Letter to the Italian Ministries of Health and Environment

The Secretary of the Commission on Environment of the Italian Senate (Sen. Stefano Vaccari) and the President of the Italian Federal Association of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Sen. Amedeo Bianco),  requested  the Italian Ministries of Health and Environment to catch the opportunity offered by the Italian Presidency of the EU Council to push towards an Environmental health approach more consistent with the current economical and social challenges.

All too often, environmental-health protection has generally been confined to the response to a crisis, such as dramatic episodes that reach political impact thanks to media exposure and popular protest (e.g. the episodes occured at the industrial plants in Taranto and Savona), without becoming the subject of an in-depth political debate followed by informed decision-making leading to effective prevention of health and social burdens.

The present crisis and the social, scientific and cultural innovation bring new opportunities that should be pursued to improve our economy and welfare, which might be a real landmark juncture.

New tools are needed for improving the environment and reducing its impact on health should be viewed as an opportunity to boost Europe’s competitiveness and, by extension, its economy.

Starting from the  the position paper ‘Why Environmental and Public Health Tracking: The Modena Position Paper for the Italian Presidency of the EU Council «for a Better Environment and Health»,  released at the Workshop held in Modena (Italy) on May 14th-15th 2014 and presented to Mr. Sandro Gozi to be taken into account by the Italian Presidency of the EU, the two representatives of the Italian Senate asked for a real intervention in the field of Environment and Health.

As a matter of fact they focused on two proposals:

  1. To promote the creation of an international EPHT network to address environmental challenges to public health by establishing a Working Group in the European Union. This proposal should be viewed as an opportunity to implement and share tools useful to boost competitiveness and, by extension,  economy, since health and sustainability are pillars of wellbeing and productivity, especially in a time of socio-economic and cultural crisis.
  2. To support research and monitoring of environmental hazards and health risks, such as in the case of the Po Valley (Nothern Italy), one of the most polluted places in Europe, where the problem has never been addressed in a systematic, multidisciplinary and consistent way.

In other words, issues concerning environment and health can – and must – be taken into proper account especially since the European vision of society is based on sustainability, equity and wellbeing, and should be the reference point for a new idea of Europe. It is widely and authoritatively (see WHO) recognized that the investments in promoting health are convenient expenses, e.g. avoiding the incidence of frequent (and costly) diseases, which means sparing resources in terms of health-care costs and indirect costs, such as earnings lost and absences from work.

In conclusion, these proposals aim at creating a collaborative setting among citizens, indutries and institutions on issues which are usually tricky and sometimes controversial, and it would be advisable to take into proper consideration such solicitations for a desirable economic rise in Europe, and in particular in Italy.

Such issues will be treated in occasion of the XXXVIII Congress of the Italian Association of Epidemiology, which will be held in Napoli next November 6th. (http://www.epidemiologia.it/sites/www.epidemiologia.it/files/XXXVIII_Con…)

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