By Brian Wong, MSc Epidemiology alumnus, Co-Founder & Co-Director LonWHO 2017
Great learning experience, good networking opportunity and a fun way of understanding and enacting health policy to a greater depth! – delegate
On 20-22nd October, international delegates gathered at Keppel Street for the inaugural London Model WHO Simulation 2017 (LonWHO). Whilst our cohort brought together students and professionals alike, hailing from multiple disciplines, they were united by a budding interest in or longstanding passion for policy and public health. Having met through the international Model WHO community in 2015, Co-Founders Brian Wong (MSc Epidemiology Class of 2017) and Claire Brash (Imperial College London School of Medicine), realised the benefits that Model WHO brings for global public health education and career development. Through the support of Professor Peter Piot (LSHTM Director) and Nicola Quilter (LSHTM Events), their dream of bringing Model WHO to London became a reality.
Model WHO conferences are educational simulations in which participants recreate the process of the annual World Health Assembly. The focus of each conference lies in addressing a specific global health issue at the local, national and international levels, with delegates taking on this task from the perspective of their chosen role. As roles include not just WHO Ambassadors but Media, Non-Governmental Organisation or Pharmaceutical Representatives, the delegates are challenged to defend and debate their individual priorities and work in collaboration with lobbying forces. Over the course of the conference, participants work within Regional Blocs, Media Press Conferences and Plenary Sessions to draft final resolutions, which represent their collective solutions to the theme of the Simulation.
I believe this was a great exposure and experience – many would benefit and be motivated by it – delegate
The inaugural LonWHO focused on the theme of Global Mental Health; a vital and urgent international problem, with huge economic and cultural implications. Whilst the burden of mental illness crosses all age parameters, from child and adolescent care, through general adult interventions, to old age psychiatry, it often fails to receive parity of esteem with the burden of physical health issues. Worldwide, there are additional problems to be solved in the care of vulnerable populations, relevance of gender to mental illness, and the provision of psychological support after emergencies, all of which are further compounded by poor access. In order to achieve true sustainable development, the LonWHO Secretariat believes we must focus political and diplomatic energy on finding innovative solutions within this field. As such, our conference aimed to inspire delegates to unite the biological, psychological and social approaches to health in writing policy proposals and we hope that the resolutions we have created during the simulation reflect a pragmatic approach to global mental health promotion that will be applied in their future careers.
This has further reinforced my career plans to work in global health – delegate
Training sessions in United Nations and WHO Structure led by the LonWHO 2017 Secretariat, and opening keynotes given by Alex Cohen and Dorcas Gwata
In addition to engaging in stimulating debate and undergoing the health policy-making process, delegates also had the opportunity to hear from leading researchers, including Professor Alex Cohen (Programme Director, MSc Global Mental Health) and Dorcas Gwata (Alumna, MSc Public Health), who shared insights on the challenges and future of Global Mental Health as well as their experiences from working in the field.
I want to retire from Global Mental Health knowing that it is safe in your hands; there is work to be done – Dorcas Gwata
Our interdisciplinary network of delegates represent the future generation of global health policy and as such, we hope that the current leaders of this field recognise the value of listening to the voices of the youth on such a pressing issue as Global Mental Health. Throughout the three days of LonWHO 2017, delegates have crafted policy documents which we believe meet the mandate of the World Health Organization to develop innovative, evidence-based policies that transcend national and cultural boundaries. Our solutions focused on: improving promotion and prevention of mental illnesses, increasing support for women and children, cultural sensitivity, and sustainable solutions for the future through task-shifting and health workforce mobilisation. We are excited to have shared our final resolution documents, as voted on by the delegates in Plenary, with members of the WHO Departments of Global Mental Health and Maternal, Newborn, Child, & Adolescent Health, in hopes that this sparks future collaboration.
It is critical that the global health community takes mental health more seriously and I am delighted to see LonWHO taking on this theme this year. This conference is a unique opportunity for the future generation to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes, to challenge personal viewpoints and, importantly, to develop essential skills in building alliances, making concessions where needed and fostering collaboration. This is how we make progress – Peter Piot (in letter to LonWHO 2017 delegates)
As delegates attended from as far afield as South Korea, and from backgrounds as diverse as Medicine, Journalism, Law and Social Sciences, we were thrilled to see this conference successfully nurtured the goals of each individual delegate whilst still uniting the cohort in stimulating debate. As 95% of delegates would recommend this event to their colleagues, we are excited to announce that this will become an annual event and welcome anyone interested in finding out more about being involved in future events to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for all of the guidance and continually supporting all delegates to participate. Honestly I cannot think of anything that wasn’t great. Just turn it into an annual event please! – delegate
The LonWHO Secretariat would like to once again thank the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine for their commitment to our vision and making all of this possible. Watch this space for future events – we look forward to seeing you at LonWHO 2018!