HEPA Europe 2016: My Summary

Post date: 10-Oct-2016 10:13:56

The 12th Annual Meeting of HEPA Europe was held in Belfast, 28-30 September, 2016, and I went along to find out more about some of the latest health and physical activity work that's happening across Europe and to present research that Kass Gibson and I had completed.

This is a brief summary of my take-home points from the conference.

Researchers need to move on

Prof Adrian Bauman took the opening keynote address and using a series of examples made the point that too much research is being undertaken in areas in which we already know many of the answers. In order to make a real difference there needs to be more collaboration between researchers, practitioners and policy makers and the area that researchers should focus more on is that of implementation and the scaling-up of projects.

Domhnall MacAuley, CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, has written a blog about this keynote and there’s also a short video of Prof Bauman where he's summarised his main points.

Related Reading

Kite, J., Indig, D., Mihrshahi, S., Milat, A., & Bauman, A. (2015). Assessing the usefulness of systematic reviews for policymakers in public health: a case study of overweight and obesity prevention interventions. Preventive Medicine, 81, 99-107.

Brownson, R. C., Royer, C., Ewing, R., & McBride, T. D. (2006). Researchers and policymakers: travelers in parallel universes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30(2), 164-172.

Reis, R. S., Salvo, D., Ogilvie, D., Lambert, E. V., Goenka, S., Brownson, R. C., & Lancet Physical Activity Series 2 Executive Committee. (2016). Scaling up physical activity interventions worldwide: stepping up to larger and smarter approaches to get people moving. The Lancet, 388(10051), 1337-1348.

We should Walk more

Prof Catrine Tudor-Locke gave a keynote that was a master class in walking and pedometers and in which she presented the findings of many of her studies. She used two graphics (shown below) that I'll definitely be using when trying to advise people on appropriate levels of activity for health.

Tudor-Locke, C., & Schuna Jr, J. M. (2012). Steps to preventing type 2 diabetes: exercise, walk more, or sit less?. Frontiers in endocrinology, 3, 142.

Tudor-Locke, C., Craig, C. L., Thyfault, J. P., & Spence, J. C. (2012). A step-defined sedentary lifestyle index:< 5000 steps/day. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 38(2), 100-114.

Tudor-Locke, C., & Rowe, D. A. (2012). Using cadence to study free-living ambulatory behaviour. Sports Medicine, 42(5), 381-398.

The negative effects of sitting can be moderated by more intense activity

In July, 2016, The Lancet published the special edition, "Physical Activity 2016, Progress and Challenges", which included a landmark study that was produced by a group of researchers from around the world brought together under the guise of The Lancet Sedentary Behaviour Working Group. Prof Ulf Ekelund led this team and at the conference he explained how the study required all those with relevant information to revisit existing data and harmonise it so that it could be pooled together more effectively. A key figure from the study is shown below and demonstrates that those who perform high levels of moderate intensity activity (60-75 min/day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time (the group on the left is the most active in terms of MVPA and the grouping on the right the least active in terms of MVPA). This was great news for me, and means that on those days that I find myself tethered to my desk I can sleep well in the knowledge that my cycle commute to and from work is reducing the impact of that sedentary behaviour.

Full Article

Ekelund, U., Steene-Johannessen, J., Brown, W. J., Fagerland, M. W., Owen, N., Powell, K. E., ... & Lancet Sedentary Behaviour Working Group. (2016). Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. The Lancet, 388(10051),1302-1310.

Planning is key

There was a recurring theme throughout the conference for me and that was that the most successful projects had all given an extensive amount of time and effort to the planning process. They had engaged with the theories that underpinned the proposed behaviour change but in particular they had fully engaged with the populations that the intervention was designed to address.

Jennie Price, CEO of SportEngland, talked through the development of the highly successful "This Girl Can" campaign and it was clear that its success down to the amount of research and engagement that took place to establish what barriers and facilitators existed in the target population. She showed the video below and after hearing the story of how the team got to this point, there was a well deserved, spontaneous applause from all in the conference room.

Other examples of excellent planning were shown by Kelly Mackintosh (3D printing project), Barry Lambe (Active Travel) and Lindsey Reece (MoveMore Sheffield) among others.

Twitter is great for conferences

I love what twitter has to offer in terms of network building and information exchange and during a conference it can be even more useful for making connections both within and beyond the conference hall. HEPA 2016 was no exception and I think it was one of the best twitter environments of any physical activity conference that I have been aware of. I was able to meet up in person with many people that I follow on twitter, some old friends and many new, and I would say to anyone that doesn't see the point in social media that the friendships established within it can be very real and in time quite productive professionally.

The amount of tweeting from a wide range of delegates was fantastic and means that if you are interested in finding out more about the conference you can scroll through the feed #HEPAEurope2016 here or see everyone's photos here.

I should also declare a note of interest in this review. I was awarded the accolade of "Best Conference Tweeter", something I was quite proud of considering how many people were tweeting from the event. Prior to receiving this accolade I had had many conversations about the use of twitter and I got the sense that good conference tweeting is about adding value to what's being presented from the stage. There's definitely a place for documenting what's going on in picture and text form but other delegate tweeters also seemed appreciative of questions and comments from the floor via twitter, links to articles mentioned by the speakers and other content that complemented the conference presentations.

Good presentations tell a story

Conferences are an opportunity to see the variety of ways that people can present their work. The standard of research and presentations was excellent at HEPA 2016 and I learnt a lot. Watching so many people in just a few days reinforced an important piece of advice that I was once given about presenting at academic conferences and that is that above all else, it needs to tell a good story.

The best presentations that I saw, and which inspired me the most were ones in which the presenters engaged with the audience the most and who had the strongest sense of narrative. I can always appreciate the intricacies and details of a good methods section and I love a graph as much as the next person but when presenting work verbally in a room full of people it's the story that counts for me and the value that can be added to published work rather than describing every detail as if each section is as important as the next.

Many of the presentations and posters have been posted on the Open Science Framework and can be found here https://osf.io/view/hepa2016/

Conflicts of interest are problematic

I presented the work that Kass GIbson and I have been doing on Corporate Sponsorship of physical activity schemes and I've posted more about that work elsewhere on this website and below I've re-posted the office-based version of my presentation.

The topic seemed to be of interest to many of the delegates and I had many enlightening conversations about similar projects and funding scenarios that did nothing but fuel my enthusiasm for further research and advocacy. Many of the delegates hadn't considered the full extent of the problems that can arise from corporate sponsorship but there were also many that were well aware of the motives of the Big Food Companies. How we can turn this level of awareness into action is a matter for another day...

Thanks, Belfast and Zagreb, here we come!

Thanks to Prof Marie Murphy, Dr Mark Tully and all of their hard-working colleagues in Belfast for a great conference. The people of Belfast also need a mention as well. Rarely have I been anywhere that so many random people struck up conversations with me or helped me find my way around when I needed help.

To find out more about other HEPA conferences click here and to find out more about HEPA 2017 in Zagreb click here.