2023 Keynote speakers

Keynote speakerPresentation titleBiography
Freia De Bock
Strengthening evidence-based prevention and health promotion – a systems perspective

In the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges in public health decision-making became clearly visible: Decisions related to children's health, e.g., school, playground, and sports field closures and testing regimes, were made primarily from an infection control perspective, rather than in terms of comprehensive public health prevention and care. Children were not involved in the decision-making processes. As a result of the decisions made, their health and developmental risks have increased in relevant ways (e.g., increase in depression, obesity). This has revealed the deficits of our society in making well-considered public health decisions, in the sense of protecting children in our societies.
Nevertheless, more and more governments adopt and endorse the concept of evidence-based public health, such as the Prevention Act in Germany, focusing on prevention and health promotion as core functions of public health. Evidence-based public health encompasses a systematic, transparent and structured decision-making, in which scientific evidence is integrated with stakeholder input to weigh and balance out effects and side effects, but also feasibility and acceptance of potential measures.
We present applied definitions and practice-oriented checklists to operationalize evidence-based prevention and health promotion both at the level of decision-making and of concrete interventions in different settings (De Bock et al., Federal Centre for Health Education’s Memorandum on Evidence-based Prevention and Health Promotion). In sequence, we discuss, which steps and processes are necessary for evolving systems of prevention to meet the requirement of evidence-based public health.
These steps and processes include comprehensive, system-wide capacity building activities, facilitating the necessary organizational, cultural and policy support as well as implementation requirements for evidence-based action in prevention. In terms of organizations, i) emphasising the value of evidence-based action within organizations, ii) ensuring access to existing databases featuring evidence-based interventions and translating evidence for practice, iii) advancing competencies of the workforce in searching and interpreting evidence syntheses as well as iv) promoting a systematic cooperation between practitioners and researchers seems key. In terms of policy support, decision makers in policy and practice should draw on a shared understanding of the concept of i) evidence-based prevention and of ii) the differentiated need for effect evaluations, ensuring the generation of evidence while implementing interventions. The latter should be supported by funding agencies, which could make evidence-generation a requirement for all prevention measures financed by public money. As a way to promote these developments, both accreditation programs for institutions with public health missions as well as secondary education programs (e.g. providing master degrees) in public health should define evidence-based public health as a key requirement /professional competency to be achieved.
Last but not least, to increase societal resilience in times of crises and to protect children’s health, decision-making processes are needed that are more inclusive of children and their families as stakeholders and that systematize in a transparent way the best available knowledge on consequences (i.e., effects and side effects) of public health decisions.
Prof. Freia De Bock PhD (F) – Head of the Department of Child Health Services Research at the Medical Faculty of Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany – obtained her degree as a medical doctor and Dr. med. in 2005 and continued her education in public health and epidemiology through the Clinical Effectiveness Program at Harvard University (USA) and a Master's degree in public health at Erasmus University Rotterdam (NL), graduating in August 2012. Parallely, she finished her fellowship in Pediatrics and then worked as a Pediatric Specialist at the Social Paediatric Center Frankfurt Mitte. She completed her habilitation in child public health in 2014 and gained an affiliated professorship at the University of Heidelberg in 2017. At the Mannheim Institute for Public Health (MIPH) of the University of Heidelberg, she built up an interdisciplinary working group of early prevention and health promotion and health services research.
From 2018 on, she took over the position as head of the department “Efficiency and Effectiveness of Health Education” at the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) in Germany, where she built up comprehensive political networks and health policy expertise, while remaining affiliated professor of child public health at the Heidelberg University, Mannheim Institute of Public Health (www.miph.de). In 2020, she was appointed to the WHO-TAG (working group) on schooling in times of COVID-19 and in 2021 was asked as a member of the scientific board of Santé Publique France, the national Public Health Institute in France.
In 2022, she was offered two Full Professorships at both the University of Bielefeld, Germany, and the Heinrich-Heine University DĂĽsseldorf, Germany. She took over the position of Professor of Child Health Services Research in DĂĽsseldorf, which bridges the Department of General Pediatrics, Neonatology and Pediatric Cardiology with the Centre for Health and Society (chs) at the Medical Faculty and is the first Child Health Services Research Professorship in Germany. Since april 2022, Freia De Bock has been building up the new department, which combines research in health services and public health for children and families. She also remains partly active in patient care within the social pediatric center of the University Hospital DĂĽsseldorf.
Meliha Bijedic
Ensuring a safe environment for youth
through preventive strategies

