All I want for summer is the ECDC Summer School


Introductory meeting with ECDC Director Dr Marc Sprenger

Stockholm, 9-12 June 2014

I don’t know about you but the moment I hear “course” I develop an autoimmune reaction. It’s not that I don’t like learning, come on, I have a six year career, two masters degrees, four years of specialty in Public Health and I’m doing a PhD while working… So no, it’s not that I don’t like learning, but I just can’t bear to sit for hours listening to someone talk the day away. Therefore if you are like me, the ECDC summer course is your thing. It starts with a very formal meeting and then the crowd is quickly divided into groups. From the moment you enter your assigned room, you know this won’t be a typical learning environment: the chairs are organised around four tables and none of them are directly facing the front of the class. You are in here to talk and discuss, not to be talked at.

ECDC and the external experts´ mission, was to help us understand how evidence becomes health policy. If you think this is easy, let me make this clear: it is not. We started by learning how to calculate the burden of disease, analysed which factors helped or limited the evidence from transforming into public health actions, and what were the determinants of decision-making. How many times do you read an abstract and don’t understand how the conclusions can lead to a public health action? Exactly! We need to publish answers to these fundamental questions: what do you want to say and why is it important? Now of course, decisions need a public health ethics framework. The ethics workshop was definitely a workshop where the level of discussion and debate was high.

Once you have your evidence and health policies ethically disposed, you should be prepared for future threats, especially the cross border ones. We learned about existing tools for risk assessment and in no time were role-playing. Suddenly Young Gasteiners had to take decisions on how to operate during an infectious outbreak in Scan Mark, a fictional very wealthy country. We solved it by creating an island where diagnosed patients were taken for care upon entering the country, to avoid provoking an epidemic (as you might imagine we also had laser swords and a throne made of syringes…). The fact that our imaginary countries were wealthy or not was not a mere detail: money, or more precisely, cost-effectiveness, makes the world go round. Therefore our last workshop was dedicated to this fascinating topic.

At the end of the course I was exhausted due to the 4am sunrise light coming through my unblinded hotel windows every day, but I felt satisfied by the fact that I had learned… while having fun. Young Gasteiners, you will be invited next year, please don’t miss this opportunity!

Yaiza Rivero Montesdeoca
Yaiza participated in the ECDC 2014 Summer School with fellow Young Gasteiners Kolia Bénié and Héðinn Svarfdal Björnsson

Young Gasteiners hard at work!

The goal of the ECDC Summer School is to strengthen mentoring and technical skills in applied epidemiology and public health microbiology. This is achieved through a series of workshops on selected topics for prevention and control of communicable diseases and by providing an opportunity for sharing best practices within the ECDC expert networks. The International Forum Gastein would like to thank the ECDC for their generous support of the Young Forum Gastein Network in offering three places on the 2014 summer school to Young Gasteiners.


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