Birmingham hosts U21 Health Sciences

The U21 Health sciences annual meeting took place in Birmingham in September 2016 with the focus on “Global Health and Health & Wellbeing in Health Sciences education and professional practice”. This conference explored several topics including global well being along the continuum of our lifespan, social inequalities and health, healthy aging, and the impact of stress on our lives. Universitas 21 is a global network of Research Intensive Universities collaborating together to innovate through research-inspired teaching and learning. The network prides itself on connecting our students and staff internationally and this was seen in several of the pre-meetings where dentistry was involved. The first included the United Nations sustainable goals meeting and on the second day there were presentations and discussion in the Social Media group (SoMe). Our UNSG group took part in the first meeting on Monday. There was a presentation by Aditi Tanna (BDS5) on her visit to Nepal . The aims of the UNSG strategy are to 1) promote the SDGs across the U21 network whilst at the same time enhancing the student experience 2) promote cross U21 Health Science discipline and Institution collaboration 3) promote cross U21 collaborative scholarship.

On Tuesday the Social Media (SoMe) group met. There were examples of the use of SoMe both in health profession educational practice and educational interventions that train students and/or staff in the professional use of Social Media. From Dentistry, Razia Butt (BDS5) presented a video on the pitfalls of social media giving illustrations of what not to do in Social Media and how it could lead to damaging consequences. The main U21 Health Science conference started with a Welcome Reception at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham where delegates enjoyed viewing the gallery.  There was a welcome from Professor Prem Kumar, Director of Institute of Clinical Sciences and Director of Education, University of Birmingham.

The next morning the conference was officially opened by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood, University of Birmingham who

congratulated U21 Health Sciences for choosing Birmingham. This was followed by the Pro-Vice Chancellor & Head of College of Medical and Dental Sciences David Adams. The opening Plenary Session covered “Global Wellbeing and our Lifespan” and was facilitated by Alex Conner in the Institute of Clinical Sciences. The Lectures included “Ending Preventable Maternal Death – a New Global Focus on Infection” by David Lissauer (Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research), and “Global Child Health” by Semira Manaseki-Holland, (Institute of Applied Health Research), University of Birmingham. After coffee, Professor Janet Lord (Institute of Inflammation and Ageing) ensured that we understood the importance of exercise and how it helps with the aging process. Her entertaining key note lecture on the topic of “Healthy Ageing and How to Get There” was well received. In the afternoon, the U21 Dentistry delegates visited the new dental school and we discussed and commented projects which included the use of Teledentistry and electronic learning. Delegates from Dentistry.

On Thursday Alastair H Leyland, University of Glasgow continued the well being theme with “Measurements of Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health” and this was followed by a global view of the problems of inequality with speakers across the U21 Health Sciences network.

Caroline Bradbury-Jones from Nursing writes – “On the afternoon of Thursday 15th, there were two inter-professional workshops. One of these was ‘Where does it fit? Incorporating Teaching on Violence against Women and Girls into Health Professional Programs Globally’. From The University of Birmingham the facilitator was Caroline Bradbury-Jones from the School of Nursing. Two colleagues from The University of Auckland co-facilitated the workshop: Peter Adams and Janie Sheridan. Our respective backgrounds in nursing, psychology and pharmacy made this a truly inter-disciplinary session!

After a short introduction to the significant global health issues associated with violence against women and girls, participants worked in groups to explore the complexities of integrating the issue into curricula. They grappled with the real life issues of what content to cover, when in a curriculum to cover the issue etcetera. The focus was on how to develop a curriculum that can be used in interdisciplinary learning.

We did not come up with firm solutions in this relatively short session, but the workshop attendees debated many issues that are relevant to all of us who run health programmes. We hope that the issue of violence against women and girls remains on the U21 agenda and that we are able to run another workshop on the issue in Johannesburg in 2017. There is still a lot to be debated and learned regarding how best to educate health professional students to deal with the issue!”

On Friday our final two speakers covered a great deal of ground on Health and Well being with Abd Tahrani, (Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research) University of Birmingham giving a lecture on the “Impact of under and over nutrition on Health and Wellbeing”. This was followed by Professor Anna Phillips, (School of Sports and Exercise Science) University of Birmingham. Her own lecture was on “Stress and health – effects at all ages”. She covered how stress enters and affects the body. She also looked at the different life events that are stressful and how it affects different people.

The conference was finally closed by Prof Lumley, Deputy Head of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. The conference was a great success and we look forward to next year’s conference which will be held at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.