Where do we go from here?

Winter forets
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Who had ever thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would have such profound impact on our societies and daily lives? In the midst of the second wave we are looking towards end of year festivities, and concerns for a third wave are emerging. Vaccination efforts will undoubtedly bring a relief and allow us to rediscover some of our freedoms, but there is no guarantee we return to a pandemic-free live.

We will need to rethink and rebuild our societies in such a way we mitigate the severity and consequences of COVID-19 as well as of other diseases, such as non-communicable diseases and mental health issues, with integrated and joined-up approaches linking the bio-medical with the psycho-social. The EuroHealthNet Foresight Exercise has highlighted the urgent need for investing in prevention and addressing root causes, which resulted in a set of recommendations for public health institutes, governments and international organisations. Our Partnership will act on these in the coming years, as part of its strategic development, and help build an equitable and comprehensive “European Health Union” as suggested by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, bringing together many health promoting actors across states and regions. Concrete examples of how our members and partners can contribute to such Health Union are reflected in this edition of the online Magazine.

The pandemic and lockdowns have been hard for everyone – but some people have suffered more. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard, and harder still when we are separated. The Ministry of Health in Spain has developed resources to provide specialised support for people dealing with grief during the pandemic, and how to explain the situation to children. They share their work in an article available in English and Spanish.

The pandemic has presented specific challenges for migrants who recently arrived in Europe. Many are in Greece, a country also dealing with a second wave of COVID-19 and the aftermath of years of austerity. In ‘Hosting migrants in a crisis: access to COVID-19 health care services for migrants and refugees in Greece’, Prolepsis explains what needs to be done to improve the situation.

From across Europe, we have heard reports of increasing levels of domestic violence during lockdowns, and fewer routes out of difficult situations. Perhaps we can learn from Tuscany, were for several years progress has been made on bringing many different groups and services together to reduce and counteract domestic violence. You can read about their work in Italian and English.

Many of us are spending more time at home than we ever have, and this means that the links between our homes and our health is becoming more widely acknowledged.  As we look to the future and how to ‘build back better’, what evidence can we build on to create healthier homes? Public Health Scotland is one of several organisations looking at the evidence around social housing, and how it can be developed in a way that is good for communities and individuals. Read about their findings in this edition.

Europe’s housing stock is of course an important factor in our carbon footprint, and is currently in the spotlight here in Brussels with announcements about Europe’s coming ‘renovation wave’, new European Bauhaus , and the green new deal. Of course, we need to align all public health initiatives with moves towards sustainability. A good example of this is the alignment of Health Promoting Communities and the Sustainable Development Goals in Iceland. There they are finding new ways for public health professionals to work more closely with other sectors to improve health and wellbeing.

Caroline Costongs
Director at EuroHealthNet | + posts

Caroline Costongs is Director of EuroHealthNet.

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