Dr Mary Fraser, Head of Education, Training & Assessment, RCPE

A lively hybrid event on 19th January began the 2023 programme of educational events at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Over 100 delegates from the UK and abroad met in person and online to discuss and debate the ways in which health care in early life can impact on later life, and how to improve health in the early years for children and young people.

The event delivered by RCPE in association with the Scottish Paediatric Society (SPS) and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), celebrated the 100th anniversary of SPS in 2022.

Delegates were welcomed to the college by Professor Andrew Elder, President of RCPE He introduced the first speaker for the day, Dr Valentin Fuster, Physician in Chief, Mount Sinai Medical Hospital, New York, who began with a presentation examining the application of innovation in cardiovascular health across the lifespan.

This was followed by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology, UCL Institute of Health Equity, London, who asked if early investment in health produced a health gain. Beginning with the question, ‘Why treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?’ he then went on to discuss levelling up, public spending on child health and education, the ways in which deprivation is linked to life expectancy and the importance of including health and wellbeing at the centre of all government policy.

Session 2, chaired by Professor Angela Thomas OBE, Director of Heritage RCPE, was opened by Dr Sarah Verbiest, Director, Jordan Institute for Families, University of North Carolina, who brought an American perspective to discussions focussing on ‘A life course approach to intergenerational health.’ This presentation discussed factors relevant to society rather than only thinking about the individual alongside the importance of education, support and partnerships with people.

Prof. Thomas then introduced, Professor Judy Cameron Ph.D. Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Director of Outreach, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh who moved the focus to the resilient brain. This fascinating talk highlighted the importance of developing early pathways in the brain and how stress exposure could impact on brain development. They showed that improving children’s sleep could be an impactful strategy to improve brain health.

To round off the morning, the Keynote speech was given by Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, Emerita Professor of Medicine and Education, Bart's and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London who spoke on new health threats. This challenging topic encompassed a variety of different topics including the impact of the pandemic and long Covid, vaping, how climate change and air pollution affect health and the risk of infectious diseases in the future.

The afternoon session, chaired by Dr Patricia Jackson OBE, President Scottish Paediatric Society 2022, began with Christiana Melam, Chief Executive of the National Association of Link Workers discussing ‘Avoiding obesity - the place of medical treatments and social prescribing’. Christiana gave an overview of social prescribing, utilising community resources and link workers, delivering care across different levels for the benefit of patients and highlighted how social prescribing could be used to tackle the challenges of obesity.

Dr Kenneth Macleod, Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh, then presented an overview of ‘Reducing chronic respiratory disease in adulthood’ focussing on the interventions that could be implemented in the management of paediatric lung disease. Dr Macleod emphasised how it is possible to prevent older age respiratory disease through early life care including environmental factors such as air pollution.

The final part of session 3 was given by Dr Richard Hansen, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor in Child Health in Glasgow who gave an enthusiastic presentation on the gut microbiome and how to maximise gut health, specifically focussing on the opportunities to influence the early-life microbiome.

The final session of the day, chaired by Dr Mairi Stark, RCPCH Officer for Scotland began with Anne Wilson, Head of Development, Children's Health Scotland giving an overview of Child Health Scotland’s Self Management Skills (SMS) Programme for Children and Young People which included some short presentations from participants explaining how the programme had helped them.

The successful event was brought to a close by a panel discussion led by Professor Dame Parveen Kumar focussing on what could be done now to effect change. Contributions from Dr Mairi Stark of RCPCH, Dr David Shackles of RCGP, RCPE President Professor Andrew Elder and Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Scottish Government, Professor Sir Gregor Smith put forward a number of areas that could be considered. Topics as diverse as a kinder healthcare delivery model, the plethora of information and the risks of mis-information in the modern world, malnutrition, air pollution, alcohol consumption, the value of social care work, adverse childhood experiences, education and the importance of physical activity from a young age were discussed by the panel and audience.

Thanks go to RCPE Fellows, Members and staff; the organising committee and SPS.

You can find out more about the range of events for health professionals at all stages of their careers, on offer from RCPE in 2023, on the RCPE Educational Calendar at https://events.rcpe.ac.uk/ .  Becoming a Member or Fellow gives access to over 300 hours of educational materials, alongside many other benefits. Find out more about joining RCPE at https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/membership/member-benefits