Over the next decade we will all make choices which will determine the future of our advanced technological society. The COVID-19 and monkeypox pandemics, through which the world is now living, are as graphic an example as could be desired of the instability of our model of life, and the need for action on One Health. In Europe, we have paid a high price for our belief that we were safe from infection, that we could dismantle our public health systems, and get away with it. Other countries to whom COVID-19 spread from Europe have suffered more, and paid even higher prices.
We have now run out of road on climate emergency. 2021 was the warmest year on record, and 2022 and 2023 are likely to beat that record. The global climate is changing rapidly. Building a future, any kind of future, for us and for our children, demands a new attention to sustainability. It’s tempting to despair, to give up. Let’s not.
This conference hopes to open up part of this discussion, with a focus on health, and health care. We will look specifically at gender and health, at health care delivery generally, the use of digital tools, and the necessary staffing and skills to provide good care. We will, in line with the overall conference theme, look in depth at the climate emergency, and very specifically at the human food supply. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses serious risks to global food security that will require a range of responses from governments and international organizations. The unfolding crisis in Ukraine will push up already-high food price inflation, and have serious consequences for low-income net-food importing countries, many of which have seen an increase in malnourishment rates over the past few years in the face of pandemic disruptions. The Ukraine conflict not only exposes the evil of the current Russian government, but also our failure to create a resilient sustainable global food supply. We can do better, and we have to do better.
We look forward to seeing you all in person, in Dublin. Dublin is well known as a literary city, but our long history of public health in Ireland is less well known. These two elements of our history intersect strikingly in one man, William Wilde, society doctor, hospital founder, apprentice to Abraham Colles, husband to Jane Elgee, herself better known as ‘Speranza’, the poet of revolution, father to Oscar Wilde, who needs no introduction, and Willy, an alcoholic and a journalist. Sir William, as he became, wrote extensively on eye surgery, Irish antiquities, Irish folklore, and on the health of the Irish population. You may yet have a chance to discover his city, in all its brightness and darkness, as well as learning something more about making and sustaining our futures.
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