The 19th World Congress of ISBRA was held between September 9 and 13, 2018 at Kyoto International Conference Center in Kyoto, Japan. The congress was co-hosted by the Japanese Medical Society for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (JMSAAS), one of ISBRA’s affiliated societies. This event was also jointly held by JMSAAS, the Japanese Society of Alcohol-Related Problems (JSARP), and the International Symposium on Alcohol Liver and Pancreatic Diseases ALPD and Cirrhosis (ISALPD/C). The annual meetings of the two Japanese societies were held between September 8 and 10 at the same venue, and more than 1,000 participants attended the meeting.
The lead-up to the congress was marked by calamitous weather, when a powerful typhoon struck the Kansai area, including Kyoto, on September 4th. This caused the closure of Kansai International Airport, a major airport for international visitors to Kyoto, and the subsequent cancellation of many overseas flights. It was extremely challenging for international participants to reschedule flights and secure transportation to get to Kyoto. Two days later, on September 6th, the situation was exacerbated when a major earthquake struck the prefecture of Hokkaido, which includes the city of Sapporo, the venue for the 2012 ISBRA congress.
In the face of such adversity, we were delighted and humbled to welcome more than 550 participants from Japan and all over the world. Approximately 50 delegates, who had registered for the congress, were unfortunately unable to come to Kyoto, mainly due to these two natural disasters.
Across the globe, alcohol is raising serious health and social concerns. According to the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health in 2018, the harmful use of alcohol is a component cause of more than 200 disease and injury conditions. In 2016, around 3 million deaths, or 5.3% of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption. In Asia, alcohol consumption has been increasing in many of the region’s developing nations, which is likely to lead to a further rise in alcohol-related harm in those areas.
In light of this trend of rising alcohol consumption, it was both timely and meaningful to host the ISBRA Congress in Kyoto last year. The main theme was “Global Alcohol Research - Expanding Our Knowledge, Supporting Our Members” and attendees were presented with cuttingedge scientific information on alcohol-related harm in biomedical, behavioral, and psychosocial areas. In addition, the ISBRA 2018 program also included joint training sessions with WHO for young investigators, particularly focusing on those from developing countries. This ISBRA-WHO workshop comprised of six sessions and there were active 8 contributions from many of the delegates, evidenced by the awarding of certificates of participation. We are extremely grateful to those senior investigators who played the role of workshop facilitators.
Prior to the event, we had encouraged both members and non-members of ISBRA to submit symposium proposals and abstracts for poster presentations. I am delighted to report a total of 72 symposia, including ALDP symposia, and 170 poster presentations - a reflection of the contributors’ keen interest and dedication to the pursuit of scientific progress. In addition, we were proud to welcome six world-renowned scholars from diverse fields, who broadened our understanding of areas such as basic and clinical studies, and policy development and implementation. They were, in alphabetical order: Prof. Markus Heilig, Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, Dr. Vijay Ramchandani, Prof. Jurgen Rehm, Prof. Yoshiyuki Takei, and Prof. Reinout Wiers. These excellent presentations facilitated the exchange of information and undoubtedly increased the collective knowledge of participants. Perhaps this will also lead to future collaborations.
Kyoto was chosen as the congress site in 2018, due to its status as one of the most historic and well-known cities in Japan and its preeminence as a global tourist destination. In addition to an innovative and exciting scientific congress program, I believe many participants had an opportunity to experience firsthand, elements of authentic Japanese culture - magnificent ancient buildings, the arts, and unique cuisine during their stay in Kyoto.
Furthermore, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all participants for their dedication and contribution to the 2018 ISBRA congress. I also wish to thank the members of the Local Organizing Committee and the International Program Committee, who provided great assistance, both intellectually and technically, for the congress preparations. Finally, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my colleagues, friends, and especially my family for their continued dedication and support.
I very much look forward to the next ISBRA meeting. Let’s see all of you again in June 2020 in New Orleans, USA.
Susumu Higuchi, MD, PhD, Japan
President, ISBRA 2018 Congress