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Fiscal Year 2013 Report on Conferences Sponsored by HHS

January 31, 2014

Topics in this report:

About the Report:

As the principal Department responsible for protecting the public health and providing essential human services to the American people, effective outreach to our partners, grantees and to the general public is central to the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Our success is also contingent on our ability to collaborate with the tens of thousands of health care and human services providers, scientific researchers, clinicians, advocates, and other key non-government partners across the country and internationally.  Attendance at Business and Scientific conferences and other meetings significantly contributes to our mission and plays a vital role in carrying out these efforts.

This report is submitted as required by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum on Promoting Efficient Spending to Support Agency Operations (M-12-12), dated May 11, 2012, which requires Federal agencies to report publicly on all agency-sponsored conferences where expenses are in excess of $100,000.

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Description of the Report:

In compliance with OMB Memorandum M-12-12, this report includes for HHS-sponsored conference that exceeded $100,000:

  • Information about the net conference expenses for FY 2013, as well as a general report about conference activities throughout the year.  This information is found below.
  • A description of all HHS-sponsored conferences for FY 2013 where the net expenses associated with the conference were in excess of $100,000.  These descriptions are found in the attached spreadsheet and include:
    • the total conference expenses incurred by the agency for the conference;
    • the location of the conference;
    • the date of the conference;
    • a brief explanation how the conference advanced the mission of the agency; and
    • the total number of individuals whose travel expenses or other conference expenses were paid by the agency.
  • For any instances where the net expenses exceeded $500,000, a description of the exceptional circumstances, that necessitated exceeding this amount.  (OMB Memorandum M-12-12 established a $500,000 threshold on conference spending, allowed the agency head to waive this threshold based on exceptional circumstances). These details are found below.

This report covers all HHS Operating and Staff Divisions as well as the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG).  The Agency for Health Quality and Research, several Staff Divisions, and the OIG did not have any conferences over $100,000.

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Fiscal Year 2013 Summary:

Over the course of the year, HHS has taken several steps to strengthen its policies and practices for conducting conferences.  In December 2012, the Deputy Secretary placed a 60-day moratorium on the award of any new contracts supporting conferences.  This enabled the Department the time to establish cross-agency work-groups who assessed and developed a best practices toolkit for planning and hosting conferences.  The assessment also led to a requirement to use, when contract support is needed, either NIH’s Conference Administrative and Travel Services Contracts or similar, multiple-award contracts established by an HHS agency specifically for the logistical and administrative aspects of conference support.  The policy was updated in June 2013 to reflect this requirement as well as new approval and reporting requirements required by Section 3003 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.   Additionally, HHS launched the Conference Tracking and Approval (CTA) system, an on-line workflow system for the submittal and approval of conferences.  
The following summarizes information about the HHS sponsored conferences in FY 2013 that exceeded $100,000 1; details of each are in the attached spreadsheet:


Total number of conferences:

101

Total cost of the conferences:

$29,150,162

Total number of attendees:

42,981

Average cost per attendee:

$678

Percent of HHS discretionary budget:

0.04%

Percent of conferences held near agency:

60%

Percent of attendees travelling at HHS expense:

21%

By comparison, in FY 2012 the Department sponsored 139 conferences at a total cost of $54,269,643 2.  By implementing controls and efficiencies in conference spending and being more effective in conference planning, HHS has reduced the number of conferences that cost more than $100,000 by over 27% and the total cost for such conferences by over 46%.

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Secretary’s Approval of Exceptional Circumstances:

The following conferences received approval from the Secretary to waive the $500,000 limitation on conference spending based on the exceptional circumstances described below.  Additional details are included in the attached spreadsheet of supporting data.

Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Office of Head Start:  2nd National Birth to Five Leadership Institute

This Institute supported the Head Start leaders in their efforts to promote school readiness within systems and services that are data driven.  The National Birth to Five Leadership Institute provided training on essential skills that grantees must possess to meet the increased requirements for program outcomes and continuous improvement.  Data-driven decision-making is still new to many Head Start leaders.  This Initiative gave them a deeper understanding of how to collect, organize, and analyze data in critical operational domains so that they can report measureable outcomes.  The Leadership Institute was the most cost-effective way to train leaders in a critical area and assure consistent quality.  The content of the Institute was more complex than what individual Training/ Technical Assistance specialists can deliver to individual grantees.

Conference Cost:  $861,259
Date Waiver Approved:  September 12, 2012
Conference Start Date:  April 28, 2013

Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation:  2013 Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference

This conference provided a forum for welfare and poverty researchers, State and local administrators, practitioners, program operators and Federal officials and policymakers to discuss and identify research and evaluation priorities for welfare and related programs and policies.  The event provided a venue for disseminating research and evaluation sponsored by ACF, and supported the use of evidence-based and evidence-informed programs and policies.  For many attendees, this event represented the primary opportunity to learn about the latest in welfare and family self-sufficiency research and to learn about Federal government efforts in this area.  Therefore, this annual conference was an important opportunity for welfare and poverty researchers, State and local administrators, practitioners, program operators, and Federal officials and policy makers to discuss cutting-edge research and identify research and evaluation priorities for welfare and related programs and policies.  Since dissemination and dialogue are important goals of the conference, increased attendance through in-person participation and live, web-streaming, was important to the conduct and success of the program.

Conference Cost:  $540,750
Date Waivered Approved:  September 12, 2012
Conference Start Date:  May 29, 2013

Office of Family Assistance:  Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Training Conference

This conference provided training and technical assistance to 121 Health Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grantees funded under the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.  The training promoted permanency in families and child well-being through successful implementation of the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives.  The annual meeting was a key component of the Office of Family Assistance’s effort to meet its goal of providing required training to its grantees.  The workshops and the training opportunities helped the grantees meet their goals and objectives for successful program implementation.  The grantees also benefitted by peer learning opportunities that a meeting of all organizations affords.  Novice grantees learned from the experiences of veteran grantees, while veterans had an opportunity to learn from innovative practices that newer funded grantees provide.  These efforts helped maximize and augment resources to ensure ACF’s progress toward established goals.  The workshops addressed: key strategies to develop or strengthen partnerships with family safety providers, domestic violence planning stages, participant selection/recruitment, screening protocols, training for grantee staff, barriers to successful partnerships, and models of successful partnerships.  This training was a requirement for all grantees by the terms of their grant; therefore this conference was necessary to meet the Government’s obligation to provide this training, as well as to achieve the overall objectives of this training program.

Conference Cost:  $500,435
Date Waiver Approved:  April 16, 2013
Conference Start Date:  June 25, 2013

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Center for Global Health:  2013 Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) Training

These conferences (one in January and one in June 2013) trained public health officials for deployment globally to improve polio surveillance and to help plan, implement and evaluate vaccination campaigns.  Polio has been declared a global public health emergency, and this training was conducted to ensure capacity-building skills and technical assistance abilities based on in-country immunization program needs.  Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) team members are on the front lines of the polio eradication effort.  Since 2011, more than 280 individuals have been deployed to 37 countries.  The large number of training attendees was in direct correlation with the number of STOP team members requested for deployment to the field.  The cost was due to in large part to the travel costs incurred.  However, in order to ensure that all team members receive in depth, up-to-date training on polio and other vaccine preventable diseases before their deployment to the field, it was most cost-effective to bring all team members to Atlanta to receive training simultaneously.   The interactive nature of the training and the participation of numerous subject matter experts ensured an optimal learning environment.

