AHLA Conference Summary and Plan for Success
Report by Allegra Kurtz-Rossi
27 December 2019
The following is a brief summary of the 7th
International Health Literacy Conference organized by the Asian Health Literacy Association (AHLA) and includes suggestions to help AHLA plan for success at future conferences.
The 7th International Health Literacy Conference took place 10 - 12 November 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The theme of this year’s conference was “Health Literacy in Smart Universal Healthcare.” It was a great success to have Thu Duc Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam host and organize the conference. Participants came from around the world to discuss and explore current research and trends in health literacy. By creating this annual platform for people from all over the world to come together and share their work and ideas, the Asian Health Literacy Association (AHLA) gives participants the tools they need to improve health literacy in their countries and communities.
The conference opened with a Vietnamese cultural performance followed by opening remarks by Prof. Tran Thi Trung Chien, Dr. Nguyen Minh Quan, Prof. Peter Chen, Dr. Kristine Sorensen, Prof. Stephan Van de Brouke, and Dr. Yuan-Kun Tu. The scientific program on the first day of the conference included over 60 health literacy papers by researchers from more than 20 countries. Topics included health literacy and aging, health literacy in media and health literacy and non-communicable diseases to name just areas of focus. AHLA is proud to be an international organization where students, professors, and medical professionals come together to learn from one another.
Research and practice topics covered on day two included health literacy in health promotion, integrated care in hospitals, translational research in maternal child health, and initiatives on WHO M-POL and beyond. The conference concluded with an International Health Literacy (IHLA) Open Forum and invitation for participants to join IHLA interest groups and the first Global Health Literacy Summit 26 - 28 October 2020 in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan hosted by E-DA Healthcare Group | I-Shou University.
The conference ran smoothly and was very well received by participants. The following suggestions to help AHLA plan for success at future conferences are based on my personal experience as a conference participant and conference staff person and are meant to help conference organizers plan for success at future AHLA conferences.
- I was asked to conduct interviews of researchers at the conference. I worked with the event camera crew to do this. They were professional and very helpful. One challenge was their availability, since they were also recording and taking pictures for the conference. I would suggest in the future to have a quiet room dedicated for these interviews. Also, recording the interviews in front of a nice background such as a poster promoting the conference could help frame the shots. Having a designated time period to do all the interviews would also be helpful. Another suggestion is to have guests read from note cards during the interview. This would help people who get nervous in front of the camera. People also had trouble looking at and talking directly to the camera. Having note cards to glance at, possibly held up next to the camera, would help them look at the camera. I believe talking directly to the camera is best for the quality of the video clips.
- The International Health Literacy Association had a booth at the event where there was a sign-up sheet for their emailing list. Some people left their names on the sheet along with contact information. I believe with a more concerted effort to collect contact information we could get many more people to sign up. Perhaps when people register for the conference, they could also sign up to receive information from IHLA.
- I believe the open forum went well. Having it at the end of the conference as a plenary was excellent to get the most people. I would suggest having a designated note taker for such forums. Many people spoke and had suggestions and it would be helpful if they were recorded and followed up on.
- Having someone write like a reporter about all the major events that took place at the conference is a good idea. I did a bit of this as one of my assignments. Each write up also included photos. This approach worked well. I was able to take notes at some of these events and the mini article or blog posts developed can be used in many ways like on the website, in newsletters, or for social media. The text is short and to the point and the photos complement and capture the event visually. Some of the major events included the press conference, opening event, keynote speakers, even events like the city tour provided content for communication related activities.
- A highlight of the conference was the venue and local foods served during the day. The break times were needed and really appreciated. Conference attendees are there to work as well as experience the local culture. The opening ceremony was well done and a real highlight, as was the city tour which gave participants an opportunity to see the local area and get to know each other. This was all coordinated by the local secretariat. The local host did a great job of coordinating the event. Having a well-organized secretariat for the conference is important. How well the venue is going to run depends on the host. They organized registration which went smoothly and is very important to participants. They organized the venue, the food, even bathroom signs where helpful. They decided on what rooms everyone would be in, the catering, and all the registration activities. They did an excellent job and could perhaps write up what they did to give guidance to the next conference coordinators.