From the CEO's desk: more on SIGs

March, 2017

Greetings again. I had reported that WONCA, at its October 2016 Council, had approved the formation of several new Special Interest Groups (SIGs) – in Non-Communicable Diseases; Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine; Men’s Health; Health Equity; Genetics; Emergency Medicine; Quaternary Prevention; and Workers’ Health. In last month’s article I featured four of these new SIGs and now am delighted to feature three more of these important groups.

As a reminder - WONCA is blessed with many Working Parties (WPs) and SIGs which work between world council meetings to progress specific areas of interest to WONCA and its members around the globe. These groups comprise hundreds of family doctors who meet at world conferences, sometimes more often, and in between they work by correspondence. Over the years they have carried out groundbreaking studies and research, and have produced a variety of important publications. These new SIGs thus add to WONCA’s portfolio of special groups which offer members a chance to collaborate with others with a shared interest, and with the aim of enhancing WONCA’s knowledge base and expertise.

SIG on Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine

The aims of the SIG on Conflict and Catastrophe medicine are to:

• Generate networks that help to develop the specialist medical, public health, leadership and managerial competencies required at the scenes of major man-made and natural disasters.
• Provide a wider appreciation of the opportunities and constraints associated with challenging operational environments, partnerships with international organisations, and varying degrees of host nation support.
• Provide an invaluable forum for an exchange of knowledge and information between member organisations’ GPs/FDs.
• Enable the global educational, research and service provision activities of military GPs/FDs to be represented before other world organisations and forums concerned with health and medical care.
• Engender symbiotic support for the extant WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice, as both groups of colleagues sometimes face similar clinical challenges.
• Encourage international military, conflict and catastrophe primary care research, promote the role of the military GPs/FDs, facilitate education and help to develop effective international military working relationships at all levels.

Convenor is Professor Rich Withnall (UK) – [email protected]

SIG conflict & catastrophe webpage

SIG on Emergency Medicine

Emergency medicine/urgent care is an important domain of care within the scope of family medicine and general practice. Many family doctors practice in an emergency medicine/urgent care setting. In the 2015 membership census at the American Academy of Family Physicians, nearly 25% of members describe urgent care or emergency medicine as part of their scope of practice. In Canada, there are over 3000 family doctors who hold a certificate of special competency in emergency medicine. In addition, there are several thousands more family doctors who provide emergency medicine as part of a comprehensive continuing practice.

In many low middle income countries (LMIC), it is primarily the general practitioners who provide acute medical care to patients in the rural community health centres and larger regional centres. The disease states encountered in both an urgent care and emergency medicine setting are very much within the scope of family medicine. The goal of family medicine is not to train emergency medicine specialists, but rather to ensure the scope of practice of family medicine remains being able to care for all patient populations in varied settings including urgent/emergency care in a competent and compassionate manner.

Convenor is Dr Victor Ng (Canada) – [email protected]

SIG Emergency Medicine webpage

SIG on Workers’ Health

Health and work are intimately linked, as formulated in the WONCA - ICOH Statement (Lisbon, 2014; see below). Poor health, injuries and disabilities prevent many from working at full capacity or from working at all. Having no work is a risk in itself for health and wellbeing, for not having an income, poverty for the family, a less purposeful life, and social isolation.

WONCA, ICOH (International Commission on Occupational Health), WHO and others recognize that basic elements of workers’ health care, including preventive services, is or could be provided in primary care settings. 70-80% of the global population is covered by primary health care, while only 10-15% of the global workforce is covered by expert-based occupational health services. Workers trust their primary care providers, who are usually based close to where people live or work. The challenge is to provide basic forms of occupational health care in primary care, in collaboration with expert-based occupational health services or with new forms of support by occupational health experts, online information and referral facilities in hospitals.

The mission of this newest WONCA SIG is to identify collaborative ventures regarding gaps in services, education, research and policies for the health and safety of workers and to better integrate occupational health in PHC settings.

WONCA / ICOH Pledge on Workers' Health

The World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) and the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) pledge to work with our partner organizations (including WHO and ILO) to address the gaps in services, research, and policies for the health and safety of workers and to better integrate occupational health in the primary care setting, to the benefit of all workers and their families.

Convenor is Dr Ezequiel Lopez (Argentina) – [email protected]

SIG Workers' Health webpage

Full details of all WONCA WPs and SIGs can be found via the WONCA website.

Finally, your WONCA Executive has met virtually several times since Rio de Janeiro, in regular teleconferences. However, it will have its first full face-to-face meeting in London on 1st and 2nd April. There is a very full agenda, and I hope to report back next month on the many issues under discussion.

Until next month

Garth Manning