Conference Costs:  $727,842 and $710,243, respectively
Date Waivered Approved:  November 15, 2012
Conference Start Dates:  January 7, 2013 and June 3, 2013

Center for Global Health:  2013 Division of Global HIV/AIDS Meeting

This conference brought CDC leadership and staff from Asia, Africa, the Americas, and CDC Headquarters together face-to-face to share best practices along with the latest technical and administrative requirements, policies, and procedures affecting the implantation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  A key objective of the meeting was to build the expertise of lead technical and administrative personnel to work with partners throughout the world to monitor, detect, and investigate health problems and to advocate sound public health policies.  The “World of AIDS Day Targets” call for CDC and other U.S. Government agencies engaged in PEPFAR to support delivery of HIV treatment to 6 million individuals by the end of 2013, a 50% increase from the 2011 target of 4 million.  These targets are expected to be met in the face of declining budgets and transitioning of service delivery to host governments and other local partners.  Given HHS/CDC’s leading role in supporting HIV treatment globally, this meeting was critically important in order to achieve the mission and meet HHS/CDC’s expectations in the global health arena.  This event also provided important and required supervisory training that could not have easily or inexpensively been brought to CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS staff in their host countries or in regional gatherings.   Delivering these strategic and administrative requirements in one setting, instead of to 40+ counties or even regionally, was timely and cost effective, and resulted in consistent communication and understanding from one country to another.

Conference Cost:  $539,265
Date Waivered Approved:  November 15, 2012
Conference Start Date:  March 11, 2013

Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services:  Epidemic Intelligence Service Annual Conference

This annually-required conference brought first and second year Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers the opportunity to present epidemiological findings to a national audience as part of their professional development and fellowship requirement.  Additionally, it presented the opportunity for scientific exchange regarding current epidemiological topics, highlighted the breath of epidemiological activities at CDC, strengthened the EIS professional network, and provided a forum for CDC programs to recruit new EIS officers.  The conference is one of the most recognized CDC fellowship conferences, with a long standing history of national and international public health interest.  More than 130 oral and poster presentations were selected and presented during the EIS conference.  The conference also included panel discussions and concurrent discussions on public health topics such as infectious diseases, global health, reproductive health, obesity, and chronic diseases.  This event also served the broader public health scientific community by highlighting research conducted by CDC while providing a forum for communication and collaboration.

Conference Cost:  $683,498
Date Waiver Approved:  February 19, 2013
Start Date of Conference:  April 22, 2013

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:  Division of Community Health Awardee Training

This conference provided in-person training and networking opportunities for all current Division of Community Health (DCH) awardees and relevant stakeholders.  This meeting was required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Section 4201 (c) (5) (A).  This training enhanced the work of awardees in the implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of evidenced-based community preventive health activities in order to reduce chronic disease rates and further prevent the development of secondary conditions.  CDC’s mission includes implementing health strategies, promoting healthy behaviors, and providing leadership and training.  CDC estimates that chronic diseases cause 7 in 10 deaths each year in the United States, and more than 75% of health care costs are due to chronic conditions.  The DCH Awardee Training event convened public health professionals, subject matter experts, technical assistance providers, and other stakeholders engaged in chronic disease prevention strategies to enhance and support their work in communities across the country.  Awardees and other stakeholders also exchanged best practices while gaining skills, knowledge and resources that strengthen the impact and reach of their work.  The DCH Awardee Training included 6 plenaries, 3 mini-plenaries, 91 breakout presentations, 28 activity and resource breakout sessions, 1 media showcase, technical consultations, and individual spokesperson trainings.  This event advanced CDC’s mission by helping to develop well-trained public health practitioners and leaders dedicated to disease prevention and health promotion.

