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Not leaving the young public health workforce in Europe behind - Reflections on the ASPHER-ASSETS 2019.

Publication date: 28.08.2019
Author: Naomi Limaro Nathan

Not leaving the young public health workforce in Europe behind - Reflections on the ASPHER-ASSETS 2019.By Naomi Limaro Nathan.

ASPHER Fellow 2019-2020

 

The pioneers of the Andrija Stampar Summer Educational and Tutoring School (ASSETS) with school director and one of the mentors.

The Andrija Stampar Summer Educational and Tutoring School (ASSETS), being the first event of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region  (ASPHER) - Public Health Training Academy (PHTA), was launched at Brussels in July 2019, with nine promising young public health professionals attending the week long mentoring summer school. I was privileged to be one of these participants and partake in this amazing experience as the former ASPHER Intern and current ASPHER Fellow for 2019 – 2020, sponsored by ASPHER as part of my fellowship and career development in the field of Public Health.

The ASSETS began on the 15th of July with a welcome ceremony graced with the presence of the ASPHER Director - Robert Otok, ASSETS Director - Jose M Martin-Moreno, ASPHER Board Member - Carlo Signorelli, Lore Leighton and Cedric Slock of the ASPHER Secretariat, who welcomed all participants. It was indeed a beautiful start as we got to meet ourselves and other ASPHER dignitaries present. Prof Jose Martino then shared his Public Health journey with us, which of course wasn’t a clear path as one would have thought and his unforgettable words being “The Public Health field is like a moving train of opportunities, the most important thing to take note of the right time to jump on the train”.

The first day finished with a wonderful dinner and more networking amongst us participants, getting to know each other, learning what makes us tick that we chose public health and an anticipation for what the week will offer.

Over the course of the week we met with mentors, who not only shared with us their journey and personal experiences in Public Health but also advised us on our next steps and the challenges we had identified and were struggling with in the field of Public Health, which we presented and got feedback on how to approach them moving forward, with our public health career.

John Middleton - ASPHER President, shared with us his personal conviction on Public Health on the topic: The best job in the world; practicing public health; Past, present and future. He emphasized the need for public health professionals to understand and be politically inclined, as politicss does shape our health.

Josep Figueras - Director - European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, shared his experiences and insights with the topic: Knowledge Transfer and Brokering to support policy, highlighting the need for effective and efficient knowledge transfer and communication by the practioners of public health to policy makers.

Walter Ricciardi - President-elect World Federation of Public Health Associations broaden our horizons with the topic: working and leading in Public Health the contemporary world: challenges and perspectives. Dr Walter shared with us his journey as well as the challenges he has faced and is facing, as a result of standing for his values of protecting lives and promoting universal health care. We were encouraged to always stand up for our values, if we want to lead the change we desire. We were also challenged to take up courage and be creative, in order to imagine, plan and build sustainable health systems.

Finally we reflected on the words of Winston Churchill "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that if the Bristish Empire and Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'". These was a nudge for us to always remember, despite what challenges may arise, we should always carry out our duties as public health practitioners, protecting lives and promoting health in the populations we serve. This also emphasised the need to become active advocates (in every way possible), voicing out our message of health for all and taking actions towards ensuring this. 

Mirjana Kujund¾ię Tiljak - Director Andrija Stampar School of Public Health Zagreb, shared with us the history of Andrija Stampar, the partron of the ASSETS.

Andrzej Rys represented by Filip Domanski - Director Health Systems, Medical Products & Innovation at DG Santé, European Commission. We were provided with insights into the work of the commision on innovations especially in the digital era of health. With technology influencing health, there is indeed a need to link digitization with clinical practice and health systems and to have a health workforce trained and equipped to handle this changes. 

And Scott Burris - Professor of Law and Public Health at Temple University Philadelphia, who shared about his work with public health law, with the topic: Better health for all faster, the strategy of legal Epidemiology. He emphasised the need to ensure that public health agruments are also legally backed with the law, advocated and defended. To do this, we need to have more public health lawyers, which I encourage. Knowlege of Public Health Law is necessary moving forward with change towards health priorities. 

Can you imagine how enriching, insightful, nudging and impactful this week was? And this is just a summary.

I was also very inspired and motivated by the different topics and challenges presented by my fellow ASSETS participants, how passionate they are and generally their drive to create and lead change. I can definetely say apart from the opportunity to be engaged with, discuss and share our ideas and recieve critical feedback from our mentors. Another important and unique experience was the possibility given to us ASSETS, to feedback and learn from each other. 

The nine of us young public health professionals attending ASSETS, came from diverse backgrounds, had various interests but bonded over our love and passion for Public Health. This makes me confident that the good health and well-being of present and future generations in Europe and globally is secured. 

During the course of my reflections, I pinpointed 3 key call to action for the public health community and I will call them the 3 Cs.

Communication:

Throughout the week, their was a concensus of the recongnised gap in communication/ knowledge translation by the practioners of public health in relations with other sectors. 
This gap not only affects our ability to effectively inform other sectors of our findings but also decreases our capacity to influence and impact other sectors. We need to be able to effectively inform on our messgaes to policy makers as well as other stakeholders to ensure that health is a prioty in all agendas and dealings. Health should always come first. Schools of public should therefore look into introducing communication training courses in curriculums for the public health students and professionals.  

Collaboration:

Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration, this cannot emphasised enough. The public health community needs to keep striving to collaborate, build partnerships and coalitions across various fields, areas and sectors. This is the key to finding solutions to the complex and multifactorial issues in health today. In our fast evolving world, we are faced with various challenges such as climate change, the emergence of eradicated diseases due to vaccine hesistancy, antimicrobial resistance and even Brexit, to mention a few, which all affects the health of the populations we serve. Therefore, we can no longer afford to remain in our silos,  working hard but failing to influence and enact change. We should be open to discussing as well as advocating and collaborating with the stakeholders across sectors. It will enable us to not only get our message heard, but also influence and effect the change we desire. This is an important factor not to be neglected, as it will help us achieve the optimum goal of health for all populations. 

Coordination:

The lack of coordination, which is very relevant for the young public health workforce and also the field it self. Even though public health is a highly sought career path, the absense of a common identity for the field makes it very difficult to navigate and construe, what a typical career in public health looks like. This issue is now highly felt by the younger public health workforce, who enter the field because they are passionate, driven and desire to ensure good health and wellbeing for their communities and the world at large. Especially those interested in sectors outside academia, they are majorly left to fish on their own, with no fishing rods but a massive knowlesge on the concepts of fishing, and of course we know what the end result will be. It is indeed necessary to create an identity for public health. I would also ask the older generation (permit me to use this word) of public health practictioners with established careers to advocate for this, share their journey, experiences, mentor and support the young public health workforce in navigating this field. Active coordination (including identity creation) and providing support for the public health workforce is key to the sustainability and will also improve the visibility and potentiality of the field across various stakeholders.

This last C for Coordination for me is my main message: "Not leaving the young public health workforce in Europe behind".
I hope in the next months to involve the relevant stakeholders in exploring ways, in which this issue can be best tackled.

Finally, I can't say enough about how amazing this week was and I look forward to next year and I encourage young public health professionals not to miss out on this unique opportunity. 

After an intensive week of 9 - 6pm, we still looked strong and ready to conquer Public Health challenges.

Cheers to the first graduates of the ASSETS!

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