This report, with the presentations, videos and other materials from the conference, posted on the City Health International website, together make up the archive for the City Health 2014 conference.
City Health 2014 was hosted by Aids Foundation East West (AFEW) and produced by Knowledge Action Change (KAC)
The theme for this third City Health conference - “engaging diverse communities in urban health and wellbeing” – highlighted some of the main challenges to policy makers, service providers and the wider communities that they serve, in terms of social inclusion of different cultures, minority groups and populations. The theme informed discussions and debates within the context of the changing landscape of cities, with the drivers of migration and rapidly increasing urbanisation creating both challenges and opportunities on an unprecedented scale in human history.
The city of Amsterdam, with its roots in trade and exploration, has a rich cultural history and is home to vibrant, diverse communities. The city also boasts a proud tradition of innovation in public health, demonstrating the importance and effectiveness of city-level initiatives and interventions, to meet the needs of its citizens and visitors. This provided an interesting backdrop for the conference, with delegates able to see for themselves the evidence of policies in action.
The conference took place at the Casa 400 Hotel. There were opening and closing sessions, 2 plenary sessions, six parallel sessions, a memorial lecture and the presentation of the Paolo Pertica Award. In addition throughout the conference there was an exhibition area, including posters, enabling delegates to learn more about some initiatives and projects relevant to the topics on the formal agenda for the event.
The focus of the programme was on ensuring health and wellbeing across whole communities. How do we work to eliminate marginalisation and its consequences, not only for those excluded but also on society as a whole? The topics included migration (internal and external) access and equality in health (including use of new technologies for engagement) measures targeting disengaged populations (including sex workers, drug users, those with mental health issues) interventions within the criminal justice system (including effective through and after-care for prisoners) and examining early engagement and issues of safety for young people in the urban environment.
The full programme can be viewed on the website: http://cityhealthinternational.org/2014-programme
Speakers included academics, politicians, policy makers and practitioners, with each session designed to explore cross-cutting issues and problems and to identify potential synergies in response to them.
There were 37 speakers in all . Half were from the Netherlands, 25% from the UK, with the remainder from other countries, including Albania, Australia, France, Italy, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Switzerland and Ukraine .
The programme also included a public lecture, delivered by Dr Manuel Carballo, from the International Centre for Migration, Health and Development (ICMHD) in Switzerland, which was followed by a reception hosted by AFEW.
The Paolo Pertica Award for 2014 was presented to the National Ugly Mugs Project, which is part of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, in recognition of their innovative and increasingly effective provision of protection and support for a significantly marginalised group, many of whom are dependent drug users.
One thing new to the format for this year was the introduction of an exercise for delegates to take part in. The ‘Measuring the Neighbourhood’ exercise was introduced by colleagues from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and challenged participants to take a walk in the locale of the conference venue and record their observations of the neighbourhood in real time. More details can be found on the conference archive site http://cityhealthinternational.org/2014-programme/measuring-theneighbourhood This exercise was well-received and it is something we will try to include in future editions of the conference.
The hub of the conference included an exhibition and poster area, where some NGOs provided delegates with an opportunity to learn about products and projects related to urban health. Although the conference has always welcomed posters, this year was the first time that we had advertised a designated space for them to be exhibited. The area also served to provide a networking space for delegates, with food and refreshments also provided there, and was welcomed by delegates as a valuable feature, which will be extended to future events.
The organisers are grateful to the efforts of the members of the Programme Committee  for the conference, lead by Professor Gerry Stimson, for their work in helping shape the conference.
Attendance and Feedback
To promote the conference we used our existing networks and databases and extended the scope via colleagues within public health generally.
Almost two hundred people took part in the conference over the two days, with some attending only part of the conference. Forty-two per cent of those attending came from the Netherlands, with 18% from the UK and 11% from Ukraine. There were four per cent each from Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with the remaining 13% from other countries  .
In terms of sectors represented by participants, forty-four per cent were from NGOs/voluntary sector, 12% from governmental/public sector organisations, 20% were academics and 16% were independents – including some from the private sector . In addition over half were involved in service delivery – including within health, social care, support and advocacy – and 20% concerned with policy.
