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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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ASPHER August 2020 Newsletter: Message from the President

Publication date: 06.08.2020
Author: John Middleton

Many of us are trying to take some summertime out for rest and recovery from the pandemic. But the SARS-CoV-2 virus isn’t. It may be biding its time, ready to take us on again in the autumn. In the Americas, Africa and India it’s running wild.

In Australia too it has taken off.

For some in the European region it never went away, or is already coming back strongly, in Spain, Israel, and the UK for example. I’ve written more about the UK situation in the ASPHER President’s blog.

There are localised outbreaks associated with high-risk precarious industries like meat packaging, sweatshop clothing manufacture, fruit and vegetable harvesting. Some are home-related outbreaks associated with multiple generations living under the same roof. It seems many European nations are experiencing a backlash of viral activity as they try to reduce lockdown measures. And - less fatally perhaps, but with greater potential for spread, and leaving us all vulnerable to the resurgence of the pandemic in the autumn. Chronically affected COVID-19 survivors and ‘long haulers’ are being recognised and require continuing health care.

For ASPHER it has been a period of intensive activity – major new publications have appeared on our site related to the COVID-19 pandemic – statements on planning for a second wave and planning for winter, children’s issues, children’s use of masks and surveillance apps. We’ve published a BMJ editorial on meat plants and COVID. We have surveyed selected schools of public health about their plans to re-open in the autumn. We have developed a strong teaching resource for the public and professionals. This and other publications are now appearing in multiple languages. We are also continuing to develop our repository of the depletion of public health services prior to the pandemic, and past, and continuing failures to take on public health advice. Examples from all countries, welcome. Please forward to the secretariat.

We were pleased to launch our joint publication with WHO, the WHO-ASPHER competency framework for the public health workforce in the European Region in June. Our thanks to Kasia Czabanovska, for leading this landmark publication. This summer, we have also consulted widely on our new strategy to 2025 and this is now being finalised for the September General Assembly.

The strategy will develop all our existing areas of work including professionalisation, workforce development, training and research. In addition, we have introduced new elements of great significance to ASPHER for the future. The biggest of these is the redoubled commitment to working with and for young public health professionals. Our young professional group has gathered pace during the COVID pandemic. Many are working with us on a wide range of COVID issues - from the very technical surveillance apps issues, effectiveness of testing and de-escalation epicurves, through to global statements and the successful virtual ASSETS meeting is reported in this newsletter.

A second new element of the strategy will be corporate citizenship. How do our schools behave as leaders in their local communities? Do they practice what they teach on climate breakdown? And most importantly, do they practice what they preach on anti-racism? Rana Orhan has undertaken two excellent studies on the role of public health schools in teaching about climate change, and in how they act as corporate citizens in this important area. She has also surveyed the ASPHER executive to assess our carbon footprint and to devise a policy for ASPHER to reduce our impact on the climate and environment. We will report more on these in coming months and hopefully see them published. Our statement on racism and public health, and the role of schools has been published by the International Journal of Public Health. Thank you to Oliver Razum and Lisa Wandschneider for Bielefeld’s leadership on this for us.

Our strategy also majors on developing our international links and relationships with sister associations of academic public health across the global regions. We held the first formal meeting of the new Global Network of Academic Public Health (GNAPH) in July. The meeting took first steps towards agreeing its constitution and terms of reference. We also agreed a statement on the role of the WHO in the pandemic. I have great confidence in this new organisation. Everyone is committed to strengthening the role of public health professionals and systems around the world to protect and improve the health of people and planet.

Thank you to our Secretariat, our executive board, the COVID taskforce and the young professionals group for their tireless work on our behalf. Come back refreshed after the summer and let’s continue the task of protecting and improving the health of the people we serve.

Enjoy your summer,

Professor John Middleton - President, ASPHER

Read the ASPHER August 2020 Newsletter here.

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