15th World Congress on Public Health

With the theme of Voices, Vision, Action, the 15th World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne, Australia (3-7 April 2017) saw a week of influential speakers come together from around the world with addresses from government representatives and ministers, panel discussions and research presentations, just to name a few.

The congress charged the attendees with taking the next steps to promote health within their own settings and pull from previous charters, such as the Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion 1, to build upon for future directives. Guided by the underlying foundation set out by the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the plenary presenters highlighted targets to improve health, protect the planet, end poverty and ensure equality for all.

Prominent topics from the Congress included climate change, gender and racial equality, Indigenous health and social corporate responsibility. The theme of injury remained as a secondary cause of poor health and was addressed within individual streams of oral research presentations, such as drowning, road trauma, violence against women and children, falls, and communities and environments.

However, it was disappointing to see that injury prevention was not a prominent area of focus for this Congress. Injury accounts for 10% of the global burden of disease2 and is the fourth most common cause of death and hospitalisation in Western Australia3, therefore more action is needed to pull injury to the forefront. Injury prevention is inherently interconnected with the SDGs and is recognised as one of the nine Health Priority Areas by the Australian Government4 , highlighting that communities and governments should continue to work together to mitigate risks associated with  injury.

On my personal reflections on the Congress, from the sustainable development goals, to passionate speakers on climate change, to improving health within Indigenous populations, one key thought kept coming into my mind: Solidarity. As discussed by Dr Bettina Borisch from the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, solidarity is when ‘people can unite across our differences, not allowing themselves to be divided and conquered’. As health professionals, it is natural to become siloed within our professional focus, but as we all work to create a society where people live healthy and fulfilling lives, solidarity unites us to create a network that collaborates to take action. I found Dr Borisch’s call to solidarity really resonated with me and made me reflect on our current situation and to endeavour to work better in partnerships to promote health.

With the President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations Michael Moore stating ‘now is the time to take action’, take a moment to read, reflect and support The World Federation of Public Health Associations Demand for Action – Melbourne 2017 which can be found here.

Catrina Wold

Evidence and Practice Lead




1 World Health Organization. Ottawa Charter for Public Health [Internet]. World Health Organization; 1986. Available from:

2 Haagsma JA, Graetz N, Bolliger I, Naghavi M, Higashi H, Mullany EC, et al. The global burden of injury: incidence, mortality, disability-adjusted life years and time trends from the Global Burden of Disease study 2013. Injury Prevention. 2016 Feb;22(1):3–18.

3 Ballestas T, Xiao J, McEvoy S, Somerford P. The Epidemiology of Injury In Western Australia, 2000 – 2008. Perth: Department of Health WA; 2011.

4 Australian Institute of Health and Wellness. National Health Priority Areas [Internet]. AIHW; 2017. Available from: