Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET) in Switzerland

As member of the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) I receive a monthly newsletter with relevant Public Health news from the region. I have previously criticized EUPHA for their lack of focus on public health communication (see blog post “European Public Health Association and the missing communication category”).


I maintain my critic, but must also congratulate them when public health communication does sneak its way into for example their newsletter.

Thus, in the January 2014 newsletter under Upcoming Courses and Conferences attention is made to the Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET), which will take place in Lugano, Switzerland 26-28 June 2014. The conference aims to bring together communication researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, ranging from healthcare specialities to the human and social sciences.

The first Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET) was hosted by the Health Communication Research Centre at Cardiff University, UK in 2003 and was attended by more than 200 participants from 20 countries. Based on its success COMET has now established itself as an annual interdisciplinary, international event.

COMET is described as using a problem-oriented approach, and places special emphasis on the dissemination of high quality research in interpersonal, mass communication, and practical ethics which is directly relevant to healthcare practitioners.

The 2014 conference will focus especially on the dissemination of ongoing research in Doctor-Patient communication studies, health communication in the media, as well as practical ethics which engages directly with healthcare practitioners. Looking at the list of proposed topics and keynote speakers, it does seem like especially the doctor-patient communication will be given much attention, but I’m happy to note that themes like “Communicating Risk and Uncertainty”; ” Interprofessional Communication and Hospital Management Systems” and “Media and Health Communication” also figures on the list.

Assessing myself unlikely to attend, I do hope that the conference will set up a hashtag for Twitter and encourage social media activity during the conference, so that a broad audience (including me) can be reached.

The organisers of the conference accepted proposals for either panels or paper presentations (oral or poster) within the main themes up until 31st January 2014, so unfortunately the deadline has been passed, but I look forward to seeing the complete programme once it becomes available.

European Public Health Association and the missing communication category

Yesterday, I got an email congratulating me, that I am now a member of EUPHA – The European Public Health Association. With a public health background this is naturally an association I feel it only right that I be a member of and I assumed that I would be able to find myself as a natural member fitting right in. So, I rushed to my profile page (as the email encouraged me to) and completed my profile data. My feeling of identification with EUPHA was however challenged from the very first moment.

The profile page is pretty straight forward – name, address, nationality etc. That is easy and as soon as the letters were typed in, I could easily identify with the person on the page. But when I came to ticking off the boxes under “EUPHA sections“, “Field of expertise” and “Topic areas” it was almost impossible to find myself. No where was there referral to anything that has to do with public health communication! I must admit I was really very surprised about this. Under Sections the closest thing to fit me was the “Public Health Practice and Policy-section”. Under Field of expertise there was again no communication related option (see below), so in order just to tick something, I saw “health information” as the best option although this could also refer to be health data (which I luckily also have some expertise in): And finally, under Topic Areas there was neither any reference made to communication, unless you could assess it to fall within “Health Promotion” or “Health Behaviour”.

All in all, I must admit that didn’t really feel represented in EUPHA categories. And I can’t help wonder why communication is not a least a topic area for EUPHA. Is public health communication not a priority? Is it just something that is assumed to fall as a sub-component of other public health topics and expertise? Or is this not something a public health person need worry about because we’ll have the communication staff to take care of about this?

On the EUPHA website, communication is not entirely missing. Thus, the association refers to EACH The European Association for Communication in Healthcare – which is an interdisciplinary non-profit organisation which brings together researchers and trainers in the field of communication in healthcare.

I am however still disappointed in the severely misrepresentation of communication in EUPHA. Public Health is about the health of the public and communicating health messages, research findings etc. to the appropriate people (whether they be the public, policy makers, other researchers etc.) is in essence the back bone of successful public health research and maintaining a healthy population. It should in my opinion at least qualify for a Topic Area in EUPHA’s profile page options.