Conference Cost:  $661,631
Date Waivered Approved:  July 3, 2013
Conference Start Date:  August 26, 2013

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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Office of Clinical Standards and Quality:  QualityNet Conference

The annual QualityNet Conference brought together national health care leadership from CMS, Quality Improvement Organizations (QIO), End-Stage Renal Disease Networks, and other key public and private stakeholders representing every U.S. state and territory to collaborate and discuss new directions for health care quality improvement nationwide.  This represented the largest gathering of health care quality leaders assembled by the Federal government.  QualityNet, with its Federal leadership involvement at the Department and agency level, represented the deepest and widest gathering of health care quality leaders assembled by the Federal government.  Other conferences have sought to bring together researchers for scholarly discussion or providers and consultants for on-on-one/small scale change, or patients for education and advocacy.  This conference achieved all three, with a high emphasis on learning and the spread of effective ideas for improving quality.  By leveraging attendees who are passionate about the quality of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries – coupled with the Affordable Care Act, the National Quality Strategy, the collective research and expertise of the hundreds of partners and stakeholders – the conference enabled a forum to spark improvement in health care to reduce harm and improve methods of administering care.  The QualityNet Conference allowed CMS to collaborate with new partners and colleagues from across the nation in improving the care for the millions of Medicare beneficiaries it serves.

Conference Cost:  $1,469,359
Date Waiver Approved:  August 24, 2012
Conference Start Date:  December 11, 2012

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Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

HIV/AIDS Bureau:  2012 Ryan White Grantee Meeting

This conference provided comprehensive and timely overview of fiscal, management operations, compliance requirements and clinical technical assistance to grantees under the Ryan White Program.  Conference participants represented grantees and service providers who provide care to the majority of individuals living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States, and are thus integral to the continuum/system of care established in communities throughout the country.   These participants are also responsible for managing their Federal grant and are key decision-makers within their organizations.  The HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) has a grantee portfolio of approximately 685 funded organizations.  Each Ryan White Program Part was allocated and approved a number of program staff to attend, ranging from 1 to 4 participants.  Based on past assessments of technical assistance need, this conference was rated as the best mechanism to bring each of these Program Parts together to offer uniform programmatic guidance and centralize the delivery of fiscal management and compliance, and clinical technical assistance and training.  Attendees as a group traditionally could not take time away from their clinical practice or organization to attend separate conferences and get this level of training and acquire new knowledge and proficiencies (and in some cases credentialing).  This conference provided the opportunity for meetings between project officers and grantees to discuss issues specific to the grantee, and address financial compliance related to its grants, and share best clinical practices which ultimately impacts the quality of care for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Conference Cost:  $920,203
Date Waiver Approved:  July 16, 2012
Conference Start Date:  November 27, 2012

HIV/AIDS Bureau:  President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Third Annual Symposium

This conference brought together representatives from the thirteen Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) schools and their sixty partners, U.S. Government staff, medical education leadership throughout Sub-Saharan Africa as well as other donors, governments and non-government organizations from the international community.  MEPI is a high priority initiative for the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator.  It includes direct awards, managed by HRSA and NIH, to 13 African medical institutions and a U.S.-based coordinating center.  The African Institutions have consortia relationships established though subcontracts with other in-country medical institutions as well as with U.S. based partners.  There are currently over 75 such partnerships.  The overall goal of the initiative is to improve medical education in Africa and ultimately help to address the health workforce crisis which exacerbates the tremendous burden of disease on the continent.  The schools are facing many of the same challenges in terms of need for curriculum revision, faculty shortages, difficulties with retaining health care providers in their home countries, and developing local capacity for epidemiologically relevant research to address public health needs and national priorities.  Lessons learned though this innovative and unique initiative will be used to inform and transform medical education in Africa and beyond.  This Symposium, which brought these teams together to share their progress face to face, find common solutions, and learn from each other how to overcome common barriers through, was essential to the success of the initiative and the U.S. government investments supporting it.  In addition, communication challenges in Africa, including limited and unreliable internet access and frequent electrical outages, made conducting a meeting of this size and impact through virtual means impossible.

