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Latest science informed by human rights to predominate at Union World Conference in The Hague

01 Jun 2018

At a meeting to assess the abstract submissions that inform the programme content for the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health, members of The Union’s Coordinating Committee of Scientific Activities (CCSA) shared their views on the importance of the upcoming conference and what excited them from the range of submissions.

This year’s conference is Keren Middelkoop’s first as the CCSA Chair. She says, “The 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health convenes the world’s experts to advance knowledge on issues related to lung health. According to the World Health Organization, 40 million people needed TB treatment last year while tobacco kills more than seven million people per year. These are just a few statistics that underscore the importance of this conference.

“We had a record-setting number of submissions this year. Over the last three days, the CCSA has worked hard and collaboratively to build a strong scientific programme that spans the full spectrum of lung health. We anticipate the research findings and experiences shared at this year’s conference will equip global partners for optimal collaboration among scientific, public health, advocates and affected communities to fight TB, and other lung diseases effectively.”

Overall, the conference received 2,127 abstracts and 181 session submissions on a broad scope of lung health topics, including air pollution, the epidemic of tobacco industry interference, TB and its co-infections, antimicrobial resistance and the consequences of global urbanisation contributing to increasing rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma around the world.

Dr Paula Fujiwara, The Union’s Scientific Director, is encouraged by the numbers of submissions and also the quality and range. “What is fantastic is that the number of abstract submissions has been increasing every year, which shows elevated interest around TB and lung health issues. This year we’re trying an experiment – it’s called TBScience2018 where, for a day and a half in advance of the world conference, we’re bringing together some of the basic scientific elements, including vaccines and diagnostics, in order to galvanise momentum and have the translation of that basic science into our main programme.”

It looks set to be a conference of ‘firsts’. As well as TBScience2018, the conference will also see the first ever dedicated tracks on Europe and air pollution. Says Sarwat Shah, Programme Secretary, “This week, I’ve seen some excellent submissions on how we measure indoor and outdoor air pollution and there is real innovation in the methodologies around this. Making an impact on pollution would be so game-changing and the conference potentially is at the forefront of that. We also have submissions on how the association of pollutants lead to respiratory diseases. It is this excellent content that is going to really inform, educate and inspire the conference experience.”

The Union World Conference takes place in The Hague, city of peace and justice with a strong tradition of human rights. The conference theme, Declaring Our Rights: Social and Political Solutions, underlines the commitment that all people everywhere have the right to prevention, treatment and care.

Ingrid Schoeman is a civil society representative on The Union’s Board and strongly believes in the right to health. “I think the Union World Conference contributes to bringing people together. Of course, there is the research and the science which is so valuable to how policy is formed and how politicians make decisions but, for me, I like that The Union prioritises civil society and that TB-affected communities are also represented.

“My passion is that I want people who are suffering, who are sick, to get help. And I think that’s the same aim of the researchers and scientists, to be honest – they also want to help communities. Having TB survivors or people affected by any lung health condition, to share their experiences and stories, reminds all of us that this is about people who do not normally have a voice, who are just trying to get through their day, while they are sick, they are lonely, and they may be depressed. Fundamentally, the science is a stepping stone to reaching those people, hearing them and helping them.”

Registration for the Union World Conference is open.

The CCSA coordinates the development of the scientific programme of the Union World Conference and oversees approval of official statements and other policy-related decisions. Find out more information here.

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