During the two days of the 5th Congress “Health of Poles” on 13 – 14 November 2023, at the World Hearing Centre in Kajetany, more than 200 participants in debates, panels, and lectures spoke about the condition of societies and individual health in the context of the “One Health” concept. The organizers have also issued a call for action to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and for an integrated and unifying approach that will benefit the planet and the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. It will be sent to all organizations, decision-makers, and political leaders involved in the public health sector.
The “Health of Poles” Congress has already become a fixed date in the calendar of important events that bring together people for whom protecting health and life is of utmost importance. This year, it was a collective effort of almost 500 people – representatives of the scientific and medical field, higher education, local government, panelists, lecturers, and debate participants.
– For the last five years, the Clinical Sciences Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the General Council of Research Institutes have organized the Congress, and the World Hearing Center has joined them for the third time in this venue.
Neither the previous congresses nor this year’s would have had such power and impact if numerous expert teams from universities, institutes, NGOs, and patient organizations had not supported them. It all adds up to this one big, important event, the “Health of Poles” Congress – said Professor Henryk Skarżyński, Chairman of the Congress Programme Council, during the opening ceremony – It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, interdisciplinary event; a meeting not only of people from the medical field of almost all specialties but also from various other areas – science, economy, culture and sport. All of this gains an even deeper meaning in the context of the “One Health” approach – he stressed.
The 5th “Health of Poles” Congress participants could participate in many interesting debates, panels, and lectures. The topics discussed included issues from various fields, such as the healthcare system, medicine, pharmacology, physiotherapy, environmental protection, potamology, and forestry. It was a special meeting with more than 200 eminent specialists from different, sometimes distant fields, united in those two days by the idea behind the “One Health” approach.
The aging of the Polish population
During the first plenary debate led by Urszula Jaworska, president of the Urszula Jaworska Foundation, serious issues were discussed – the problems of aging societies and senior citizens. Anna Kozieł, Senior Health Specialist in the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank, presented the “Aging and long term care systems” review conducted by the World Bank. This document aims to help with planning and making systemic changes in the future. It was also a source of interesting data during the debate. We learned that 70 percent of all long-term care beneficiaries are elderly, and life expectancy in Poland for women is almost 80 years, whereas for men, it is 72 years. We also found out where people die most often. According to the report, the hospital is the most common place, with the home in the second place (where almost 45 percent of people pass away).
Moreover, it is estimated that by 2040, the number of Poles aged 80+ will double and reach 1.5 million. Dr Marek Balicki from the Presidential Health Council referred to the data from the report in the context of the 75+ Presidential Project. Barbara Imiołczyk, director of the Social Projects Centre at the CHR’s Office and co-chair of the CHR’s Expert Committee on the Elderly, spoke about the rights of older people in the context of human rights. In contrast, Prof. Tomasz Targowski, the national consultant in geriatrics, referred to the data from the report in the context of the Polish geriatrics problems. Dr. Tomasz Zieliński, vice-president of Porozumienie Zielonogórskie (Zielona Góra city Agreement), discussed the use of modern technology in walk-in clinics and the presence of Polish seniors in these facilities. Participants also referred to the Ministry of Family and Social Policy’s new idea – the neighborhood services, which came into force on 1 November this year as a new form of care service by an amendment to the Social Assistance Act.
The quality of education
Rectors of medical universities from all over Poland came to Kajetany to discuss the quality of education in view of newly established medical faculties. It is a topic of great importance, as the safety of patients and medical professionals will depend on the level of education in the future.
The participants of the IV plenary debate dedicated to this issue were Prof. Ryszard Gellert, director of the Medical Centre for Postgraduate Education, Prof. Tomasz Grodzicki, Vice-Chancellor for Collegium Medicum – Jagiellonian University, Prof. Adrian Chabowski, Vice-Chancellor for Education of the Medical University of Białystok, Prof. Zbigniew Gaciong, rector of the Medical University of Warsaw, Prof. Stanisław Głuszek, rector of the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, Prof. Bogusław Machaliński, Rector of the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, Prof. Edyta Szurowska, Vice-Chancellor for Clinical Affairs of the Medical University of Gdańsk, and Prof. Wojciech Załuska, rector of the Medical University of Lublin.
In the words of Prof. Ryszard Gellert, co-host of the debate: To be able to maintain the quality of education, we must demand – by administrative and organizational methods – that this quality is verified as soon as possible. What’s done is done; new universities have been established, and young people have paid to enter the educational system.
Whether the new medical faculties will achieve the quality of education that has prevailed in medical schools will depend wholly on those in charge of education there. The debate’s participants answered numerous questions, with one seeming somewhat provocative: what would they do with the newly opened medical faculties without accreditation if they simultaneously were the Minister of Health and Minister of Education and Science? The rector’s answers were as interesting as the question itself. We invite you to watch the debate’s transmission online.
During another interesting plenary debate (the V one), the directors of medical institutes spoke about the role of institutes in the postgraduate training of medical staff. As has already been emphasized during discussions, many institutes already provide pre-graduate training at their premises for the benefit of universities training medical staff: doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. However, the institutes have an even greater teaching potential because, in the case of the medical profession, continuing professional development lasts for the rest of a medic’s life. After graduation, young students undergo postgraduate training, wishing to specialize, and it was emphasized that the institutes have the right to teach them. They are not obliged to do so, but they often want to. So why is postgraduate training for specialized residents and doctors working in institutes so low profile? The answer to this question was sought by Prof. Ryszard Gellert, director of the Medical Centre for Postgraduate Education, Lt. Gen. Prof. Grzegorz Gielerak, director of the Military Medical Institute – National Research Institute, Dr Tomasz Maciejewski, director of the Mother and Child Institute, Dr Marek Migdał, director of the “Pomnik – Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka” Institute, prof. Henryk Skarżyński, director of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, Prof. Łukasz Szumowski, director of the Stefan Card. Wyszyński National Institute of Cardiology – National Research Institute and Prof. Waldemar Wierzba, director of the National Medical Institute of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration.
