This time last week, some 1500 health and care change-makers travelled from over 30 countries to ‘explore new frontiers’ and ‘design a blueprint for a healthy future’ at this year’s APAC Forum in Sydney, Australia.
What’s remarkable about this forum is that in the five years it has been running, it’s become a world class event hosted between New Zealand and our neighbours, Australia. In my opinion, the APAC Forum has helped us find our collective voice around innovation and improvement and this comes from the passion, commitment and determination of people coming together to make a difference.
Once again, this year’s APAC Forum attracted world class speakers, presenters, and people at the front line of change and innovation. It was easy to be swept up in the tide of energy and excitement as 1500 people shared conversations and ideas of improvement and change. What was particularly rewarding to see was the appetite to not just talk about change but to put those words into action. This was reflected in over 50 submissions into the Ko Awatea International Excellence in Health Improvement Awards and 246 APAC Forum poster displays. There was a real sense of much-deserved achievement and pride.
So what were some of the key highlights?
“Great care everywhere”. These three words summed up Professor Jonathon Gray’s ‘extraordinary’ and aspirational vision for the future. Assisted by Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary, Jonathon recounted the first successful expedition to climb Mount Everest in 1953 and drew parallels with the approach and characteristics we need to overcome the challenges we face in healthcare.
“Like Everest, we need pioneers to help pave the way for others to follow,” says Professor Gray. “We need to find that selfless cooperation to bring us together. If we work together, the impossible becomes the possible.” Professor Gray invited delegates to join the World Health C.L.I.M.B. – College of Leadership, Innovation, Management and Belief – and develop the leadership we need to make what appears to be an impossible vision today the reality of tomorrow.
24 concurrent sessions followed Professor’s Gray’s keynote plenary session, before keynote speaker, Janine Shepherd took to the stage. Janine’s life was irrevocably altered when she was hit by a truck while training for the winter Olympics. An advocate for ‘defiance’, Janine inspired and moved the audience with her story of courage, strength, tenacity, determination and belief that she could do the seemingly impossible. That belief enabled her to become a pilot, aerobatics instructor, successful speaker and mum. What I learned from Janine was never give up on your dreams, don’t lose your passion, and when people say you can’t do it – be defiant. Being defiant allows us to deny all of those things that hold us back from being all that we can be.
Listening to Dr Johnathan Lancaster talk about the evolution of molecular genetics and precision medicine (the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient) was like listening to something out of a science fiction movie. Beginning day two of the APAC Forum, Dr Lancaster told the audience that in the future we will all have access to our own genomes, giving us the personalised information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier. However, as most of us know, optimal health also means looking at social determinants such as housing, employment and the environment. Dr Lancaster refers to this as precision healthcare, which is similar to the work we are currently doing with the Social Investment Board – i.e. working with social agencies to improve health outcomes for our most vulnerable communities. While the future looks exciting, the challenge is in this fast paced world how do we leverage all these tremendous advances in science, technology, social media etc. to advance care globally? I’d be interested in getting your opinion.
While leadership was a key theme this year, we also need to better understand the influence of followers and social networks. I was fascinated by Professor Nicholas Christakis’s final keynote address and his insight into network science and behaviour genetics, and how we can deploy social networks to improve health and health care. He suggests that conditions such as obesity and smoking rather than being solely individualistic can also arise via connections with others – even three times removed. He refers to this as three degrees of influence.
In between the plenary’s on day two was a further 24 concurrent sessions, an exhibition hall to visit, a brainarium to investigate and an empathy zone to explore – amongst other things.
I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s APAC Forum and would like to say a big thank you and congratulations to the team at Ko Awatea, particularly the APAC Forum team and the fabulous red shirts, all of whom provided a great experience for the participants. I’ve come away with some key insights and learnings which I’m going to explore over the next few months. One of these is to look at how we can better foster a culture of collaboration. As my colleague, Jonathon Gray said, the APAC Forum is unique in its energy but energy, intent, wisdom and knowledge is nothing without the decision to act together.
For those of you, who attended the APAC Forum, please share your experience and learnings with your colleagues. By sharing, we open ourselves up to new ideas and thinking.
As for the APAC Forum 2017, it will be held on the sunny Gold Coast. Executive Director of Medical Services, Children’s Health Queensland, John Wakefield, says APAC Forum 2017 is going to be bigger and better. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.