Annual AHS conference will explore social inequities in health care


Unlike most research-focused health conferences, attendees at next week's i4 2021 summit will explore the future of health care from multiple vantage points, including longstanding social issues like equity and racism.

The Alberta Health Services flagship event, now in its sixth year, bills itself as "the most forward-thinking health-plus-care event in Canada."

"It's a way for us to come together to talk about some of the biggest challenges we have in health care," Marlies van Dijk, innovation lead for the AHS Design Lab and one of the event's lead co-ordinators, told Taproot. "And they're usually very complex — [like] how do you address racism in our health and care system."

The national i4 conference, taking place virtually on Nov. 3 and 4, is aimed at people who work in the health-care space, people working on the periphery such as in the non-profit sector, students, and patients.

Programming includes 20 workshops, four plenary sessions, and a health innovation pitch competition.

Van Dijk said i4 is less "clinical" than other health-care conferences. Instead, the event is focused on forward-facing topics, with workshops on demystifying artificial intelligence, addressing racial injustice in foster care, and how traditional care models fail Canada's most vulnerable citizens.

Marlies van Dijk

Marlies van Dijk has been involved with organizing the annual AHS summit since 2015. (Supplied)

Van Dijk said she's been involved with organizing the event since it began in 2015 as the Quality and Safety Summit. Originally focused on quality improvement, the event changed focus and was renamed i4 last year to attract a broader set of attendees and presenters.

"When people heard the words quality improvement, they thought, 'Oh well, that's not me because I'm not a quality-improvement consultant. …' So we switched it to i4 to open up a dialogue and make it a broader invitation, and not about one part of change," she said.

The conference's pitch competition will see 12 semi-finalists, who have already been selected from 80 applicants, present their submissions to a panel of judges. The solutions sought by the competition must address one of three areas of concern: community health and care, mental health and wellness, and health equity.

Registration is open until Oct. 29. The fee is $75 for Alberta residents, $125 for all others.