The Lancet: Air travel for global health: flying in the face of sustainable development? (4) HIFA global discussion forums, multilingualism, webinars

25 December, 2019

Dear Neil,

I welcome your proposal for investment in HIFA virtual global discussion forums, but will leave aside the multilingual side as I have no competence there.

My experience of webinars has been unsatisfactory and I feel sure they could be improved on. If one is simply tuned in to a physical meeting, as well as sometimes having difficulty in hearing the discussion, the experience is surely one of feeling, as well as being, remote, with one’s virtual presence forgotten. The present webinar format seems likely, without intending to do so, to devalue those who are not in the centre, which tends to be in a capital city, and those at the global periphery – and by “periphery” I mean very far from that physical meeting. Surely there is now the technology to flag up when distant speakers want to contribute and to show them on a screen when they do so?

Best wishes,


HIFA profile: Stewart Britten is advisor to the British NGO, HealthProm, on its project to reduce maternal and child deaths in Northern Afghanistan. He has worked for the reduction of institutionalisation of babies and small children in Russia by introduction of parent support programmes. stewart.britten AT