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A doctor conducts a liver ultrasound exam on a young student in Vienna during the EASL 2023 annual meeting

Case Study: Creating an Enduring Event Legacy

During its annual meeting, one medical society interacted with the host city’s residents to raise awareness for its specialty among adults and children while also delivering focused care.

In operation since 1966, the European Association for Study of the Liver came out of the Covid pandemic determined to make a broader impact with its annual congress than ever before. For the 2023 edition of EASL’s event, held in late June in Vienna, Austria, “we wanted to leave a lasting impact “on the 7,000 practitioners and researchers who attended, says Ben Hainsworth, executive director of EASL. “But just as importantly, we wanted to help educate the broader public in Vienna about the importance of liver health.”

So, EASL collaborated with the Vienna Convention Bureau starting in early 2023 to develop a two-pronged strategy that would address the present health needs of Vienna’s residents while stimulating the next generation of citizens to be aware of their liver health. The initiative would be called “Love Your Liver.”

A joint workshop was held between the bureau, EASL reps, and Messe Wien, the convention center. Then, to move along the possible actions for delivering public impact, the bureau brought to the table two influential local institutions: the Vienna Healthcare Group and the Board of Education for Vienna.

From this collaboration, the plan came into focus. First, EASL teamed up with Vienna Healthcare Group, a healthcare conglomerate with eight hospitals and nine nursing homes, to organize a free public event the day before the congress began. Held at a large indoor site in the neighborhood adjacent to Messe Wien, the event saw a series of liver specialists from the lab and from the field provide insights to the public on why liver health is so important and how to maintain it. To build attendance, the convention bureau assisted EASL with local marketing of the event.

In addition, practitioners from Vienna Healthcare Group performed free liver checks throughout the four-day congress at an exhibit stand in the convention center’s prefunction space as well as in a mobile screening facility in front of Messe Wien. Blood tests assessed various liver functions and screened for hepatitis C. More than 400 people took advantage of the service; those who had an abnormality in a test result were advised to see their family doctor for further examination, and everyone went home with a much deeper understanding of liver function than they had before.

Building the Long-Term Legacy
In its collaboration with the Board of Education of Vienna, EASL members including two local hepatologists went to a school to host an interactive event for children on liver health, which included a video made specifically for the students. The children were asked to create artwork related to the liver and its functions, which was exhibited at Messe Wien during the congress. The students also attended the opening ceremonies of EASL’s annual meeting.

MM0124Legacy2.png"It was a great opportunity for the students to see firsthand how experts from different countries work together on solutions at conventions,” says Heinrich Himmer, director of the Board of Education of Vienna. “The school projects raised awareness about the importance of a healthy liver and gave students perspectives on research topics and career paths.” Further, EASL and the board will continue to develop liver-related content to be used at more Viennese schools.

In appreciation of the efforts of the healthcare firm and the school board, EASL asked representatives from both organizations to speak during the opening ceremony of the congress.

Interestingly, the EASL initiative was the first time that Vienna Convention Bureau took a lead role in helping an association build a local meeting legacy. For the past few years, though, “we’ve been looking at how meeting-legacy initiatives can be best implemented, and we know the approach will be different for each association,” says Christian Woronka, director of the Vienna Convention Bureau. “Based on the objectives and ideas of each association, we’ll try to bring local partners on board who can concretely support these impact projects by leveraging their network of expertise.”

“The diligence, know-how, and hospitality of our Viennese hosts and partners made this [legacy initiative] a resounding success,” notes EASL’s Hainsworth.

The next EASL annual congress will take place in June 2024 in Milan, Italy. There, the association will employ similar initiatives to bring both healthcare and education to local residents.

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