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Member's blog - Other

President's message for June 2022 - and a summary of the year's ASPHER highlights

Publication date: 13.06.2022
Author: John Middleton

This year’s ASPHER General Assembly takes place on Tuesday June 7th. We mark another year which has seen major challenges to the health of the public and planet and for the public health system. ASPHER has been working hard on your behalf and through the efforts of our members.

The health of the public and planet – ASPHER’s advocacy role

Inequalities in health, growing through years of austerity policies have come into starker relief through the pandemic; the pandemic is continuing despite the wishful thinking of many political leaders – it doesn’t go away because they say it is, or because they have closed down the surveillance systems; extreme temperatures have arrived early in the northern hemisphere spring, continuing to warn us of the dangers to health from climate breakdown; and war in Europe has created hell on earth in Ukraine, brought millions of refugees to the doors of many European countries, created the threat of global food shortage and mass starvation and added to the cost of fuel and cost of living crises across Europe. Public health schools, professionals and systems nationally and internationally have risen to those challenges.

The COVID task force marked the first two years of pandemic, passing its 100th meeting in the process; members have contributed to over 100 papers on COVID-19 and its implications for society and health systems. Most recently, an ASPHER statement calls for strengthening public health and primary care for better pandemic management, better recovery of health systems and to generally improve health care. I am grateful to Nadav Davidovitch for taking over the chair of the COVID task force and for colleagues’ continuing support. It is clear the pandemic is not over. 

Our task force on war has published a statement on the war in Ukraine and moved forward a programme of webinars, organised by the University of Bielefeld, on various aspects of war and conflict. My thanks go to Oliver Razum and Lisa Wandschneider for their commitment and expertise in moving this agenda forward. We were active with colleagues in Gdansk, Poland at their recent conference on health consequences of the war in Ukraine. We will continue to support colleagues working in Ukraine, and working on refugee health needs, where-ever they may be in Europe.

The public health system, services and profession – ASPHER’s role supporting our members

ASPHER has been active over a wide range of issues involved in competency and workforce development. Many of these initiatives have been in support of our members and many more in collaboration with our partners. Our roll-out continues the WHO-ASPHER Competency Framework document published in 2020. Through our executive board member, Mary Codd, we will be revisiting the 5th edition of ASPHER Core Competencies for the Public Health Professional document. The WHO-ASPHER Professionalization Roadmap was published in February, and the task force to support implementation has now been set up. Kasia Czabanowska leads on our behalf. We are moving forward other work on knowledge management and our relationship with the journal Public Health Reviews. We will launch our new ASPHER website before this year’s Deans’ & Directors’ Retreat in October. Our involvement of young professionals continues and expands.

Partnership working – with our European colleagues

We have let our actions speak for us in our commitments to partnership working. We have collaborated strongly with EUPHA following our joint statement last year. We have had strong presence online at the EPH Conference in 2021 and European Public Health Week 2022. We joined with EUPHA in thanking the public health community for their work on COVID. We will soon be publishing jointly with EUPHA and the UK Faculty of Public Health, joint research on public health ethics. We continue to work strongly with the European Commission. We have launched our statement on climate change and health education for the European Health Policy Platform. I was pleased to be able to speak to this statement for the EU HPP meeting on May 5th; it has now been finalised with more than 80 partner organisations’ endorsements. We will continue this platform in the future and will extend our work with the Global Consortium on Climate Change and Health Education. We have completed a commission for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on the revised core-competencies for applied infectious diseases epidemiology. We have also neared completion for ECDC on a project for vaccinology and vaccine hesitancy education. I have been appointed in 2021 as an ECDC advisory board member, one of three NGO members appointed.

Partnership working – with our global colleagues

We are partners with the World Federation of Public Health Associations and the Italian Public Health Association SItI in next year’s World Congress on Public Health in Rome. We are major contributors to the work of the Global Network for Academic Public Health (GNAPH), with our sister associations in other WHO regions of the world. With GNAPH we have called for major investment in schools of public health.  We must build the quality and quantity of training and capacity building for local, national and international public health systems. We have contributed to a major WHO document, National workforce capacity to implement the essential public health functions including a focus on emergency preparedness and response: roadmap for aligning WHO and partner contributions. The report was launched during European Public Health Week and will be used to inform the work of the International Negotiating Committee for the Pandemic Preparedness Treaty. We are also working closely with WHO Regional Office for Europe on a range of projects including implementation of competencies and the professionalization roadmap. Our Roadmap for professionalizing the public health workforce, is now being taken forward through a joint task force. Prof Kasia Czabanovska leads on our behalf.

ASPHER governance

We have continued to improve ASPHER’s governance – including implementation of statutes from last year. Our finances have improved and we have established stronger relationships with members through the appointment of our new member of staff Tatiana Caftea. We are seeking to further expand the secretariat and improve our office base in Brussels. These and other improvements will be presented at the General Assembly this week. Once again, I would like to thank the Secretariat Robert Otok, Lore Leighton and Tatiana Caftea for their extraordinary commitment to ASPHER, and their incredible hard work on all our various projects and commitments. Not least, they are great company and great to work with. I am sure all our members will join me in thanking them for all their support. I also thank my colleagues on the ASPHER Executive Board for all their support and commitment in another challenging year. You too, have worked hard and with good humour supporting the work of ASPHER and our members, colleagues and peers. We look forward to welcoming you to the General Assembly 2022.

Professor John Middleton
President ASPHER, June 3rd 2022


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