Due to the COVID pandemic, the annual PH European conference (APHEC) had to be run virtually. This has worked very well as we utilised an excellent online platform where we rebuild our conference hotel in Barcelona.
However, there is nothing like the real thing. Nothing beats meeting face-to-face and finally we were able to meet in Barcelona for our APHEC 2022 conference. It was a great joy to see each other again and many participants expressed the feeling of participating in a family reunion.
We had an excellent program: the first day we ran our General Assembly Meeting (GAM). Activity report was presented for the previous year, the financial status was presented and a budget for the next year was approved. Two new member associations were accepted: PH associations from the Netherlands and Belgium. We also had two representatives from Luxembourg present. We will help them to establish an association in their country and they expressed an interest to join PHA Europe at the GAM in 2023. So PHA Europe now consists of 34 national PH associations from 29 different countries.
Social media is an important area for us, and we have outsourced it to a Serbian company called BC Hub. During our first day of the APHEC, they made a presentation about what has been achieved during the past year and the social media plans for the coming year.
Staff member, Hall Skåra, also made a presentation about the fellow program and our CBP program. We ended the past year with 15 fellows. They work part-time for given national associations with miscellaneous task and also act as liaises between PHA Europe and the associations translating material from English to the local language and vice versa. We plan to expand the fellowship program and in 2023 we will, for instance, have a new fellow in Spain. Hall also presented the Capacity Building Program which aim is to help the associations to mature. He pointed out which projects that had been supported in 2021 and encouraged associations also to apply for fund for appropriate projects in the coming year. Prior to the APHEC, most associations had completed a questionnaire highlighting the offerings of their national associations. Hall presented the results and pointed out areas in which the associations do well and areas that have room for improvements. We plan to use the CBP to help mature the associations where needed as pointed out in the questionnaire report.
PHA Europe’s general manager, Gerald Fischer, also presented an organigram. The delegates learned about the tasks that PHA Europe performs and who are responsible for them.
The next day was dedicated to our industry partners. It was exciting to meet both new and old friends from the pharmaceutical industry. Here the delegates learned about the companies, their priorities, programs and trials. The activity level within the field is very high and it is reassuring to the delegates to see that many new programs and medications are planned for the upcoming years.
The third day was mostly dedicated to our health care professionals (HCP). However, the staff member, Gergely Meszaros, started the day by presenting one of PHA Europe’s most important activities in the recent year: our renewed Call to Action. PHA Europe’s position paper was originally launched in 2012 and it was high time to revisit our calls whether they are still relevant, need more attention and resources. Gergely in his speech covered the revision process, the main changes implemented, the launch event of the new paper in the European Parliament and future plans, including national activities.
During the day, we also had two excellent presentations about news in the new ERS/ESC guideline on pulmonary hypertension. Presentations were made by Prof. Marion Delcroix and Prof Stephan Rosenkranz. Among the changes that was highlighted, was that the patient voice was also taken into account. PHA Europe, represented by Gergely Meszaros, was part of this task force and made important contribution to the guidelines. This is proof of the acknowledgement by the medication community of the importance of a patient centric approach to the treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension.
We also had a very interesting session by Chermaine Kwant about nutrition and PH. She is currently working on a PhD in the field. Her background is very relevant to the topic, as she used to suffer from PAH before she was transplanted a few years ago. Chermaine is planning to run a large international study on the topic, and PHA Europe is endorsing her and her project.
Prof. Regina Steringer-Mascherbauer also talked about the experience they have at her Austrian hospital with implantable pump. One of the delegates commented on her experience with the pumps and how it had influenced her Quality of Life (QoL).
APHEC 2022 was unquestionably a great success. The 52 delegates enjoyed a very interesting and educational program, but most of all they enjoyed to meet each other again face-to-face. It was a great «family reunion», and we cannot wait until meeting again in Barcelona for the APHEC 2023 meeting.