1. First Nations
From the opening session, the importance of the First Nations people for resilient health systems was strongly demonstrated. It was a great opportunity for many people to get to know the descendants of the Squamish, Tsliel-waututh, and Musqueam – the native people of British Columbia – who led both the opening prayer and entertainment. With the symbolic of hands lifted up, we – from all the world, are called to work together, not only for health, but for the problems that face the world. A nice treat was the jolly dance where delegates danced as killer whales, ravens, wolves and eagles.
The issue of resilience resonates with the First Nations experience: they have been left out, not understood, and overlooked, blamed and discriminated against. We now need to listen to them more and to engage them for better resilience. Indeed, as one person said, we need to put on the two-eyed seeing: native and western.
A second day plenary session tried to cast light on intersectionality, a mouthful principle that I heard for the first time, and that by my gauge, is quite clearly sub-optimally comprehended by many researchers, and in particular, among policy makers. Yet intersectionality is necessary because of various dynamics; and should result into social justice.
Although perceived as very complex by many, there exists quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods for intersectionality, and it can be used to clarify the un-obvious in particular group.
Indeed, as stated by Prof TK Sundari Ravindran, “Not all who seem well-to-do are well-to-do” if you do intersectionality analysis. This means we should look deeper into the social fabrics of society and unmask within group differences.
So this raises questions. Anxiety can arise among young researchers since health systems research and intersectionality may be new and many journals want conventional study methods. Additionally, funding is limited in the field, led by a few “senior” researchers. This fear however, should be allayed, as advised by Prof TK Sundari Ravindran, who gave experiences of the initial challenges met when health systems research was still a new field. Indeed there is hope. Online, we can find evidence of increasing interest in health systems.
So this should increasingly improve. This conference really gives hope to young researchers, particularly by encouraging and integrating the emerging voices.
3. Pre-conference learning: skills-building
A prior training has been very helpful in understanding communication methods, audiences, and structuring key messages. It was interesting to discover the scale at which people use social media for such events, bringing diverse viewpoints on a platform for discussions. I was thus strongly engaged in tweeting the interesting points, discussions, quotes, and learnings at the conference as it went on, and indeed this opportunity as an HSG Speaks Reporter, was very great. Big ups to the communications team for the support for the input on making a presentation, blogging, tweeting, and using Instagram and interviews among others.
Additionally, very serious pre-conference learning and skills building in different technical areas provided great learning and were well-attended.
4. The innovative use of technology for learning during the conference
The fact that we had an app which had activities, tweets, pictures, and posters streaming online was very interesting, which I had not experienced before. The abstract viewing was maximized and simplified first by the pitching of some electronic posters, and then by enabling anyone to post their abstract online, viewable on the app. This means that real abstracts are viewable online, and long after the few hours for abstract viewing sessions.