Throughout the Congress, a colourful display of the Sustainable Development Goals on the main stage reminded participants of the centrality of these goals to much of the Congress discussions.
The Congress coincided with several notable events, including World Day for Physical Activity, World Health Day (with a focus on depression), and the 50th anniversary of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. The Congress also provided a great opportunity to celebrate VicHealth’s 30th anniversary with a number of our key local and international stakeholders.
Other key events included the launch of VicHealth Sustainable Development Goals Partnership Grant Round, providing grants to build collaborative research partnerships, and the launch of a partnership between the Global Health Alliance Melbourne and the Victorian Government to map the global health investment and trade opportunities and related expertise located in Melbourne.
Also during the Congress, the World Federation of Public Health Associations formed an Indigenous Working Group. The leadership of Indigenous health advocates and communities was prominent during the event.
VicHealth encouraged delegates to download the Melbourne Health History Walks app, launched at the start of the Congress. The app gets users active with a walking tour of the city, showcasing important health promotion and public health initiatives along the way.
Mr Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Health Association of Australia and President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, told participants that while great gains have been made in public health over the past 50 years, much remains to be done.
He stressed the importance of young people being empowered into leadership roles for tackling the profound challenges that will have such a bearing on their lives.
Climate change and inequality were consistently highlighted throughout the Congress as interconnected threats to planetary and public health requiring urgent action.
Other critical concerns included the normalisation of unhealthy environments and unhealthy industries and marketing, violence against women, racism, human rights abuses, antimicrobial resistance, conflict and warfare, the traumas facing refugees, and the rise of disinformation.
The political and economic power of harmful industries, including the fossil fuels, tobacco, alcohol, food and gambling industries, and the relative dis-empowerment of communities, civil society and the public health sector were also highlighted.
In her Welcome to Country, Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Joy Murphy reminded Congress delegates of the ongoing harmful impacts of colonisation for Indigenous peoples, and this theme also emerged in many presentations.
In a sign of the transformative potential of social media, conference participants were active on Twitter, and the Congress hashtag, #wcph2017, trended nationally for much of the week.
More than 6000 participants shared the Congress news on Twitter, making more than 110 million Twitter impressions for the Congress hashtag, and creating a rich archive that can be freely accessed from the Symplur platform (see links below or Google “Symplur” and “#wcph2017”).
The Congress provided a powerful example of how Twitter can be a useful platform for public health news, engagement, advocacy and connections.