Press Release

Scientists and professionals for prevention ask for an active role from Italy in defense of the environment and health

It is necessary to immediately exploit Italy’s semester of presidency of the EU to promote an international network of environmental surveillance dedicated to the service of public health for each country.

This is what certain researchers, scientists and other functionaries of some of the most important world-wide institutions operating in the field of public health and environmental welfare are asking of Italy in their document entitled ‘Why Environmental and Public Health Tracking: The Modena Position Paper for the Italian Presidency of the EU Council for a better environment and health’.

The position paper, recently made public, was written at the end of an international workshop “Environmental Public Health Tracking to Advance Environmental Health” held in Modena (Italy) on the 14th and 15th of May, 2014. This workshop saw the birth of INPHET (International Network on Public Health & Environment Tracking), an international network of people and organisations  concerned with systems of surveillance and environmental alerts  to control for factors harmful to the environment and health in each of the participating countries.

Two objectives were asked of the Italian government:

  1. to promote the initiation and activities of this network starting with the creation of a work group within the EU;
  2. to sustain the research and monitoring of environmental conditions and their consequent health risks.

Once initiated, INPHET will furnish continuous and systematic knowledge of the state of the environment and its consequences on health to those who have to make decisions regarding public health.


The hope is that integrating the experience of the different countries involved will widen the cultural and operative horizon, not only for those involved in promoting knowledge in the fields of environmental health, but also for those that must make decisions regarding public health, finally going beyond the differences between health, environment, work and development.

This is an important occasion for Italy to share significant environmental issues from an international viewpoint, without being limited to emergency cases (Taranto, Land of fires, Savona, etc.). It presents an opportunity to address in a systematic, multidisciplinary and coherent  way, important structural problems such as the impact on health of pollution in the Po Valley, one of the most contaminated areas in Europe, which have never been the object of comprehensive public health interventions.

Health and environment – claim the researchers and professionals of prevention who signed the position paper in Modena – have to become  fundamental assets for a social and economic development, because they are the basis of a bond that links the economical and social forces to a territory and contributes in attracting not only economical investments but also those related to innovation and social participation.

Sandro Gozi, the Undersecretary Delegate to European Politics and Coordinator of Activities connected to the semester of the Italian Presidency of the EU Council, expressed himself in this same way: «”The defence of the environment and consequent care of public health must not be considered as an expense, but, on the contrary, it should constitute a contribution to a reduction of costs and therefore represents not only a factor of greater social justice and recognition of citizen rights, but also an instrument at the service of a more competitive Europe”».

These are some of the considerations that emerged from the Modena workshop. Thanks to the new opportunity presented by the semester of Italian Presidency, the INPHET network asks for a possibility to become patrimony of the entire European Community.

The signatures of the Modena document were:

Lina Balluz, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States
Kees de Hoogh, Swiss Tropical and Public health Institute, Switzerland
Tony Fletcher
, Public Health England, United Kingdom
Paolo Lauriola, ARPA Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Giovanni Leonardi
, Public Health England, United Kingdom
Sylvia Medina
, Institut de Veille Sanitaire, France
Lisbeth Knudsen, Department of Public Health, Denmark
Jan Semenza
, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Sweden
Brigit Staatsen, National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), The Netherland

This paper reflects the views of the authors and not necessarily those of their organizations.