Summary: Creating a safe environment for youth through preventive strategies involves a comprehensive approach that addresses different aspects of their well-being, including physical safety, mental health and social support. By implementing preventive strategies, through communities, especially through schools, we can take proactive steps to preserve the mental health of youth and create a stimulating environment in which they can thrive emotionally and psychologically.
Among others, one of the biggest challenges we face is youth gambling in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the evidence-based prevention programs will be presented, as well as strategies used in working with young people.
There is a need to create a strong infrastructure for preventive work in BiH, which will require long-term commitment, cooperation and constant efforts of all stakeholders. Creating a strong infrastructure can improve the overall well-being of the population, reduce health care costs, and create a healthier and more prosperous society.
Meliha Bijedic, PhD professor at the Department of Behavioural Disorders, Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Tuzla. Main activities and responsibilities are focus of research and teaching in treatment of children and youth with behaviour disorders. In recent years, she has worked a lot on the development of cooperation projects with a focus on influencing and strengthening the structural level of social policy and social planning capacity. Therefore, topics such as empowerment, sustainability, multidimensional approach, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation are her main research topics. She was mostly involved in the research of juvenile delinquency, but in recent years she has focused on the prevention of youth gambling. It encourages the transfer of knowledge between different stakeholders and interest groups, especially between the state and civil society.
Ana Terra Amorim-Maia
Bridging the Gap: Prevention Research, Urban Infrastructures, and Climate Adaptation

In an era defined by climate change, urbanization, and growing environmental challenges, the need for proactive and innovative solutions has never been more apparent. This keynote presentation will explore the potential synergies between prevention research, urban infrastructures, and climate adaptation, underlining the actionable hope that unites them.
Climate change affects prevention research by introducing new dimensions of risk, vulnerabilities, and inequalities. Dr Ana Amorim-Maia’s talk will delve into actionable measures, indicators, and strategies that prevention practitioners and stakeholders can incorporate into their daily practice to improve lives, protect communities, and address climate challenges more effectively.
In the talk, Dr Amorim-Maia will share inspiring real-world examples of cities that have harnessed the principles of prevention research to mitigate climate-related risks and improve the well-being of their citizens, with a particular focus on urban infrastructures. Participants will also learn how interdisciplinary collaboration can yield innovative strategies and breakthrough solutions.
Drawing on extensive experience, Dr Ana Amorim-Maia will illustrate how prevention research can play a pivotal role in crafting more resilient, sustainable, and thriving urban environments, and guide us through a journey that reframes climate change not as a doomsday scenario but as an opportunity for positive change. In a world seeking actionable hope, this keynote will provide practical insights to, collectively, create positive change in our institutions, cities, and beyond.
Dr. Ana Terra Amorim-Maia is a postdoctoral researcher at the Basque Centre for Climate Change. Her research focuses on the crucial and timely task of exploring how cities can adapt to climate change while addressing various social and environmental injustices. With a firm focus on both academic rigour and practical application, Dr. Amorim-Maia delves deeply into areas such as intersectionality, vulnerability, environmental politics, and inclusion in the context of urban climate adaptation. Dr. Amorim-Maia earned a PhD in Environmental Science and Technology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Her academic journey also includes an Erasmus Mundus master's degree in Environmental Studies – Cities and Sustainability from four European institutions and a degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Sao Paulo. Recognized for her expertise and accomplishments, Dr. Amorim-Maia has been invited to lend her insights as an expert to prominent organizations such as UNWomen, C40, and ICLEI.
Katrine Bach
Climate-positive behaviours: protecting health with behavioural and cultural insights

