President's Blog

President’s Blog: October 2014

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Welcome to the first edition of the President’s Diary. This Diary provides insight into the types of things the Secretariat and President gets up to and will be posted quarterly.

I thought August and September were going to be quiet months and I would not have much to communicate. HTAi Secretariat and Board activities are typically in relative recess over these months primarily due to the need to wind down just a little bit after running the Annual Meeting and all of its associated activities.

HTAi Annual Meetings are, quite simply, exhausting for our Secretariat; the team puts in many months preparing and then many hours packing up. The HTAi Secretariat work diligently on our behalf and you would not think that currently, there are only two people in our Edmonton-based head office at the IHE. Chris Sargent, MD seems to have limitless energy, enthusiasm and drive. In any one day, he can be recruiting the new staff we need to keep the show on the road, developing documentation for our application for Non-Governmental Organisation status with the World Health Organisation, talking to the Local Organising Committee for our 2015 HTAi meeting in Oslo, sorting planning our input to an HTA Regional Meeting in Mexico, and advancing our work on our new five-year strategic plan. In the meantime, Christine Batdorf is coordinating work behind the scenes, including developing the website and promotional materials for the 2015 Annual Meeting, sourcing the next venue for the Policy Forum, ensuring the myriad of teleconferences many of you are on go smoothly, amongst much else. You don’t always see the work Christine does, but I can assure you, she is essential ‘oil in the wheels’… The HTAi Secretariat thankfully now have several new staff joining the team in October and I’m sure it will be of great benefit to Chris and Christine and to our all our members.

As you know, our Annual Meetings are a showcase for HTAi and provide a wonderful opportunity for the global HTA community to come together, debate and explore hot topics testing our health care systems. Washington was no different. The conference was buzzing with vibrant discourse. So I was very puzzled when I received a letter recently from nine ‘seriously concerned…high level and experienced HTA-representatives’. Their concern was about the ‘strategy of HTAi…. giving industry such an extensive platform in expressing their respective positions and standpoints at HTAi-conferences’. What a surprise.

The Board recently discussed the content of our next Strategic Plan and there certainly was no strategy discussion about this! All I can imagine is that some people may not have been to HTAi meetings for a while. I’ve been going to them for fifteen years. , and I have indeed seen a change in HTAi meetings. That change reflects a conscious desire to open up HTAi to ensure all those interested in doing and using HTA can come and talk to fellow ‘doers and users’. Without doubt this results in tension, but it also represents greater diversity and pluralism, and in my mind, this leads us to a richer debate. Here is the letter and my reply. The BMJ was also informed of this letter and authored this article released last week.

HTAi performs a vital and unique function. Providing a truly neutral and global forum for dialogue about the production, use and impact of Health Technology Assessment is a necessary and honourable pursuit. That’s what our Society will continue to strive to do.

Planning and operations for the HTAi Oslo 2015 Annual Meeting are really gearing up so more of that in my next diary entry in January.

Carole Longson

President, HTAi