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ASPHER is the key independent European organisation dedicated to strengthening the role of public health by improving education and training of public health professionals for both practice and research.
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November President's Message Part 1: ASPHER on the World Stage – Virtually

Publication date: 18.11.2020
Author: John Middleton

The World Congress of Public Health was held in Rome last month. Virtually. It was a tremendous event bringing together nearly 4000 people from all over the globe for four days of stimulating debate and fine demonstrations of the art and science of how we protect and improve the health of the public. ASPHER was strongly in evidence throughout the congress. Our This Is Public Health Europe #TIPHEurope meeting demonstrated the efforts of fourteen of our schools involved in the eight European campaigns over the past year. The pandemic may have appeared to be a set back for #TIPHEurope but most took the increased interest in public health as the opportunity to showcase their work and what we do, for example Milan, and Maastricht. We also celebrated the life-time of excellence in community health work by our ASPHER Andrija Štampar medal award winner, Professor Selma Šogorić.

Selma’s medal represents a homecoming for our most prestigious award – she is the first recipient to come from the long lineage of outstanding public health practitioners in the Balkans and is based in the Andrija Štampar School of Public Health in Zagreb. Our plenary,Revolutionizing the public health workforce as agents for change was master-minded and led by Professor Kasia Czabanowska from Maastricht. It featured contributors from five continents. The session recognised the vital need to rebuild and replenish the services and systems of public health in all countries. The pandemic had exposed weaknesses in preparedness and in capacity in public health services and led all of us to call for reinvestment and growth, and particularly in education and training. Practical difficulties were highlighted particularly in job opportunities for young professionals and making the profession attractive in status and in income terms when compared to other health professions. In this session we were also able to highlight ASPHER’s commitments to professionalisation, workforce capacity and training. Our joint WHO-ASPHER competencies for the public health workforce webinar from September has now been put online by WHO. I commend it to you.

The congress was also the occasion for us to launch the Global Network for Academic Public Health (GNAPH). This new organisation brings together the public health schools of Europe, Africa, Latin and North America and South East Asia and Asia Pacific. This group will become of growing significance and influence in promoting the need for public health expertise and advocating for more and higher quality teaching and training in public health. We will also use it in support of global health organisations like the World Federation of Public Health Associations and WHO.

My thanks and congratulations go to all the organisers of this truly inspirational event. I thank particularly our next President-elect Carlo Signorelli for his decisive leadership, with Walter Ricciardi, and making this event happen, from the potential despair of having to cancel the full event back in March this year. The Congress had been completely recast in the context of the COVID pandemic, as reflected in the Rome statement, to which ASPHER is a signatory. It is our duty now to take forward the energy and excitement of public health, make ourselves visible and heard, and most importantly save lives and improve health in the face of this terrible pandemic and other global health threats.

Download the November ASPHER Newsletter here.

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