From the CEO's desk: South Asia, Family Doctor Day and more

Hello again. This month I want to look back on the wonderful South Asia Region conference and look forward to World Family Doctor Day in May.

WONCA South Asia Region Conference

This year’s WONCA SAR conference took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 13th and 14th February, with pre-conferences on 11th and 12th. Hosted by the College of GPs of Sri Lanka (CGPSL) this was the first time since 2005 that the conference had been held in Sri Lanka, and right from the outset everyone was amazed by the very genuine warmth and friendliness of the event.

The opening ceremony took place on the evening of Friday 12th, with much Sri Lankan ceremony and music and dance – and a guest lecture by our President, Michael Kidd - followed by a splendid cultural event. Saturday opened with three plenary sessions. Amanda Howe spoke on “Towards Universal Health Coverage – ensuring the centrality of primary health care”. Preethi Wijegoonewardene then spoke on “PHC development in a health system with a vision on the Sustainable Development Goals” and this was followed by Val Wass on “Transforming education to deliver our aspirations in PHC for the 21st century”.

Four parallel sessions then opened up, each with a varied and interesting programme of lectures and symposia. Of particular note was a symposium coordinated by Professor Chris van Weel, entitled “Primary Care policy implementation for Universal Health Coverage”. A joint event with WHO SEARO, this symposium featured presentations from colleagues from each of five countries in the region (Bangladesh; India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) comparing and contrasting their health systems and indices. It’s probably the first time that such a symposium has been held at a WONCA regional conference, and Chris hopes to publish the findings in due course.

Saturday night saw a wonderful conference banquet, and then on Sunday there was a further excellent mix of plenaries and symposia and lectures. Sunday also saw the launch of WoRSA – the WONCA Rural South Asia Working Group, led by young family doctor Pratyush Kumar of India. Pratush and the launch is featured elsewhere in this edition of the news, so you can read more on the state of rural practice in the region. News item on WoRSA

Huge thanks to everyone involved in this conference, but most especially Antoinette Perera, President of CGPSL, Preethi Wijegoonewardene, Chair of the HOC, and Shyamale Samaranayaka, Chair of the Scientific Committee. Their months of hard work culminated in a really successful event and we are most grateful to them. Hopefully it won’t be another 11 years before we return to lovely Sri Lanka.

World Family Doctor Day – 19th May

World Family Doctor Day (FDD) – 19th May - was first declared by WONCA in 2010 and it has become a day to highlight the role and contribution of family doctors in health care systems around the world. The event has gained momentum globally each year and it is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the central role of our specialty in the delivery of personal, comprehensive and continuing health care for all of our patients. It’s also a chance to celebrate the progress being made in family medicine and the special contributions of family doctors all around the world.

Last year many of our colleagues across the globe celebrated the day by organising a variety of events and activities, and we received reports and photographs from many countries, which we were able to feature in WONCA News. Karen Flegg, the WONCA Editor, has even produced a template for countries and College and societies and associations, to aid reporting: submit report here

We’re very happy for Member Organizations to develop their own theme for FDD, depending on local priorities, but this year we’d especially like to highlight smoking cessation. Smoking is the activity most damaging to health in a whole range of ways, and part of our role as family doctors is to be able to encourage our patients to stop smoking and to provide resources and support to help them. We’re making a number of resources available to our members for them to use during FDD:

- FDD logo and posters are available via the WONCA website

- Our colleagues in the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) have very kindly allowed us to access their smoking cessation tools. These can be accessed here and all we ask is that you acknowledge AAFP as the source of the materials.

- IPCRG (the International Primary Care Respiratory Group) also produce a number of helpful resources for family doctors available here, including a very useful desktop helper: “Helping patients quit smoking: brief interventions for healthcare professionals

We look forward to getting reports from Member Organizations in due course with news and photos of the events held, and many of these will be featured in future editions of WONCA News.

Next month
March sees the WONCA Eastern Mediterranean Region conference in Dubai from 17th to 19th March, and then your WONCA Executive will have a very busy two-day meeting in Abu Dhabi on 20th and 21st March. Next month I’ll report back on both of these activities. Our best wishes until then.

Dr Garth Manning
CEO