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A message from the President about the FPH conference 2014

John AshtonWow, that was some conference. The energy levels were amazing, the buzz was tangible and there were times when I thought the entire Manchester conference centre would levitate. Many thanks to everybody who made this such a great success and commiserations to those who missed it. I am very grateful to David Allen and his whole team but especially to Mag Connolly and Duni Vincent who were superb in making sure everything ran smoothly and that almost all glitches were anticipated. Above all I want to thank all those contributors who provided the menu for the feast and all those delegates who suspended disbelief and threw themselves into the spirit of 'Faculty Renaissant'! The great city of Manchester welcomed us with open arms, the sun shone and the conference, to quote Gary Black, our wonderful public health film man from the Carolinas, "rocked".

There were so many highlights of the conference that it seems invidious to single some out, so apologies to those I overlook but:

  • On Day One we successfully launched our Special Interest Group and Communities of Practice initiative with the prospect of many opportunities for Members and Fellows to channel their passions and expertise into working together to make a difference. Watch this space and contact Lindsey Stewart ( for more information and ideas.
  • Our registrars took the opportunity to develop their own agenda for playing in fully as active FPH members - we discovered the amazing potential for the power of Storytelling in public health led by the redoubtable Jane Nash of Narativ, Inc.
  • We explored the scope for building on our faculty expertise to globalise public health training.
  • Alan Maryon-Davis and the north west's Jeremy Paxman, Rob McLoughlin, led a masterclass workshop on working with the media (and a lucky few got to explore the BBC MediaCity in Salford).
  • John Middleton, Matthew Ashton and Martin McKee, with input from Dame Tessa Jowell, facilitated a powerful workshop on the FPH Manifesto which we will use to lobby the political parties in next year's general election, building on the terrific work of the north west directors of public health and the FPH policy team.
  • David Allen shared our thinking on the new FPH strategy.
  • Dame Sue Bailey, recently president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, chaired a powerful public health film festival session with the American Public Health Film Festival co-chair Pam Luna and colleagues from Manchester and Oxford.
  • Challenging films were screened and discussed exploring how film is impacting on the sexual and mental health of our young people.

In the evening we had a fabulous dinner and celebration of newly recognised prize winners and Fellows in the wonderful Midland Hotel. Longstanding chief executive of the American Public Health Association and new FPH Honorary Fellow Georges Benjamin shared with us some of his rich experience of working close to political power for public health in the United States.

And so it went on...

On Thursday, a barnstorming speech by shadow secretary of state for health Andy Burnham spelled out a compelling vision of public health for the future supported by shadow public health minister Luciana Berger, and a comprehensive set of parallel sessions covered a huge amount of ground.

Meanwhile, Maggi Morris led a fringe session on mindfulness which was packed out. More next year!

There was huge interest in our sessions on strategic alliances and building partnerships, and in other fringe sessions Gary Black and Mahala Luna tantalised delegates with the potential for filmmaking using domestic gadgets.

And, as a finale, I was especially proud to be able to introduce my cousin, John Ashton, and his fellow debaters who brought us right up to date with the hot issue of fracking.

Wow, what a conference! And now we start planning for 2015 in Newcastle-Gateshead. Upwards and onwards.

Best wishes,

John Ashton

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