing but thought provoking keynote address by Professor Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health in University College Dublin’s School of Public Health and Populations Sciences. The first session provoked some interesting discussion around perception of risk in the population and how to quantify and communicate this risk effectively.
Other highlights included two presentations by Dr Jane Jones from CfI on the impact of migrant settlement on the epidemiology of infectious diseases in England and Wales and a pilot of enhanced surveillance of typhoid and paratyphoid across England, Wales and NI. On a totally different tack Dr Sarah Harrison presented a stimulating study on whether
closing schools is an effective way to contain outbreaks of infectious disease – concluding that it’s possible but difficult to say based on the results of her study. The penultimate presentation by Dr Arpana Verma was breathtaking in its simplicity and yet far reaching in its potential impact – on a study led by a medical student, Christopher Ward, in Manchester on respiratory etiquette. Apparently CDC has laid down the gold standard – coughing into your upper arm and then washing your hands. Respiratory etiquette was observed to be poor for most of those observed in this study, which may have implications for a potential influenza pandemic.
In between the sessions there was also time to view the poster display, and enjoy the social activities – a raucous and stimulating debate in the very impressive chamber at the Belfast City Hall, and a very good dinner followed by a fast and furious Celidh!