Rural Round Up: Delhi WONCA Rural conference report

Many have just returned from an extremely successful WONCA World Rural Health conference in Delhi. Report by Pratyush Kumar, HOC Chair and chair of the WONCA Rural South Asia group, WoRSA, and Raman Kumar, President of the Academy of Family Physicians of India. Photo above is of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice Council meeting.

The 15th WONCA World Rural Health conference was held in New Delhi from 26-29th April, 2018. Theme of this conference was “ Healing the Heart of Healthcare - Leaving No one behind”

More than a thousand delegates (1044) from 40 countries participated in the 15th WONCA world rural health conference held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi from 26-29th April, 2018. Theme of this conference was “Healing the Heart of Healthcare - Leaving No one behind”. The conference was organized by the Academy of Family Physicians of India in association with WoRSA - WONCA Rural South Asia. The conference aspired to bring rural healthcare on global agenda.
This was first ever World Rural Health Conference organized in South Asia, incidentally a quarter of human population, majority of which is based in rural habitat, lives in South Asia.

Inaugural ceremony:
The Honorable Vice President of India Mr M Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated the conference and highlighted the importance of family doctors and need to improve rural health care. He is also chairman of the upper house of the parliament, in his inaugural speech said “There is a need to promote the concept of family doctor in a big way. A family doctor provides primary and continued care to the entire family within the communities; addresses physical, psychological and social problems; and coordinates comprehensive healthcare services with other specialists, as needed, Family physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic and preventive medical care services. (more). Photo shows the lighting of the lamp

The Honorable Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, graced the occasion as guest of honor. The Mission Direction of the Indian National Health Mission (NHM), Mr Manoj Jhalani, delivered the inaugural keynote address. NHM, Government of India officially supported this event.

The conference was covered widely by the mainstream media. The inaugural ceremony was telecast live by the Rajya Sabha TV, the official TV channel of the Parliament of India.

Message from the Prime Minister of India:
The Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, sent a message to the conference participants and emphasized the importance of rural health. In his message he said “Rural healthcare is one key sector which our government has focused for holistic transformation to ensure the goal of ‘Healthcare for all’”. In India, the event turned out to be excellent platform for policy makers, rural practitioners, public health professional, medical students, healthcare teams and grassroots workers to discuss and deliberate upon the challenges of meeting the healthcare needs of rural population. Various state governments of India sent their representatives, officers and medical doctors for participating in this conference.

Conference headlights and scientific program:

Photo: Pratyush Kumar speaking

An extensive scientific program with 13 keynote speakers, 250 oral presentations 85 e-posters, 60 workshops, 26 Ideathon presentations, 20 panel discussions and 10 symposia spread over eight parallel meeting rooms ran over four days kept the delegates engaged though out. Prof John Wynn-Jones, Chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice, delivered the annual John MacLeod Oration. Rural health Ideathon with an interesting format attracted many medical students and the Indian Institute of Technology partnered for this segment.

Delegates and guests started arriving before the event. Many delegates took advantage of Pre and Post conference exchanges “Sojourn” and visited various parts of India and closely observed healthcare delivery in rural and remote areas. Rajasthan and Kerala state of India were popular destinations.

The WONCA Rural Council met on 25 April 2018 before the conference and was attended by WONCA rural executives and invited guests. The conference began on 26 April 2018 with rural health assembly which was well attended and appreciated for its wide range of interesting topics. Representatives of rural healthcare providers from various regions of the world presented their respective perspectives.

The Health Minister of Delhi, Mr Satendra Jain, graced the healthcare leadership award ceremony on 27 April 2018. Awards were presented to distinguished health care leaders (and well known RuralWONCA identities) for their exemplary service in rural areas.

Photo: Jo Scott-Jones of New Zealand receives his award.

FISFA: International Short Film and Arts Festival
(Report by Nishanth Menon) The inaugural edition of FISFA – International Short Film and Arts Festival held in association with the 15th World Rural Health Conference at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi saw a conglomeration of film/ media professionals, student/ amateur film makers and doctors/ medicos showcasing their films broadly themed on healthcare issues. As many as 76 short films on the broad theme of rural health, poverty, good health and wellbeing, nutrition, health education, gender equality, climate action, clean water and sanitation, mental health, human relationships, sexual health, mother and child health, digital health, adolescent health, peace, justice and health innovation were submitted through the website and 42 high quality films short listed by the committee were screened at the festival. The films were categorized as animations, documentaries, fictions, student films and experimental short films in 12 languages from United States, India, England, Portugal, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Australia and South Africa.

National Consultation of strengthening rural healthcare:
Niti Ayog – The policy commission the highest policy making body in India co-hosted a national consultation on strengthening rural healthcare in India, during this conference. Experts and officials from WHO India – SEARO Office, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Representatives of various state governments, functionaries of NGOs and development professionals participated in this consultation. Report and recommendations of the consultation are likely to be published soon.

Student participation, rural café and cultural events
Medical students participated in this conference in big way. The Medical Student Association of India (MSAI)/ IFMSA and JDN (Junior Doctor Network) of the Indian medical association not only actively participated by also took important roles in organizing this conference. Members of Rural Seeds organized a popular “rural café” (pictured below) during WRHC 2018 which was streamed live. The cultural events of WRHC 2018 truly captured the essence of India and helped delegates relax and enjoy Indian culture and cuisine. Students and artists from University of Delhi contributed to the cultural evening.

Delhi Declaration
During the closing ceremony, Delhi Declaration was adopted, which revisited the Alma Ata Declaration with the aim to achieve a highest possible level of health for the communities we serve, with the goal of “Health For All Rural People.”.

Delhi Declaration
This conference will be remembered for it participation by top policy makers, key stake holders, important health institutions, various medical universities, high turnout of medical students from all across world. Core rural health issues were well highlighted and correct message was sent across.

Thank you WONCA family:
WRHC 2018 was successfully conducted without any support or sponsorship from pharmaceutical industry, so we thank all particpants for their support. The conference organizers thank WONCA leadership for bringing this conference to India. We are grateful to Prof Amanda Howe President WONCA, Dr John Wynn-Jones, Dr Bruce Carter and the entire executive of WONCA Rural for their guidance and support. We are also thankful to Dr Garth Manning, WONCA CEO, and the WONCA Secretariat, for being present for entire duration and providing support to the conference.