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Our Board members outline their highlights of the July event

The sixth World Parkinson Congress (WPC), which took place in Barcelona, Spain, from 4 to 7 July 2023, was an important event for Parkinson’s Europe. Here, some of our Board members look back on their WPC highlights.

Parkinson's Europe Board members at the World Parkinson Congress 2023

The triennial international forum organised by the World Parkinson Coalition is the only scientific event to gather the entire Parkinson’s community together – and it is this inclusive focus that our new president, Josefa Domingos, cited as one of her WPC highlights. “The event thoughtfully integrated the perspectives and insights of individuals with personal experience, as well as their caregivers, into all aspects of its proceedings,” she says. “This approach provided a comprehensive and holistic view of the issues at hand, fostering a more compassionate and supportive community.”

The momentum and force for change such a large event can foster by uniting so many different Parkinson’s stakeholders stood out for Parkinson’s Europe Board member Cvetka Pavlina Likar. “There was a special excitement at the Congress of expectation, hope and the desire to find out as soon as possible how to stop Parkinson’s if it cannot be cured,” she says.

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There was a special excitement at the Congress of hope and the desire to find out how to stop Parkinson’s if it cannot be cured

Parkinson’s Europe Board member Cvetka Pavlina Likar
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Parkinson’s Europe Board member and Advanced Nurse Practitioner Brian Magennis praised the opening ceremony for providing “great inspiration”, with the “amazing contribution from Sir Paul McCartney” and the ‘Parky Raccoon’ song being particularly special moments.

Brian also extolled the WPC’s breadth of content. “The programme was a rich blend of basic science, clinical science and practical care sessions related to Parkinson’s. There was a strong emphasis on genetics and biomarkers mixed with new theories on nutrition and exercise and disease modification,” he says.

Patricia Pérez, coordinator at the Spanish Federación Española de Párkinson (FEP), shares this view: “The scientific level of the presentations was of a high standard and covered a wide range of topics of interest in Parkinson’s research,” she says.

“The scientific level of the presentations was of a high standard and covered a wide range of topics of interest in Parkinson’s research,” says Patricia Pérez, Parkinson's Europe Board member

The invite-only Leadership Forum, which takes place a day before the main event begins, is key to the WPC. Co-chaired by Parkinson’s Europe director general Russell Patten, it saw more than 100 leaders come together to identify the priorities in the Parkinson’s field.

This was one of the highlights for the FEP, whose president, Andrés Álvarez, director, Alicia Campos, and Patricia, participated in the Leadership Forum working group, ‘Engaging People with Parkinson’s in Clinical Research’.

By involving all Parkinson’s stakeholders, the WPC provides a vital place for meaningful debate. Josefa singled out the World Café brainstorming session in particular for focusing on a crucial question: what are possible solutions to end stigma that can be implemented or influenced by leaders in the community?

The WPC is also an important platform for sharing the most recent research. Josefa, who works with people with Parkinson’s as part of her vocation as a physiotherapist, draws attention to findings about whether specific types of exercise can alleviate certain Parkinson’s symptoms more effectively than others.

Exercise was an important topic at the WPC

“For example, to improve the severity of motor signs and disability, the evidence now suggests that the highest-ranked interventions were dance, aqua-based training, and gait/balance/functional training. However, flexibility training might have a trivial or no effect on the severity of motor signs. When it comes to improving quality of life, the evidence suggests that aqua-based training probably has a large beneficial effect. And for those experiencing freezing of gait, the highest-ranked interventions were strength/resistance training, aqua-based training, and dance. While more comprehensive studies are needed to strengthen our confidence in these findings, they offer a fresh approach to recommending physical exercise as part of Parkinson’s management,” she says.

The WPC’s important role in sharing and spreading knowledge was also a highlight for Cvetka, who is president of the Parkinson’s Disease Society of Slovenia.

Bastiaan R. Bloem’s presentation, ‘Why should we track Parkinson’s disease?’, was very good in showing how people with Parkinson’s can participate in the monitoring of their disease and therefore feel better and, when they need help from a neurologist, to ask for it,” she says.

Another of her highlights was the presentation on the differences in Parkinson’s in men and women, which she says is “particularly important”. She also singled out Georgina Aldridge’s talk, ‘The role of alpha-synuclein and co-pathology on cognitive and non-motor symptoms’. “This is important due to the large number of non-motor disorders in Parkinson’s,” she says.

As a community, we are stronger together and an inherent part of the WPC is meeting with people from the global Parkinson’s community. The opportunity to network as well as greet old friends and make new ones at gatherings like the Parkinson’s Europe social event is something many of our Board members listed among their highlights. “The experience of attending the WPC has been rather insightful as it has given us the opportunity to meet people and Parkinson’s organisations from all over the world and to share impressions about our work with the Parkinson’s community,” says Patricia.

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Attending the WPC has given us the opportunity to meet people and Parkinson’s organisations from all over the world

Parkinson’s Europe Board member Patricia Pérez
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Josefa Domingos said the WPC underlined the need for all stakeholders – healthcare, research – to put the priorities of people with Parkinson’s first. “The Congress conveyed a universal message that emphasises the significance of considering the opinions and needs of individuals with Parkinson’s and their families throughout the entire process of care delivery and research. This will help reduce differences between the interests of professionals and the needs of those with Parkinson’s taking part in worldwide research and treatment programmes and promote a fairer and patient-focused approach.”

Further reading:

  • Read World Parkinson Congress 2023

As a person with Parkinson’s, what should be the most important outcome of the World Parkinson Congress? Email [email protected] and tell us your stories.

Parkinson's Europe is sharing this article for information purposes only; it does not represent Parkinson's Europe's views and is not an endorsement by Parkinson's Europe of any particular treatments, therapies or products.

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