– The Institute is a research and development unit and a hospital at one of the highest levels – emphasized Prof. Łukasz Szumowski.– Medical schools have teaching hospitals, but any institute could become a facility for them. We are in a position to provide specialty training, postgraduate training, and pre-postgraduate training in cardiology. We conduct them already. We are a teaching hospital, therefore we can teach real skills. We also possess an increasingly highlighted feature that is becoming increasingly important: we conduct clinical and implementation research. The ability to conduct and understand clinical studies is crucial for a doctor, as recommendations are based on publications, and those publications are clinical studies – explained Prof. Szumowski. Another thing mentioned was that the role of institutes is underestimated, and their potential is unused. – We are invisible to the system, noted Lt. Gen. Prof. Grzegorz Gielerak. The debate discussed two other questions: Does the system correctly identify facilities that could provide teaching at the highest level? What are the obstacles preventing the institutes from serving as such places?
One Health and education
For the past 30 years ( since the 1990s), it has been said that the physical condition of Poles is deteriorating. There has even been a linguistic change in that people no longer talk about making society more fit, only about making it more active. – Currently, about 94 percent of children and young adults lack basic mobility competencies, and the young society is less and less healthy – pointed out Prof. Bartosz Molik, rector of the Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw, participant of the II plenary debate. During the meeting in Kajetany, several other rectors spoke out about the influence of education on Poles’ lives’ quality and sustainable development: Professor Piotr Wachowiak, PhD, professor and rector of SGH Warsaw School of Economics in Warsaw, Professor Roman Cieślak, rector of SWPS University, Professor Ewa Krogulec, Vice-Chancellor for Development of the University of Warsaw, Professor Maciej Rogalski, rector of Lazarski University, Eng. Tomasz Trawiński, PhD, professor and Vice-Chancellor for Infrastructure and Promoting of the Silesian University of Technology, and Professor Michał Jerzy Zasada, rector of Warsaw University of Life Sciences.
Participants of the VI plenary debate entitled “Medicine and Artificial Intelligence – Mutual Impact on Development” explained the potential that comes with implementing AI in various medical fields. The debate also discussed what AI can do for medicine and vice versa. The discussion participants included Professor Eng. Andrzej Czyżewski, head of the Department of Multimedia Systems at Gdańsk University of Technology, Tomasz Jaworski of Kozminski University, Mateusz Koryciński of the National Research Institute, Prof. Krzysztof Narkiewicz, head of the Department and Division of Hypertension & Diabetology at the Medical University of Gdańsk, Prof. Eng. Ryszard Tadeusiewicz from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Automatics, Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering at the AGH University of Krakow, and Eng. Tomasz Wolak, Ph.D., Professor of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing and head of the Bioimaging Research Center at World Hearing Center. The debate focused on the help that AI may provide neurosurgeons with, the “Admevoice” project, an adaptive system for the intelligent processing of doctors’ speech, the structuring of test results, and support for the therapeutic process. The participants exchanged views on which AI applications could be especially useful in medicine and whether AI will replace radiologists in the future. – Medicine must be open to new technologies. I am glad we discussed them during the Congress because they offer enormous opportunities for doctors to be more effective in what we do and for our patients to receive better care. – said Prof. Krzysztof Narkiewicz. He also remarked that AI might be a carrier of humanity because it saves the time required to analyze research, which may be spent on human interactions.
A broader look at health
The 5th Congress “Health of Poles” also saw journalists and local government representatives participating in debates. Many interesting discussions additionally took place during numerous panels. Eminent lecturers shared their knowledge about various fields of science. All of this is so that Poles can gain knowledge from evidence-based medicine. The organizers made sure to reach a wide audience with a believable, appealing, and interesting message about health prevention and make them more aware of health-related matters and the environment around them.
The “Health of Poles” Congress has a history filled with inspiring moments. It all began in 2019. At that time, discussions focused on the accomplishments of Polish science and medicine and the disparities in how healthcare was perceived in Poland. In 2020, after the first taste of the COVID-19 pandemic, we discussed the difficult fight with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, medics’ work, dilemmas, fears, and heroic attitudes. One year later, we emphasized the importance of treating our personal health as an investment and a huge asset and discussed the notions of cooperation, solidarity, and responsibility for health. Then, in 2022, it was time to look at innovations in medicine and demonstrate their potential and benefits. We also analyzed the role of local governments and systemic, social, and media activities for health care and the promotion of preventive health care. This year, the “Health of Poles” Congress focused on one extremely important topic – the “One Health” approach as a key to understanding the link between human health and the environment’s state. We also issued a call for action of the 5th “Health of Poles” Congress addressed to all organizations and decision-makers involved in the public health sector, as well as political leaders
to mitigate the climate and biodiversity crisis (which I added to this text with a request to spread it around). In addition, the new edition of the “Medical Perspectives” Competition was announced during the congress.