October 10, 2013

The International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and the 12th International Symposium on Maritime Health (ISMH)

By Eilif Dahl
Professor emeritus, Norwegian Centre for Maritime Medicine

The International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) works for all aspects of seafarers’ health and welfare. Every two years it arranges an International Symposium on Maritime Health and the 12th one was held in Brest, France, from the 4th to the 7th of June 2013 under the heading ‘Sea, Health and Beyond’.

The General Meeting of IMHA is always held during the symposium. This year, Dr. Alf Magne Horneland from Norway, head of the Norwegian Center for Maritime Medicine (NCMM) in Bergen, Norway, was elected president. The six other board members are from the Philippines, Russia, India, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

It is worth noting that IMHA differs from many other associations, because its main goal is not to work for the benefit of its individual members, but to work for health improvements of all seafarers. IMHA does this by encouraging research and promote development of quality international medical services and systems in the maritime sector. It furthermore works for international coordination of maritime health initiatives, offers expertise to other organizations and partners in the shipping industry and will cooperate with all who share the goals.

The main topics of the 12th ISMH in Brest were work conditions on board and how to best handle emergencies at sea. There were presentation on a wide range of other maritime subjects, from skin conditions in seafarers to stress and piracy at sea. Presentations that focused on challenges from an increasing number of women at sea, as well as multiethnic and multinational crews, also got much attention.

For those of us with special interest in cruise medicine, a small but important section of maritime medicine, encouraging data were presented from the industry, showing high survival rates after treatment for cardiac arrest on cruise ship compared with most pre-hospital settings on land (Art Diskin). A program enabling blood transfusions aboard in life-threatening emergencies show promising results (Steve Williams). Complaints from cruise ship medical staff regarding the lack of medical specialist service during weekends in ports with national health systems, like Norway, were addressed (Eilif Dahl). Also efforts to create guidelines for certification of doctors to work on German vessels were presented (Klaus Seidenstűcker) – while there at this time is only one cruise ship under German flag.

Bergen 2015

The next International Symposium on Maritime Health (13th ISMH) will be arranged in Bergen 23-26 June 2015 (see www.ncmm.no). Professor Tim Carter, head of the Scientific Committee, promises a stimulating and thought-provoking program of invited keynote speakers and free papers on various topics related to maritime health and welfare, including cruise medicine. The symposium should be of interest not only to ship’s medical staff, other maritime health professionals and researchers but to representatives from shipping and oil companies, seafarer unions, maritime and health administrations, insurance companies, risk management and departments for human resources, as well as from fishing, diving, coast guard, navy, and so on. The motto for 13th ISMH is ‘Healthy Seafarers – Healthy Shipping’.

See you in Bergen 2015?