Conference Cost:  $671,051
Date Wavier Approved:  July 9, 2013
Start Date of Conference:  August 4, 2013

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities:  2012 Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit

The 2012 Health Disparities Summit involved the participation of several Federal agencies and departments, and a cross-representation of their constituencies and grantees, that are engaged to address health disparities, a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach and the integration of several distinct disciplines.  Bringing together various agencies to plan a single conference was the most cost-effective option for HHS overall, to raise awareness about its work, collaborations and progress to reduce health disparities.  Planning for the summit included not only all the NIH Institutes and Centers, all of the HHS agencies, special sessions by other HHS components such as the Office of Minority Health and the Offices of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the Surgeon General, but also some of the agencies that make up the Federal Collaboration on Health Disparities Research.  The research to reduce and ultimately eliminate the complex causes that underlie health disparities requires a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach that spans basic and translational biomedical disciplines, the gull range of behavioral and social sciences, and policy and community experts.  This Summit served as the seminal catalytic event for this field, and attracted thought leaders from around the country.  It was a key learning and networking opportunity for established workers in the field as well as early stage investigators still in training and career development.  The last Summit was held in 2008.  Given the extraordinary advances that have been made during the intervening years, and the important need to synthesize the findings from among many fields, it was important to gather the growing number of basic scientists, clinicians, community workers, policy experts, and social scientists, who devote their talents and efforts the redress the health disparities of this Nation.

Conference Cost:  $1,186,877
Date Waiver Approved:  September 21, 2012
Start Date of Conference:  October 31, 2012

International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention

This conference, supported by NIH through a grant and attended by both NIH and CDC, brought together the world’s leading scientists, clinicians, public health experts, community leaders and implementers to examine the latest developments in HIV-related research, and explore how to best and quickly translate scientific advances into effective interventions to prevent and to treat HIV.  This conference encouraged inter-disciplinary collaborations and discussions and was one of a limited number of opportunities to bring all of these thought leaders together at the same time.  Not supporting, or reducing support of, this conference would have reduced the availability of resources for the organizers to successfully conduct the conference and provide scholarships for well deserving young scientists to attend the conference, and would have impacted the infrastructure planned to extend the conference sessions to remote sites where additional groups of individuals would attend the conference in virtual format.  This conference was the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending this pandemic.

Conference Cost:  $1,038,019
Date Waiver Approved:  June 14, 2012
Start Date of Conference:  June 30, 2012

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Center for Mental Health Services:  Service Members, Veterans and their Families Policy Academies

The Service Members, Veterans and their Families (SMVF) Policy Academy model was recognized as a best practice in the White House’s January 2011 Strengthening our Military Families report.  The SMVF Policy Academies are one of the tools being used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement the President’s August 2012 Executive Order Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families.  The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the National Guard Bureau work closely with SAMHSA in planning an implementing the SMVF Policy Academies, and regard it as a unique opportunity to strategically engage states and communities in coordinating behavioral health for service members, veterans and their families.  “Behavioral health” is broadly defined to include not just mental health and substance abuse services, but critical issues such as employment, homelessness prevention, integrating primary care with behavioral health services, preparing for health care reform, and more.  This conference provided technical assistance to states/territories to strengthen their behavioral health care systems and services for SMVF.  The goal was to develop state-territory-specific strategies along with policies and infrastructure to implement and sustain a strong, responsible behavioral health system for SMVF.  Each state-territory was represented by an eleven person team, endorsed by its Governor, committed to implementing the strategies after the SMVF Policy Academies.  In FY 2012, Congress appropriated $3.5 million for SAMHSA to conduct SMVF Policy Academies and related activities (e.g. ongoing technical assistance to ensure the states sustain their efforts).  The April and May 2013 Policy Academies allowed twenty of the remaining states and territories to participate and develop their strategic plans.

Conference Cost:  $631,254 (each event)
Date Waiver Approved:  February 2, 2013
Conference Start Date:  April 13, 2013 and May 7, 2013

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1 Due to the disparate nature of the systems across HHS Divisions used to record conference related expenses, the total costs and attendance levels are best estimates.  Estimated costs are based on readily identifiable and known costs for contractor support, venue and audio-visual related expenses, registration fees, travel, and other miscellaneous costs.

2 The Fiscal Year 2012 data above represents a correction from the published report of 140 conferences at $56,130,874.

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