Presidential introduction to the ESCAP Conference, 22 – 26 August 2009, Budapest

Quality of Life in Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Tuula Tamminen, President of ESCAP (2009)Agnes Vetró, vice-president of ESCAP (2009)The ESCAP conference in Budapest was special because it was not an ordinary, numbered congress, which takes place every three or four years according to the current ESCAP constitution. The Budapest Conference was organized only two years after the congress held in Florence in August 2007. We will evaluate the outcome carefully and, if the Budapest experiment is considered successful, a constitutional amendment will be sought from the General Assembly at the next ESCAP congress, Helsinki 2011. The Budapest conference was also the start of a new way of organizing our international congresses — together with the local national society for child and adolescent psychiatry.
The main topic of the Conference was "Quality of Life in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.” It is widely accepted that psychiatric disorders —besides socio-cultural environment and the effects of organic diseases— influence the quality of life of children and young people in a negative way.
The opening lecture, “Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Past and Future in a New Europe”, was delivered by Sir Michael Rutter. He emphasized that, with some notable exceptions, child and adolescent psychiatrists has played a minor role in the main areas of innovative research in Europe. There is much that is good in European child and adolescent psychiatry research and clinical services, but there are weaknesses that require remedial action.
The scientific level of the Conference was guaranteed by the excellent plenary lecturers. For example, Jan Buitelar covered gene-environment interactions in ADHD, reviewing the various theoretical models of gene-environment interactions, including epigenetic effects of the environment of the expression and regulation of genes, variations in heritability according to the environment, and gene-environment interactions ‘sensu strictu.’ Edmund Sonuga-Barke gave an interesting lecture about experimental analysis as the starting point for science-driven therapeutic innovation in child and adolescent psychiatry. In a plenary session, after analyzing cross-sectional and longitudinal data, Helmut Remschmidt concluded that psychiatric disorders significantly worsen the quality of life of children, particularly if they are hospitalized. Antony Bailey reviewed the basic molecular genetics and the principles underlying linkage and association strategies for gene identification in autism spectrum disorders. Herman van Engeland, in an impressive presentation, compared Multiple Complex Developmental Disorders (MCDD) subjects and adolescents with ultra-high risk of psychosis. Frank Verhulst emphasized the importance of epidemiology for child and adolescent psychiatry. Mária Kovács highlighted the relevance of emotional regulation and mood repair in childhood-onset mood disorders, while J. Hebebrand discussed weight issues in anorexia nervosa.
Symposia and research forums mainly focused on pervasive developmental disorders, ADHD and Tics/Tourette’s syndrome. A number of symposia discussed the genetics, pathogenesis, differential diagnosis, and biological and psychotherapeutic issues of these syndromes. The Münchausen by proxy syndrome symposium was particularly popular. Eva Szigethy’s workshop discussed the topic of teaching cognitive behavioral therapy to improve the quality of life in children with chronic illness.
The “Child and Adolescent Mental Health in an Enlarged Europe (CAMHEE) Project” held its closing meeting before the opening ceremony of the conference, discussing enforcement of children’s rights and organization of children’s mental health services in several countries, topics which were revisited in numerous lectures and workshops.
We highly appreciate that the Donald J. Cohen Fellowship Program supported the attendance of 30 young psychiatrists from 12 countries (see elsewhere in this issue). They participated in the plenary sessions and in small group sessions lead by an outstanding panel of experts, giving them the opportunity to recognize the challenges of scientific research and to discuss their own research projects.
The Helmut Remschmidt Scholarship Program of theScientific Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Germany enabled representatives from 15 countries to participate in the Conference. The “Meet the Expert” sessions allowed these participants to personally meet the plenary lecturers.
Two “Best Poster Award”s were given to young researchers and residents. The Young Scientist Poster Award, sponsored by the Hungarian Psychiatric Association won Anna Batky from Hungary, and the Young Trainee Poster Award, sponsoredby the European Union of Medical Specialties (UEMS) Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry won Patricia Byrne from Ireland. The number of applicants (85 and 43 respectively) attests to its success.
The organization of the conference was very professional. There were 1200 registrations from 57 countries and more than 500 presentations and posters. The halls of the beautiful Budapest Conference and World Trade Centre provided a fitting location. We appreciate the polite and professional work of the congress organizers (CongressLine Ltd). One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was the performance of the amateur child and adolescent dancers. We had the opportunity to taste the excellent Hungarian cuisine during the intervals and the social events.
The conference was granted 22 European CME Credits by the European Accreditation Counsel for Continuing Medical Education.
We hope that our regular ESCAP congress (the XIVth) in June 2011 in Helsinki, Finland will attract even more attention. Everybody is kindly invited to come to Helsinki.

Tuula Tamminen, ESCAP president
Agnes Vetró, ESCAP vice-president