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Congress of global health leaders to focus on strengthening public health responses and empowering communities

Introduction by Croakey: World leaders have been urged to put health at the centre of responses to concurrent global crises including COVID, climate disruption, loss of biodiversity, geopolitical instability and economic pressures, as reported recently at Croakey in covering the latest annual report from The Lancet Countdown series.

“With the world in turmoil, putting human health at the centre of an aligned response to these concurrent crises could represent the last hope of securing a healthier, safer future for all,” the report’s authors said.

A world in turmoil is also the theme of the next World Congress on Public Health, write authors from the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), whose article below launches a #WorldInTurmoil series, published in collaboration between Croakey and the WFPHA in the lead up to the Congress.


Ibrahim Abdallah and María Rojas Reyes write:

Our world is at a pivotal point in history. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened already-existing inequities, and made us aware of the dangers of unsustainable forms of production and consumption. It has caused sorrow and upheaval in people’s lives. It is not only a health emergency, but also a problem that affects the economy and society.

At the same time as experiencing pandemic disruption, the world has become even more unstable due to global conflicts, including those in Ethiopia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Syria, to name a few.

The consequences of the pandemic and the war have undermined the world’s focus on addressing climate change, which has increased the frequency and severity of environmental disasters. Around the world, millions of people are experiencing wide-ranging consequences of climate disruption, from floods to famine, from conflict to cost-of-living pressures.

For these reasons, organisers of the 17th World Congress on Public Health (WCPH), to be held in Rome next May, have chosen as the Congress theme, ‘A World in Turmoil: Opportunities to Focus on the Public’s Health’.

The theme underlines our commitment, as a global health community, to collaborate within and outside our specialised disciplines to advance health equity and create a more equitable and sustainable future. It highlights the need to promote and defend public health worldwide, to support the professionalisation of the world public health workforce.

On a historic day, more than 3,000 public health professionals, researchers, policymakers, and students will all gather during Congress. It will be hosted by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), in collaboration with the Italian Society of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Public Health (SItI) and the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER).

The event will take place from May 2-6. The main topic is of critical importance: how to improve our public health communication, focus, strength, policies, strategies, and systems all over the world.

COVID reflections

More than two years have passed since the first cases of the COVID-19, and yet, the situation remains critical: governments worldwide are still not providing the necessary needs to mitigate the pandemic’s consequences.

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact populations, especially those living in poverty, the elderly, people with disabilities, children, and Indigenous peoples. Those who do not have the means cannot have safe shelter and are highly exposed to dangers of the virus.

The World Health Organization has received reports of 614,385,693 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,522,600 deaths (although this is likely to be an under-estimate of the true toll). A total of 12,677,499,928 doses have been given as of September 28, 2022, meaning there is still more work to be done.

Small developing countries do not have the vital means, resources, and knowledge to cope with these escalating public health crises. They affect people’s daily lives, health, endangered species, the food system, and the whole ecosystem.

Indeed, the world in which we live is unstable. More than ever, these crises offer a chance to reflect on the impact they have on society, the challenges they bring and how we can face them.

The Congress could provide an opportunity to promote improved social protection systems, advance universal healthcare, and prepare for challenges posed by pandemics or other significant problems, such as: lack of vaccines, medical equipment or expertise and government support, to name a few. It represents an opportunity to cooperate to end exploitation and establish a harmonious and healthy relationship between nature and humanity before it is too late.

Therefore, we must come together to promote and innovate ideas to fight against those odds and to live a better sustainable, healthy future for all people of this planet.

During the 17th World Congress on Public Health, there will be programs, such as the World Leadership Dialogues (WLD), which are crucial discussions with high-level public health professionals meant to complement the subjects of the plenary sessions. The goal is to offer in-depth viewpoints on significant issues incorporated into public health strategic plans, strategies, and budgets.

The plenary sessions are events that everyone can attend and where delegates and other professionals give speeches about different objectives and missions that need to be set and launched in the public health sector. Planetary health and public health, as well as mental health and social wellbeing are some of the subjects and themes that will be examined during these sessions.

The World Congress on Public Health provides a fantastic opportunity to learn from the most recent research and practice, network with professionals and peers, and broaden your professional horizons.

Abstracts in all public health research, education, practice, and policy fields can be submitted for workshops and solo presentations. Here are some examples of abstract topics aligned with the WCPH2023 International Congress Council themes: climate change, environmental and urban health, digital health, health information and AI, public health communication, Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs) and Vaccine Confidence.

The deadline for submissions is December 9, 2022, at 23:59 (CET), no abstracts will be accepted afterwards. The abstracts can only be submitted via the online Abstract Submission Platform. Instructions on submitting the work will be posted on the WCPH2023 website.

The 55th national congress of the Italian Society of Hygiene (SItI) will occur concurrently with the WCPH. The International Students’ Meeting on Public Health (ISMOPH) is a side event of the World Congress on Public Health where students and young professionals have the chance to participate in several sessions and present their viewpoints on global public health concerns.

The purpose of ISMOPH is to offer a forum for knowledge exchange, network building, and give the younger generation a place to make their voices heard. ISMOPH will be held in conjunction with the World Congress and will be free of charge to all students and young professionals in attendance.

The 17th World Congress on Public Health’s three organising partners formed the Congress Management Committee (CMC), which comprises WFPHA, SItI, ASPHER, and PCO officials. The CMC is entirely in charge of managing Congress’s finances and operations.

During the Congress, we will have the chance to encourage cooperation and co-creation of a vision based on our professional expertise and understanding of the communities we serve. Any effort to advance, secure, and nurture a world needing healing and protection will center on communities’ empowerment and improving our ability to respond to public health crises.

Ibrahim Abdallah is a last year student in bachelor science of biology at the University of Ottawa. Currently, he is doing an internship at the WFPHA with the Communications Team.
María Rojas is Communications Officer at the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA). 


Bookmark this link to follow the series that will be contributed by the WFPHA in the lead up to the 17th World Congress on Public Health. Follow #WorldinTurmoil across social media platforms.

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