Welsh Branch

Welsh Branch Bursary - Conference Review

Public Health Science 2016: A National Conference Dedicated to New Research in UK Public Health - Conference Review

Gareth Richards, Ph.D.1, 2

1 Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge

2 Centre for Occupational & Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University

E-mail address: [email protected]

The Public Health Science Conference is organised by The Lancet, and in its fifth year was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cardiff.  The day began with Richard Horton’s introduction, in which he explained how the conference intended to showcase UK-based public health research.  Richard also took the opportunity to introduce a new journal, The Lancet Public Health, the inaugural issue of which was provided to all conference delegates.  Rob Aldridge followed this, and explained that a further purpose of the conference was to bring together early career researchers working in public health with those who are already more established.

Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, gave the first keynote talk, which addressed the challenges for public health research from a Welsh perspective.  Ronan Lyons, Clinical Professor of Public Health, Swansea University Medical School, then gave the second keynote talk, which discussed data linkage, and how it may expand the possibilities of the research we conduct.  Although the overall standard of talks given was excellent, I have chosen to highlight one from each session that sparked particular interest[1].  As part of the ‘Creativity and Innovation in Public Health Science’ session, Prianka Padmanathan, discussed the role of Internet use in suicide and self-harm.  This talk produced a considerable amount of discussion and debate about how to effectively reduce such risks in the digital age.  Adam Briggs’ talk in the ‘New Methodological Approaches to Public Health Science’ session was also a highlight.  Adam presented a risk assessment of the proposed UK sugary drinks tax, and how such policy change may affect our health.  He also went on to win the prize for best talk by an early career researcher.  A particularly interesting presentation from the final session of the day, ‘Implementing Public Health Science in Policy and Practice’, came from Matthew Hickman, who discussed how opioid substitution treatment at prison release may lower the risk of mortality, and particularly so during the first month after release.

The conference programme shows that there were 98 abstracts accepted for poster presentations, which together covered a diverse range of topics, such as ageing, alcohol, ethnicity and migration, smoking, and mental health.  My poster, along with four others, was placed within a theme addressing ‘Obesity, Diet, Physical Activity and Other Behavioural Interventions’.  Given that a major public health concern is that of reducing obesity, Jenna Panter gave a presentation of particular current relevance.  Jenna discussed the findings of a systematic review of concepts and mechanisms that may link environmental changes with changes in physical activity.  My own presentation related to findings from a study conducted as part of my PhD research at Cardiff University.  This work showed that frequent consumption of caffeinated energy drinks was associated with low school attendance, low English and maths attainment, and high occurrences of problem behaviour in secondary school children from the South West of England.

In summary, the quality of presentations at this year’s Public Health Science Conference was outstanding, and the event as a whole was extremely well run.  In particular, I noted that the presenters typically avoided making their talks too ‘stats heavy’, and therefore made their work accessible to an audience of people whose backgrounds ranged considerably.  The Public Health Science Conference is a truly excellent opportunity for UK-based researchers whose work relates to public health, and comes with the added benefit that any abstract accepted gets published in a Special Issue of The Lancet.  I am therefore very grateful to the BPS Welsh Branch for generously awarding me a bursary to attend this conference.  Next year the event will be held in London, and I would highly recommend it to anyone working within the realms of public health research.


[1] Abstracts for all talks and posters included in the 2016 Public Health Science Conference can be found in The Lancet, 388(Special Issue).