Making Up for Lost Time: 13th Annual CHOP Global Health Conference

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Global Health Update

In late October, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Global Health Center, in collaboration with the Penn Center for Global Health, Penn Nursing, Temple University, and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, hosted the 13th Annual CHOP Pediatric Global Health Conference, "Making Up for Lost Time: Addressing Children's Needs Post-Pandemic." The conference brought together global child health experts in person for the first time in two years. Speakers and presenters traveled to Philadelphia from Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, and Mexico, and other speakers and guests joined virtually from Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Malawi, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Vietnam, and all over the United States.

Opportunities for learning and connection

The conference began with a full-day, hands-on "Helping Babies Breathe" workshop, which was organized by CHOP Global Health faculty and Emergency Department physicians Keri Cohn, MD, MPH, DTM&H, and Alexandra Vinograd, MD, MSHP, DTM&H. Conducted in both English and Spanish, the workshop focused on neonatal resuscitation in the first minutes of life, a critical intervention to reduce newborn deaths globally.

On Friday, Oct. 29, attendees had the option to participate in a Global Health Skills Boot Camp and Telesimulation or a Global Health Informatics preconference session. The Skills Boot Camp and Telesimulation session featured practical demonstrations focused on treating common pediatric conditions providers may encounter when working in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including malaria, malnutrition, and shock. In the informatics session, Global Health informatics faculty Sansanee Craig, MD, and Grey Faulkenberry, MD, MPH, along with colleagues Kagiso Ndlovu, MSc, from the University of Botswana, and Bernard Caines, from the Niños Primeros en Salud clinic in the Dominican Republic, led a discussion on the importance of developing sustainable global informatics resources in LMICs.

Impassioned keynotes and calls to action

Later that day, CHOP Physician-in-Chief Joseph St. Geme III, MD, delivered welcome remarks to mark the conference's official opening. The day's program also included a video montage featuring excerpts of essay readings by the three winners of the 2021 CHOP Global Health Youth Essay Competition. The young people called for all of us to work together to achieve health equity. Professor Haroon Saloojee, MBBCh, MSc, FCPaed (SA), a renowned child health advocate and head of the Division of Community Paediatrics at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, gave Friday's keynote address – an inspiring and thoughtful call to action that highlighted the diversity, talent and vast potential of the African people. Dr. Saloojee challenged attendees to adopt a "development approach" in their global health collaborations and called for increased investment to improve global child health, especially in Africa.

Oral abstract presentations featuring the top six abstracts from this year's conference concluded the official opening session. In a fascinating, fast-paced hour, attendees learned about global health nursing education, cross-language qualitative pediatric research, the burden of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing organisms in a neonatal unit, residents' perspectives on global health elective rotations, developmental screening tools, and the mental health needs of children held in immigration detention centers at the United States-Mexico border. Attendees left the session with many new ideas for advancing child health globally.

On the last day of the conference, providers from Chile, Guatemala, and Taiwan shared their COVID-19 stories, and Professor Maureen Black, PhD, a pediatric psychologist and distinguished RTI International Fellow from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, delivered a keynote address. Dr. Black shared strategies to protect children's health at every stage of their development and discussed how to mitigate the broader health impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on children.

Additionally, a "Snap Talks" session on global surgery and anesthesia explored the pandemic's impact on pediatric surgery and anesthesia, such as revealing critical gaps in care while also stimulating innovations in remote education and training. Attendees also participated in a plenary discussion with mental health experts Antonio Rizzoli-Córdoba, MD, MSc, PhD, Head of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Mexico Federico Gómez; Tami Benton, MD, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at CHOP; and Merrian Brooks, DO, MS, Botswana-UPenn Partnership Director of Pediatrics and Research and CHOP Lead Pediatrician in Botswana. The session highlighted the current global mental health emergency facing children and adolescents by sharing frontline experiences from three countries. Lastly, attendees participated in breakout sessions on topics including COVID's impact on health systems, children's education, and nutrition; achieving health equity for children, and innovations to advance global child health.

Emphasizing key themes

In his closing remarks, Stephen Ludwig, MD, Medical Director of Global Pediatric Education at CHOP, highlighted the five key themes that emerged during the conference, reminding and challenging the global health community to:

  • Collaborate, cooperate and be creative. To illustrate this point, Dr. Ludwig shared examples of how Taiwan used digital technology; the way Chile brought together government agencies, academic institutions, and private companies to address COVID; and how Guatemala has combined western and ancestral medicine.
  • Use recovery as an opportunity to build back better.
  • Leverage healthcare, education, social/protective services, public health, mental health, and other systems to better serve children.
  • Eliminate disparities.
  • Resolve to maintain and enhance the resilience and optimism that young people have demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

Attendees shared many positive comments about the conference. "The hybrid format was perfect for the situation we find ourselves in and really reflected the theme of the conference," one attendee noted. "We, too, had to make up for some lost time ... I didn't realize how much we were all craving in-person interaction until the end of the afternoon on Saturday."

We look forward to seeing you in October 2022 at the 14th Annual CHOP Pediatric Global Health Conference. Stay tuned for more details!

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