This year’s ICIC17 in Dublin was a fantastic experience. The growth in delegate numbers to some 1200 attendees, and the breadth in representation from 54 different countries, demonstrates the international appeal in integrated care as a means to achieving more sustainable health and care systems. As Nuria Toro from the World Health Organization demonstrated in her plenary, people-centred and integrated care is no longer the domain of high-income countries but a fundamental design feature that can support health system strengthening in all countries of the world.
Our conference demonstrated that understanding of the role and impact of integrated care continues to develop organically. A very clear take-home message was not just the importance or engaging and empowering people in the design and delivery of integrated care interventions, but how the active role of the wider community and community groups often plays a key part in making change happen.
I was particularly struck in this regard by the paper looking at the profound impact that citizen engagement had made in Millom, Cumbria. The combination of an active social movement and an assets-based approaches enabled traditional professional and managerial power structures to be dismantled and new alliances forged. By shifting accountability for care to the local community, and finding novel ways to integrate services, local leaders were able to navigate their way out of a crisis in care provision. It also demonstrated the value of organisations like the North West Leadership Academy in studying such initiatives and so spread the lessons learned in the management and leadership behaviours that were necessary to activate such change. I was very pleased, therefore, to see the project win runner-up in our Integrated Care Awards.
ICIC17 Dublin was also notable for gaining Patients Included Charter status due to its pro-active inclusion of users and carers, including 50 bursary placements. Working with HSE Patients Forum, IPPOSI and Family Carers Ireland brought a necessary new dimension to our conferences, and one that I hope can be replicated in the future.
Despite such progress, most of the presentations at ICIC17 remained health-dominated. Encouraging more speakers and participants from social care and other sectors to broaden the range of discussion will be important. This is why, for ICIC18 in the Netherlands next year, we are seeking especially to emphasise the role of social care and to understanding the value that a wider approach can bring to addressing public health needs through integrated care solutions.
As ever, I left the conference inspired by how integrated care, when designed and implemented in the right way, truly has the power to transform people’s lives. I look ahead now to our next major event, our 1st Asia-Pacific Conference in Integrated Care to be held in Brisbane, Australia, on 6-8 November!
Dr Nick Goodwin
International Foundation for Integrated Care