Completed feedback forms were received from 26 participants . Respondents were asked to rate a number of aspects of the conference (on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). In addition other comments were also welcomed.
Regarding the programme there was an overall approval rating of 81% (very good/excellent) with a range of 59% to 89%. Respondents rated the overall quality of the presentations 76% (very good/excellent) with 88% believing the programme met their expectations almost entirely/entirely.
In terms of the overall organisation of the event, overall85% rated as very good/excellent the conference website, including the registration process. The pre-conference and on-site administration rated 93%, with the quality of delegate materials rating 70%.
One pleasing feature for the organisers was the 81% very good/excellent rating for the networking space and opportunities.
The venue and catering received a positive response. Most respondents (92%) rated the helpfulness of conference and venue staff as very good/excellent. Some 89% gave the venue and layout a similar rating. The quality of refreshments and lunch received a very good/excellent rating of 75%.
Overall 77% rated the conference as a whole very good/excellent value for money.
In addition to the ratings, we also asked participants to provide additional comments, should they wish. With regard to the programme:
Can't thank you and the speakers enough. The conference truly consolidated my own thinking on the whole Public/City Health connection. For me it proves my particular field of interest, harm reduction, drug treatment and substance use, needs to evolve and cease 'working alone in silos' and come to the Public Health table.
- Many thanks for the informative conference. I got a rewarding experience to work in the cities in terms of urbanisation.
- An inspirational conference programme & good quality presentations.
- A very good variety of presentation subjects. Interesting and informative. My only disappointment was that I could not get to all of the plenary sessions.
- Excellent variety of presentations, interesting and informative.
In addition others commented on the venue:
- Nice environment, nice food and open atmosphere
- The choice of the excellent and fit for purpose venue was my first impression and it all got better from there.
More general comments included:
Well done City Health and KAC. Local organisers included, fantastic conference. Highest scoring yet!
Organisation of the conference was great & small number of participants made the networking very informal & productive. Thank you for that.
- Very relaxed atmosphere.
- It was very good experience for me, thank you so much!
There were also a number of queries and suggestions made:
- A large diversity in the subject of the sessions and speakers is attractive, but on the other hand it seems difficult to attract the audience. Also, not many people are familiar with the theme ''City Health'' and don't know what to expect: a conference on health issues, on city issues, for nurses only?
- Earlier access to the papers delivered would help - slide shows should be available at the time of presentation
- Would be interesting to invest in some targeted marketing of the event towards groups which might be more interested in one rather than another session, potentially involving the programme committee and local hosts for suggestions on how to best tackle this?
Organisers thank those who have taken the time to contribute their feedback. It is valuable to have it to inform the production of future events, ensuring that they remain relevant to those who attend.
Outputs from the Conference
The conference assembled an impressive combination of academics, policy makers, professionals and advocates to raise awareness of the importance of ‘joined-up’ thinking and action to address health behaviours in the urban context. The event also provided valuable networking opportunities to further the development of City Health International.
The lasting legacy of the conference is the archive website - http://cityhealthinternational.org/2014 - where the programme, presentations, videos, photos and other materials generated by the conference can be accessed in perpetuity by both those who attended and others, making the learning from the event widely available and adding to the growing body of information available from City Health International.
Investment and Support
The organisers are grateful to Gilead, the London Drug and Alcohol Policy Forum, SAM Recruitment and Consultancy, and Emerald Publishing for their generous support for the conference.
Thanks are also due to the many supporting organisations and exhibitors who also contributed to the event. All are listed on the conference archive site http://cityhealthinternational.org/2014
The Future for City Health International
City Health International is now an established network, providing opportunities to promote ‘joined-up’ solutions to urban health and wellbeing, through bringing together different disciplines and professions, along with consumers and advocates, organising debates and discussions, and enabling creative initiatives and projects to be showcased.
The next City Health conference will be held at CosmoCaixa, in Barcelona, Spain, 5/6 November 2015. The local hosts for the conference will be Agència de Salut Pública de Catalunya, Fundació "la Caixa", and Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona.
Cawley, Anke van Dam, Joop ten Dam, Cate Hankins, Gerda van’t Hoff, Natalya Shumskaya.