The IVth international conference concerning the problem of health in the Barents region, was a continuation of the three first conferences held in Tromsø (Norway), 1998, Sigtuna (Sweden), 2000 and Arkhangelsk (Russia) in 2001. This year's conference coincided with two important events. In 2003, Norway marked the 400th anniversary of the national public health service. In 1603, King Christian the IVth appointed Villands Nielsen to the post of public health doctor. This post was established as a consequence of the effort in Bergen to help the population during the plague in 1599-1600.
At the same time, Petrozavodsk celebrated its 300th anniversary. Peter the 1st founded the city in 1703, the same year as Saint Petersburg.
The initiators of the conference were the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, (NIPH) and the Centre of State Sanitary Surveillance and Control in the Republic of Karelia (Karelia SEC).
The organising committee included representatives from the NIPH, the Karelia SEC, the Ministry of Health in Karelia (Karelia MOH), and Petrozavodsk State University (PetrSU). Specialists in the epidemiology of infectious diseases, paediatricians, therapy, gynaecology and phthisiology from Petrozavodsk, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Kaliningrad, Pskov, Krasnoyarsk, Kislovodsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Leningrad region, Karelia republic, Norway, USA, Denmark, Finland, and Latvia. A total of 150 persons including students from the medical faculty at the PetrSU participated in the conference.
Key note addresses were given by the Rector of PetrSU, Viktor Vasiliev, the Director General of the NIPH, Geir Stene-Larsen, the Executive Director of the Vyshnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation (VRF), William Amoss, the Deputy Minister of Health in Karelia, Klara Shevchenko, and the Head Doctor of Karelia SEC, Anatoliy Kovalenko.
The plenum sessions and the session "Controllable Diseases" were held in the main lecture-hall of the PetrSU. Sessions addressing "Tuberculosis" and "HIV and STI" were held at the Karelia SEC and the Dermato-venerologic dispensary, respectively.
During the conference, a large number of scientific questions related to the challenges within epidemiology and prevention of infectious diseases, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, hospital infections, tuberculosis, SARS, laboratory screening, and vaccine-preventable diseases were discussed. An emphasis was also placed on strengthening preventive activities through mass media and educational institutions, and strengthening collaboration between interested institutes and organisations in the struggle against infectious diseases.
The conference evoked positive responses from the participants, professors and teaching personnel from the PetrSU in addition to a number of scientific-educational institutions in the Russian Federation and the mass media.
More information concerning the conference including the scientific abstracts may be found in "Combating infectious diseases in the Barents region. Health in Northwest Russia IV", Conference Proceedings/PetrSU - Petrozavodsk, 2003 (ISBN 5-8021-0301-9).