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conference

Reflections from the APCA/HPCA conference

This year, the APCA conference was held in Johannesburg from the 17th-20th September 2013. The conference is held every three years, and this year, was held in conjunction with the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA). 471 participants attended the conference from 34 countries and it was great to be amongst so many people passionate about the provision of palliative care across the region.

Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, the Executive Director of APCA welcomed everyone to the conference on the first day. It was exciting to be part of such a big conference, and the energy and drive amongst participants was evident. Prior to the start of the conference there had been two preconference sessions, the main one being the inaugural Ministers of Health session on palliative care, which was a great opportunity to bring together Ministers of Health and other senior Government officials from 14 different African countries. At the end of this meeting a ‘Consensus Statement for Palliative Care Integration into Health Systems in Africa: Palliative Care for Africa’ was signed by representatives from the different countries, and is seen as an important step forward towards the integration of palliative care across the region. The other pre-conference workshop was run by the African Palliative Care Research Network (APRCN) and brought together 156 palliative care researchers to discuss the progress of palliative care research within the region, and develop ideas for future research and collaboration. Thus, with these two pre-conference workshops, the momentum and excitement was built ready for the conference itself.

A full report of the conference can be downloaded from the ecancer website and the programme and presentations can be downloaded from the hpca website. For the first time at an APCA conference, people could follow the progress of the conference on twitter and facebook, and regular updates were put onto the ehospice website, so it was possible to get a feel of the conference even if you were unable to attend. In preparing the summary of the conference, I asked delegates for one word that they felt would describe the conference and they came up with some of the following: energetic, enthusiastic, enlightening, unique, tres bien, challenging.

As someone who has been to all of the four APCA conferences, it was exciting to see the changes in the focus of the conference, and in the stages of development of palliative care within the region. It was indeed a turning point, and there was a feeling that ‘Palliative care in Africa has come of age’. It was a privilege to be part of the conference and I look forward with great anticipation to the next one in 2016.

Prof. Julia Downing, APCA UK