My Reflections from the 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit

By Jack Herrmann, Senior Advisor and Chief, Public Health Preparedness, NACCHO, and Chair, 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit Planning Committee

herrmannOn March 12–15, I had the pleasure of meeting emergency preparedness and public health officials from across the globe at the 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit in Atlanta. While I could not personally converse with all 1,600 attendees, I was wowed by the representation at the Summit. Attendees came from nearly every state in the nation and countries such as Canada, China, South Korea, and Vietnam. The Summit provided a much-needed venue for folks to share their stories and lessons learned as we move forward in fostering more resilient communities and persevere in the face of challenges like budget cuts and natural disasters.

There was an impressive array of presentations in keeping with this year’s theme, “Strengthening Public Health and Healthcare Preparedness through Innovation, Integration, and Implementation.” In total, over 340 abstracts were submitted this year and about a third were chosen for presentation. With 28 workshops, 78 interactive sessions, two town halls, three ignite sessions, 34 sharing sessions, and 85 posters, this year’s Summit offerings were truly impressive and I want to thank all of the presenters who made such an interactive learning environment possible.

I was very happy to hear from the many participants who came up to me to tell me how much they were enjoying themselves and how pleased they were with the quality of the sessions. At the Summit this year, we changed the format to include expanded workshops to allow for adequate time to delve deep into various topic areas and provided true opportunities to build participants’ knowledge and skills. These workshops played a key role in fostering a more dynamic learning environment and in harnessing the expertise of our presenters.

Another aspect of heightened interactivity was the dramatic increase in the use of social media by conference participants over past years. Attendees blogged, tweeted, and “instagrammed,” enhancing their engagement, highlighting key session themes, and bringing together attendees with similar interests. This year’s social media activities at the Summit helped to encourage new adapters of social media and extend the valuable insights shared by our presenters beyond those who were able to attend in person. Additionally, we updated the Summit homepage continuously throughout the week with video, podcasts, photos, blog posts, and other social media coverage of the event. Over 3,500 tweets used our summit hashtag #PHPS13 during the week, with an average of nearly 900 tweets per day and 36 tweets per hour. Although I’m not an avid Tweeter, I joined in on the conversation to get a sense of what the buzz was about!

With all of these positive memories of this year’s Summit, we are looking ahead to the 2014 Summit, which will also be held in Atlanta on April 1–4. I truly believe that conferences like the Preparedness Summit offer opportunities to network, share ideas and tools, and learn from one another. I invite all of our 2013 Summit attendees to share their feedback and experience and I look forward to seeing everyone again at the 2014 Summit!

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