Building on the Success of Last Year's Summit


In June of last year, Lorien Abroms, Elaine Auld, Bob Gold, Joe Smyser and I inaugurated the first Digital Health Promotion Executive Leadership Summit that convened here in the nation’s capital at the Newseum Knight Conference Center and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University. We launched the 2018 Summit for several reasons. First, it had become apparent to us—because of the ubiquity of digital technology and reach of social media—that the time was right to bring greater focus to the promise that digital technology and social media hold for improving public health. Second, we believed that more needed to be done to bring the academic, industry, and government sectors together in dialogue to discuss the opportunities—and challenges—to forge collaborative partnerships across the public and private sectors in developing and evaluating the next generation of digital information and health communication technologies. And third, we hoped to facilitate a conversation among leaders from each of these sectors that would result in a consensus on a “Common Agenda” for future actions that could advance digital health promotion efforts.

The Summit brought together in an intellectual salon 30 expert speakers and more than 75 national leaders from the academic, government, non-profit, and private technology sectors in the United States and other nations who are working in digital health communication to discuss digital technology’s role in addressing a range of pressing public health issues, including the opioid epidemic, suicide, and the impact of technology on children and adolescents. We heard case studies of successful uses of social media in public health interventions and discussed issues related to digital health and confidentiality, patient protection, and data sharing. And we examined future directions for the use of digital technology to improve public health.

I am delighted that the first Summit produced two important intellectual products: a consensus statement and declaration of principles—“Toward a Common Agenda for the Public and Private Sectors to Advance Digital Health Communication”—which was published in the American Journal of Public Health earlier this year; and a forthcoming supplement issue of Health Education & Behavior, sponsored by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, that will contain perspectives and reports of the newest thinking and empirical research in the field of digital health.

Building on this success, this year’s Summit will expand the scope of the conversation. Once again, we will be convening some of the world’s leading thinkers about the digital space to consider how we can utilize the technology and the evolving social media platforms to improve both individual and population health. To that end, this year’s topics will once again cover how the digital space is being used to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, and vaccine hesitancy. But the speakers and experts who will be joining us this year—leading off with Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, the U.S. Surgeon General—will also seek to illuminate the issues, challenges, and opportunities presented by digital intelligence, the spread of misinformation, online patient communities, censorship in social media, and the emerging global legal frameworks that may shape the contours of the digital space in years to come.

It has been a privilege and honor to work with Summit Co-Chair Lorien Abroms, whose own footprint in the digital space and public health applications is formidable, to plan and organize this year’s Summit. Our thanks go to our co-conspirators—Bob Gold of the University of Maryland, Joe Smyser of The Public Good Projects, and a superb international Planning Committee—for once again bringing their talents, resources and insights to the Summit. And finally, I thank Elaine Auld, SOPHE chief executive officer, for the extraordinary effort she and her staff at SOPHE have exerted to bring life to the program for the Summit.

I look forward to engaging you during the Summit and I hope you will find our conversations both catalyzing and convivial.

John Allegrante, PhD, LHD (Hon.)
Summit Co-Chair

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