World Health Summit 2012, Berlin

by: Mei Ling Aw

This year, the World Health Summit was held in the third week of October at The Charité, Universitätsmedizin in Berlin. The Charité shared the presidency of the Summit with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with the theme “Research for Health and Sustainable Development,” articulating the focus on non-communicable diseases and worldwide health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and mental illness. The World Health Summit brought together researchers, physicians, leading government officials and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address urgent issues facing medicine and health care systems, as well as promoting sustainability and social responsibility.
There were five Program Tracks with four symposia/workshops held simultaneously:

  •  Diseases of Modern Environments
  •  Translating Research into Policy
  •  Health and Economy
  •  Educating Health Professionals
  •  Information Technology for Health

Universal Access to healthcare was an important overall theme at the Summit. I attended a mixture of symposia/workshops, running the gamut from “Public Health Research in the Post-genomic Era” to “Obesity” to “Behavioral Economics”. Pressing issues in low income countries (LICs) such as the accessibility of vaccines, and the top three concerns in the developing world -Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV – were frequent discussion topics, and the exchange of ideas with fellow health professionals was a great experience.

The highlight of the Summit, however, was the opportunity to meet the Chemistry Nobel prize laureate (2003) Prof. Peter Agre. Now Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute in Baltimore, this truly inspiring individual was awarded the Nobel prize (shared with Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller University) for his work on aquaporins, a family of water channel proteins found throughout nature and responsible for numerous physiological processes in humans, and which have been implicated in multiple clinical disorders such as brain oedema, cataracts, and obesity. We chatted and swapped Chemistry anecdotes, and he said, “You and your generation will soon be running the show, and I am confident in our future.”

Fellow MPP students, let’s prove him right, shall we?