Europe network IPCRG working locally, collaborating globally

The International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) 6th world conference, was held in Edinburgh, April 2012. The conference attracted over 1000 delegates from 40 countries. There was a real sense of camaraderie, sharing and learning. In comparison to the 5th world conference in Toronto, we were able to showcase significantly more primary care research; 50 more abstracts were received getting to final number of 230. The sessions covered very different angles about respiratory diseases and they were a tremendous success, attracting audiences spilling out of the doors.

One of our great opportunities was to present the work that is being done in many parts of the world in different conditions with variable resources. One of the key issues of discussion during the conference was the non-communicable disease epidemic in low and middle income countries and our response to it. It was clear that more needs to be done to convince governments of the value of primary care. We need to explain its advantages: how much is and can be done in primary care (however it is defined and structured locally) to diagnose, treat and manage chronic lung disease and to contrast this with a trend in favor of expenditure on specialists. This was captured powerfully in the opening talk, by Michael Kidd (WONCA President-elect) and in the closing talk by Iona Heath (president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, UK). Therefore the IPCRG will continue to lobby for more investment in primary care and in more pragmatic research with people reflecting real life primary care populations and with a sufficiently long time horizon. We will also make the point that asthma is a non-communicable disease and should be included in all national plans, not just COPD.

We are proud that there were a number of “firsts” during the conference. These included live webcasts of sessions in Spanish, to colleagues in meetings in two locations in Chile, one in Argentina and to individuals in Spain. We also broadcast to a meeting of GPs and allied health professionals in Kolkata, India. Webcast sessions are available online.

We launched our new web environment during the conference, running workshops to explain how to use it to best effect to share contacts, knowledge and information. It is much more interactive than our previous website and offers you all the chance to customise the pages you view, and to contribute to them. Do sign in and have a go, and connect with your colleagues.

We celebrated the outcomes of the first rounds of our E-Faculty programme, resulting in papers and presentations from colleagues in Vietnam and Romania. In addition, as a result of a two-stage bidding process involving bids from Singapore, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, we would like to congratulate our colleagues in Chile who will be the next recipients of the E-Faculty programme. This offers a teaching and mentoring programme based on local needs, to initiate primary care respiratory research in a new country. Our ambition is to support them to present their findings at the 7th world conference in Athens, 2014 (21-24 May).

We launched our Desktop Helper in Difficult to manage asthma at Edinburgh and it has been very well received. We are able to support translations/transpositions to different countries and languages. We also launched a new desktop helper on gender difference. We are also working closely with the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) to ensure not only is our guidance practical, but also patient-centred.

When The IPCRG represents a very small, but influential part of the primary care global community; many of our global community of practice are the innovators, early adopters, and teachers. However, we will only make a difference if we stay connected to all the primary care community, which does not have a special interest in respiratory disease. Therefore we are pleased to report on the growing strength of our links with WONCA Europe, and with GPs and primary care around the world. It means that a conservative estimate of our reach is that we reach more than one hundred thousand primary care professionals worldwide through our network of full country members (welcome to Chile!) and 27 associate members.

We will run four workshops at WONCA Europe Conference this summer in Vienna about many different issues: common allergic respiratory conditions, early detection and management of COPD, smoking cessation, and asthma control and severity.

For more information about IPCRG activities, download a copy of our annual report

Siân Williams and Miguel Román