Past Conferences

International Society for Environmental Epidemiology 12th Annual Conference

The 12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology was held in Buffalo, New York, USA, at the Adams Mark Hotel and Resort, August 19-23, 2000. The theme for ISEE 2000 was Building Connections: Environmental Epidemiology in Pan America and the World. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, State of New York. Conference co-chairs were Drs. John Vena, John Weiner, and Germaine Buck.

Sponsors included the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and the Environment and Society Institute at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York; 24th Century Press; Phoenix Workgroup Computing; the United States Environmental Protection Agency; the National Cancer Institute; the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences; the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pan American Health Organization; the World Health Organization; and the Health Effects Institute.

The meeting attracted 453 registrants from 46 different countries, including 65 students. Grants and other forms of sponsorship supported 25 full-travel awards that covered registration, hotel, and travel up to $1,500. In addition, 13 partial travel awards were made. Sponsors also paid the registration fee for 66 scientists from around the world. In addition to a large contingent from the United States, attendees were from the United Kingdom (28), Canada (24), Mexico (19), Czech Republic (13), Italy (11), Romania (10), Russia (10), Korea (9), Hungary (8), Germany (14), Slovakia (8), Hungary (8), Lithuania (7), Netherlands (7), and Israel (7). Other countries represented included Ethiopia, Cuba, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Chili, New Zealand, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, India, France, Ukraine, Uruguay, Poland, Greece, Taiwan, Malayasia, Japan, Switzerland, Finland, Albania, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Peru.

The Buffalo conference was the first annual ISEE meeting to use new techniques of information technology at every step: abstracts and registrations were submitted electronically via the conference web site; Power Point presentations were encouraged; and the conference evaluation was conducted via the web site. Minor problems emerged, but the experience gained will help resolve similar issues in future meetings. A total of 409 abstracts were published in the July 2000 issue of Epidemiology (Vol. 11, No. 4).

The conference program commenced on Saturday evening with a keynote address by Dr. Warren Winkelstein, entitled "Pioneering Environmental Epidemiology in Western New York State," followed by the first John Goldsmith Lecture, by Tony McMichael, entitled, "Germs, Genes and Greenhouse Gases: Old and New Connections." This was followed by three days of program beginning with a plenary symposium on Environmental Epidemiology in Pan America. There were 21 contributed-paper sessions on Sunday, 28 on Monday, and 20 on Tuesday, for a total of 69 contributed-paper sessions over the three day course of the conference. In addition, a poster session was held each day, with more than 30 posters displayed at each session.

Presentations were grouped around a number of topics. About 20% of the presentations addressed the health effects of air pollution. An important outstanding issue in air pollution epidemiology is the effect of lifetime exposure on survival. Other sessions were devoted to cancer epidemiology, health effects of heavy metals and pesticides, reproductive and developmental health, health effects of water pollution, climate change and health, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, ionizing- and non-ionizing radiation, epidemiology in emergency preparedness and disaster response, and numerous aspects of exposure assessment in environmental epidemiology studies.

The translation of study findings to policy and action was emphasized in many presentations. The concept of 'transdisciplinarity' was demonstrated most clearly in a session on Epidemiology and Public Policy. The meeting also served as an important platform for presentations from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), with participation from several circumpolar countries.

Several sessions focused on the role of ISEE in capacity building. Many ISEE members are actively engaged in fostering the development of skills and institutional infrastructure in regions of the world where activity in environmental epidemiology has been limited but where the need for expertise is great. A continuing interest of ISEE is the development of stronger and more effective ISEE chapters in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and the middle East. There was extensive discussion of selecting the most effective approaches to provide organizational and administrative support for helping to develop this capacity. A committee for capacity building was established to continue these discussions and foster activities in this area. An important emphasis at many of the ISEE 2000 sessions was health effects and exposure assessment in Latin America.

Scientific sessions are clearly the basis of ISEE meeting activities. However, many fruitful connections are developed and nurtured during the social program. In Buffalo this included the opening ceremony, the welcome reception, the Congress banquet and the fun run/walk. Many participants also enjoyed taking a break to visit breathtaking Niagara Falls and numerous local museums.

The organizers of the 13th conference of ISEE welcomed us next year to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where the meeting will be held as a joint congress with the 12th Conference of the International Genetic Epidemiology Society (IGES) on September 2-4, 2001. The 2001 conference is being organized in collaboration with the Central and Eastern European (CEE) Chapter of ISEE.

Reported by Helena Mussalo-Rauhamaa, Ph.D., and Ken Cantor, Ph.D.

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