2019 PHABC Conference – Call for Abstracts Guidelines

Simplifying Complexity:

Public Health Approaches and Practice in Complex Systems

Conference & Annual General Meeting

November 14th & 15th, 2019

The Sutton Place Hotel

Vancouver, BC

Call for Abstracts




Thank you to everyone who has submitted their abstract. Keep an eye on your inbox for the status of your submission, you should be informed by early October.



The Public Health Association of British Columbia will host its annual conference on November 14th and 15th, 2019 at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver, BC. This year’s theme will build on that of our annual summer school, “Simplifying Complexity: Public Health Approaches & Practice in Complex Systems,” and will explore sub-themes of food systems & security, immunization & infectious disease control, wicked problems in health equity, and overdose response & safe supplies.


Complexity science is the study of systems and problems that are dynamic, unpredictable and multi-dimensional, and have interconnected relationships and parts. The study of complex adaptive systems (CAS) occurs within the paradigm of complexity science. In the challenging and changing times of public health practice today, practitioners can benefit from embracing and understanding how complexity science can support improved and proactive quality of care.


There are many examples of complex public health issues, including pandemics and climate change. The problems targeted by preventive interventions are often complex, embedded in multiple levels of social and environmental context, and cover the developmental lifespan. The norm for much of public health services is to address complex issues in silos restricting potential for real change. Common individual responses to complex problems can be to give up, assign blame, or oversimplify solutions. Instead, we need to approach complex problems together, using our best collective responses and resources.


Understanding CAS theory can be useful for public health practice. CAS frameworks can put complex problems into context, and promote shared understandings and approaches that recognize interconnectedness, interdependence, and collective responsibility.




The PHABC Conference provides the opportunity for professionals throughout the province to meet, mingle, and learn through a unique combination of keynote presentations, case studies, symposia and hands-on workshops. The conference aims to impart knowledge, clarify issues and demonstrate possibilities regarding attendees how to identify complex systems using complex adaptive systems thinking while simultaneously showcasing innovative and collaborative methods of promoting health at the population level.




To create a forum for deliberative dialogue and respectful exchange of ideas related to complex adaptive systems and systems thinking




  • Identify, review evidence in support of, and critically discuss complex adaptive systems as an approach for informing effective population level public health interventions.
  • Apply complex adaptive systems thinking to strengthen current public health intervention models and use complexity concepts to develop and improve these interventions, particularly at a population level.
  • Examine current public health issues & develop innovative solutions using complex adaptive systems thinking
  • Provide participants, including intersectoral partners, with the opportunity to apply new knowledge, skills and/or resources.
  • Facilitate a knowledge exchange across provincial jurisdictions and levels of government



Conference Sub-Themes

The conference will explore innovative population level interventions using complex adaptive systems thinking, focusing on four topic areas critical to public health:

  1. Food Systems & Security
  2. Immunization & Infectious Disease Control
  3. Wicked Problems in Health Equity
  4. Overdose Response & Safe Supply

If you have research on or are part of a promising practice you think aligns with our conference theme we would welcome your contribution to our dialogue. The conference organizers request that you submit abstracts that align with one or more of the four sub-themes of the conference; however, additional sub-themes may also be identified from the selected abstracts.


We encourage submissions from the full spectrum of public health and endeavour to be inclusive of quality submissions even if they do not fit under the above topic areas.



Conference Format

The conference will include:

  • Plenary sessions to stimulate thinking about the conference theme
  • Workshops to build skills and strategies
  • Symposia to consider important issues in public health
  • Oral presentations to present findings related to the conference theme & sub-themes
  • Poster presentations to present findings related to the conference theme & sub-themes



Call for Abstracts

Individuals and groups are invited to submit abstracts for one or more of the following presentation format(s):

  • Oral presentation (15-20 minutes)
  • Poster presentation
  • Workshop (1.5 hours)
  • Symposia (1.5 hours)


Based on the restricted opportunities for oral presentations, we strongly encourage applicants to consider structuring their proposals, particularly if they are practice-based research, around the poster format. The poster session will be designed as a ‘walk-about’ in order to structure maximum interaction with the presenters and their work.


Workshops and Symposia are intended to be an opportunity to discuss a particular topic related to the conference themes in detail and/or to build skills or resources in relation to a conference theme.



Abstract Submission Guidelines

Those submitting individual abstracts will be required to submit the following information:

  • Speaker contact details
  • List of co-authors, if applicable, and their contact information
  • Presentation format (oral presentation, poster presentation, symposia, workshop)
  • Conference sub-theme
  • Presentation title
  • An abstract of 250 words or less

If your abstract describes primary or secondary research, you are encouraged to submit a structured abstract covering: background, methods, results and discussion/conclusions.


Those submitting practice-based abstracts are encouraged to include information on: Purpose, focus/content, significance for the sub-theme and target audience.



Evaluation Criteria

Due to limited space and the need for the most relevant and highest quality program, the Scientific Program Committee (SPC) has outlined several criteria by which the quality and relevance of abstracts will be judged.

Each abstract will be scored out of a total possible 7 points, each category listed below will be given a score between 0 and 1 and each score added together for the final score. The descriptions below represent a score of 1 (full marks) for that category:

  1. Asset- & Strength- Based: Approach is explicitly focused on reservoirs of strength and resilience, even in the most disadvantaged communities, as ‘assets’ for health, including geography (rural/remote/Indigenous/inner city).
  2. Action-Oriented: Actions are evidence-informed, population level interventions & focused on the big-picture, instead of on immediate goals.
  3. Partnerships & Multi-Sectoral Collaboration: Collaboration is focused on partnerships with various stakeholders, mediators & facilitators of change, focused on collective impact and the inclusion of affected communities.
  4. Innovative: Innovation and complex systems thinking is evident. Partners encouraged to take initiative, innovate & transform into leaders themselves.
  5. Engaging & Experiential: Participatory and experiential focus is strong, effective and woven throughout.
  6. Relevance to Complex Adaptive Systems: Highly relevant to complex adaptive systems, complexity science and conference subthemes & objectives.
  7. Quality: High quality. Would shine at a national conference.