Summary: Successfully combating major public health challenges, including the prevention and effects of climate change, involves exploring and addressing the root causes of related behaviours. This has led WHO Regional Office for Europe to prioritize behavioural and cultural insights (BCI) as a flagship programme. In her talk, Katrine Bach Habersaat will focus on the critical role of behavioural insights and cultural context analysis in prevention efforts, including for climate change. She will also share how WHO Europe works with Member States, partners and a broad range of stakeholders to advance and promote this area of work.
Health and climate change are intrinsically linked. Climate change-related events can lead to death, illness and impacts on quality of life, well-being and mental health. At the same time there are synergies in prevention efforts that seek to reduce carbon oxide emissions and those that relate to healthier lifestyles and ambient air quality. Katrine Bach Habersaat will explore how public health authorities alongside WHO and other partners can apply behavioural and social sciences and cultural context analysis in these prevention efforts, sharing also examples of tools and guidance to support this work.
Katrine Bach Habersaat is the Regional Advisor and programme lead for Behavioural and Cultural Insights (BCI) at WHO Regional Office for Europe. She has over 20 years of experience in applying behavioural insights with a track record of published papers in this field. She has previously worked for the Red Cross, the Egmont Foundation and consultancy companies. Before engaging in her current position, she oversaw the vaccine acceptance and demand work of the regional WHO vaccination programme, with a focus on behavioural insights and interventions for increased vaccination uptake.
Klaus M. Beier
The pandemic of child sexual abuseKlaus M. Beier studied medicine (M.D. 1986) and philosophy (Ph.D. 1988). He is a specialized physician for psychosomatics and psychotherapy and since 1996 the head of the Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (University Clinic). He is in charge of the undergraduate training of medical school students in sexual medicine (more than 600 per year) as well as the post- graduate training for physicians and psychologists in this field. He is also responsible for the Outpatient Clinic of the Institute which offers assessment and treatment for the full range of sexual disorders and gender dysphoria. His main focus in research is the prevention of child sexual abuse. The goal is to encourage self-identified undetected pedophiles to seek professional help in order to avoid committing child sexual abuse or the use of child abuse images. For this purpose, in 2005 he initiated the “Prevention Project Dunkelfeld” which has now extended to 11 additional locations all over Germany (www.dont-offend.org). Since 2014, Prof. Beier has expanded the prevention approach to recruit juveniles aged between 12 and 18, who display sexually deviant behavior towards children and/or phantasies about the body image of children (www.just-dreaming-of-them.org). 2017 he started the worldwide useable internet-based self-management tool “Troubled Desire” for assessment and treatment in case of pedophilia to prevent child sexual abuse, the use of child abuse images and to arrange contacts to therapists according to the law in each country, even those with mandatory reporting laws (www.troubled-desire.com). Regarding these efforts, in 2017, he was awarded the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany.
Ansgar Rougemont-BĂĽcking
The pandemic of child sexual abuseAnsgar Rougemont-BĂĽcking, MD, is an associate professor for psychiatry and psychotherapy, scientist and book author. Originally from Germany, he is living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland for more than 20 years. He has conducted research at various universities, including Harvard, on the neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to the development of post-traumatic disorders and of addiction. As a clinician, he is specialized in the treatment of post-traumatic and of addictive disorders for many years. Currently, he is conducting a research project at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) on the topic of burnout. With a special authorization from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health he is conducting psychedelic-assisted therapies with substances such as LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA as well as with Ketamine.
Aengus Ă“ Dochartaigh
The pandemic of child sexual abuseAengus Ó Dochartaigh is Outreach Director at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Here he leads international partnerships and engagement to ensure that emerging evidence of effective strategies to prevent child sexual abuse, informs and supports policy, practice and funding. Aengus is also currently serving as Advisory Board Chair of Ignite Philanthropy – Inspiring the End to Violence Against Girls and Boys, a pooled donor fund; and was previously Director of Strategy and Operations at Human Dignity Foundation, leading major investments to tackle child sexual abuse. Prior to this focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse, Aengus worked for consultancies and NGOs in the international development sector, living in Palestine and Fiji and working extensively across west, east, and southern Africa.
Other keynote speakersPresentation titleBiography
Emily Warren
Are realist randomised controlled trials possible? A reflection on the INCLUSIVE evaluation of a whole-school, bullying-prevention intervention

Emily Warren, G.J. Melendez-Torres and Chris Bonell won the 2022 President Award with this work.

Emily Warren, the keynote speaker in charge of this presentation, is an Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where she evaluates public policies and complex interventions using realist approaches. Her PhD focused on the philosophical compatibility and practical feasibility of realist randomised controlled trials. Her methodological interests allow her to work across a range of public health topics including health in early years, school-based interventions, and sexual health and wellbeing.