Why “one world, one health”?
The Constitution of the World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The Constitution also asserts that health for all peoples is “dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and States” – hence our “one world” theme.
But human health is part of a bigger picture. The “one health” concept recognizes the interconnected global ecosystem of our planet. Three examples highlight this key principle. Firstly, recent events have reminded us of the threats of zoonotic diseases, where pathogens pass from animal to human populations. Secondly, human interaction with microbes. This can be seen both in a positive way such as the vital symbiosis of the human microbiome, and in a negative way with risks like antimicrobial resistance due to overuse of antibiotic drugs. Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, the continuing devastation of the environment by human stupidity and greed threatens the health of the one fragile world we share.
The pandemic has dramatically emphasised the power of healthy and unhealthy information. Healthcare and public health services have depended upon both timely and accurate data and continually updated knowledge to organize and deliver treatment, prevention and policy advice. Unparalleled global scientific cooperation has demonstrated what can be done when information and methods are rapidly shared and scrutinized. Unfortunately, social media has shown how unhealthy misinformation can be spread and amplified. This has reinforced existing prejudices, conspiracy theories and political biases to sustain and justify spurious beliefs and selfish behaviour like pandemic denial, vaccine rejection and mask refusal.
The worldwide community of the International Medical Informatics Association continues to work as a global partnership for healthy information and digital innovation. The 18th World Congress of Medical and Health Informatics, MedInfo 2021, was held as a virtual event from 2–4 October, with pre-recorded presentations for all accepted submissions and six live online sessions for the invited panels, keynotes and awards.
The MedInfo 2021 Scientific Programme Committee (SPC) called for submissions under five themes:
1. Information and Knowledge Management
2. Quality, Safety and Outcomes
3. Health Data Science
4. Human, Organizational and Social Aspects
5. Global health informatics
We received 352 submissions from 41 countries across all IMIA regions. Peer review was organized by the SPC co-chairs and eight track chairs and co-chairs, involving over 100 reviewers. Finally, 147 full papers, 60 student papers and 79 posters were accepted and are included in these proceedings.
The live online sessions of MedInfo 2021 included six invited panels and awards for best paper, best student paper and the François Grémy Award of Excellence.
The SPC would like to thank the track chairs and co-chairs, the reviewers, the editorial assistants and the Chair and CEO of IMIA for their invaluable contribution to the success of this first virtual MedInfo conference, prepared and held during a time of unprecedented global disruption.
Philip Scott and Paula Otero, MedInfo 2021 SPC co-chairs