Published: 03/06/2004, Volume II4, No. 5908 Page 36

Professor David Hunter on his first few days as chair of the UK Public Health Association

Monday 19 April Arrive for the annual UKPHA conference in a bracing Brighton too late to attend any sessions, but tour the impressive number of exhibition stands.Disappointed not to see my book on display as my publisher promised.

About 1,200 delegates this year from over 50 countries, making it the biggest ever UKPHA forum - although combining it with the World Federation of Public Health Associations Congress has boosted numbers.

Tuesday 20 April Quick dash to the Dome for the UKPHA's opening plenary.Greeted by a lively samba band (ages ranged from 60-90) doing the warm-up, courtesy of Brighton and Hove's Arts and Health Partnership.May have spurred Derek Wanless to give a robust defence of his public health report and urge the public health community to 'punch its weight'.

Lunch is at the UKPHA's AGM.Business is conducted in an unseemly rush as usual.

Officers hounded off the stage after 30 minutes or so by the arrival of public health minister Melanie Johnson for her session on the government's Choosing Health initiative. Just time for outgoing chair Geof Rayner to hand over to me.

Quick sprint later to the recently refurbished museum for my first official duty as chair - meeting the mayor of Brighton and Hove, who is hosting the civic reception.We both struggle to make ourselves heard above the roar of some 400 delegates earnestly networking.

Wednesday 21 April Stirring and provocative address from Yale University's Ilona Kickbusch reminding us how little public health has achieved and how great the challenge is.Conference dinners can be stilted affairs but the one later has a terrific atmosphere, aided by a showband that demonstrates why discos should be banned.The joint was truly jumping, only to be brought to an abrupt halt at 11pm, thanks to our licensing laws.After roaming the seafront in a fruitless search for a final nightcap we all give up - probably best decision.

Thursday 22 April Rise at 7am to work on my closing session talk.Lots of people wander up to congratulate and commiserate with me in equal measure on my becoming chair.

Was I moving to London? Was I giving up my academic job? Later, as we say our farewells, I feel It is been a mixture of elation, excitement and trepidation.But for now, the priority is to reconnect with real life as It is my daughter's 11th birthday tomorrow.

Friday 23 April Catch up with messages and post at the office then leave early.Make calls to review the success of the conference and wish our chief executive well as she leaves for Canada for two weeks.