Under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Muna Al Hussein, the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) concluded its Seventh Regional Conference on the evening of November 18, 2021. Hosted at the Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan, the five-day event brought together public health professionals from the region and beyond. Participants included key decision-makers, field epidemiologists, public health professionals, and speakers from key organizations, including but not limited to ; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Eastern Mediterranean Region’s (EMR) ministries of health, and the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), amongst other concerned entities.
To accommodate the most significant number of interested participants and attendees possible, EMPHNET conducted this conference using the hybrid approach whereby sessions were conducted in Amman at the Landmark Hotel. Yet, they were also accessible for interested participants wishing to attend the conference online. This edition of EMPHNET’s biannual conferences was also the first to be conducted after the challenges of mobility brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adopting the theme “Towards Public Health Resilience in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: Breaking Barriers,” the conference offered a space for public health professionals to exchange ideas, experiences, achievements, and lessons learned from COVID-19 and other public health threats affecting the region. It also offered the ideal platform for participants to discuss ways to achieve public health resilience for the EMR and break existing barriers hindering public health practice. Providing such spaces for the exchange of experience, knowledge, and outlooks proves to be especially important for the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), a region already affected by ongoing socio-political and economic unrest.
The conference saw a total of 256 abstracts from 25 countries submitted, out of which 113 were accepted for oral and poster presentations. This number translates to an acceptance rate of 44%. Accepted abstracts covered a wide range of topics including COVID-19 response, Surveillance, Maternal and Child Health, Vector-Borne Diseases, Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, Zoonotic Diseases, Non-communicable Diseases, and others. The presentations given at the conference highlighted the work, contribution, and achievements of FETP residents and graduates as well as public health professionals from the region and beyond.
In total, 240 persons participated in six pre-conference workshops onsite, while more than 450 participated in these workshops virtually. More than 400 participants attended the opening ceremony, and more than 320 persons attended other conference sessions onsite. More than 500 attended these sessions virtually, while the conference agenda also comprised ten roundtable discussions, six keynote speakers, and countless opportunities for networking and discussions.
From another angle, this edition of EMPHNET’s biannual conferences happened to coincide with the passing of one decade on EMPHNET’s establishment. EMPHNET establishment is a milestone that attests to the achievements made across the region’s public health network. The decade has witnessed significant growth in the number of FETPs established in the region, growth in partnership, the growth in areas of work, and public health capacities built.
Commenting on this occasion, EMPHNET’s Executive Director, Dr. Mohannad Al Nsour said “We are committed to hosting conferences and other opportunities that allow for the healthy exchange of experiences amongst public health experts, as we believe that discourse will positively impact public health practice in our region and beyond. We also see such platforms as a fitting means to showcase the well-grounded work of field epidemiologists and public health professionals in the region. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year and a half, the role of field epidemiologists has been further amplified, and it increased insignificance. However, this is not to say that the pandemic is the only health challenge faced in the region. Therefore, we hope that this event offers a multitude of opportunities for people to engage in fruitful discussions that may lead to solutions towards achieving public health resilience for our region and our communities.”
Dr. Al Nsour further added that the partnerships that EMPHNET formed over the years had been a driving force towards achieving better public health for the people of the EMR. He also stated that EMPHNET values the partnerships it forms and that it is committed to supporting FETP residents and graduates and ministries of health across the region in the long run.
From his end, the Chairperson of the Seventh EMPHNET Regional Conference Scientific Committee Dr Yousef Khader said, “Together the conference sessions created a space for rich discussions amongst residents, graduates, and experts, each adding knowledge from his or her respective field. We hope that this bi-annual platform presents the first step taken towards building on all the ideas shared over its five days. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate all the keynote speakers, speakers, and moderators in abstracts sessions and roundtables, and presenters who shared their work over the past, whether onsite or online. The level of work presented was very impressive and spectacular. It is indeed a source of pride for us at the regional and even global levels. I also would like to thank the steering, scientific, and organizing committees for their valuable efforts in preparation for this huge conference.”
The Seventh EMPHNET Regional Conference is only one of many channels EMPHNET fosters to increase communication and knowledge exchange amongst public health professionals. This event falls in line with the organization’s ongoing commitment to enhance public health practice for the communities of this region and beyond.