Anke Boone, a project METEOR researcher from KU Leuven participated in a policy discussion addressing the lack of access to healthcare for many European citizens. The event was organised by the research project AHEAD and took place at the European Parliament.
Countries like Italy and Romania are currently grappling with the challenge of ‘medical deserts,” which are areas with limited access to health services. Project AHEAD is studying such areas with the aim to explore evidence-based policy solutions to improve healthcare accessibility, particularly in underserved regions.
The event, “Addressing medical deserts in Europe: a call to action,” held on April 27, 2023 and hosted by MEP Beatrice Covassi, brought together diverse groups of experts, including Katarzyna Ptak-Bufkens (DG Sante), Paolo Michelutti (Coordinator of the new Joint Action on Health workforce planning and forecasting), Dr. John Wynn-Jones (EURIPA, the European Rural and Isolated Practitioners Association), Tomas Zapata (WHO European Regional office), Dorota Tomalak (Committee of the Regions), and Marina Royo de Blas (DG AGRI).
During the discussion, AHEAD shared their findings, including the Medical Deserts Diagnostic Tool and participatory consensus-building methodology. Effective solutions to combat medical deserts were emphasised to require close collaboration among various stakeholders, with recommendations urging the EU to prioritise the issue on its political agenda and national governments to enhance data collection and analysis related to the health workforce and medical desert indicators. Health professionals’ associations were urged to advocate for the right to health for all citizens, especially those in areas with limited or difficult access to health services, whether in rural, remote, or urban settings. Additionally, citizens were encouraged to call for multi-dimensional actions by duty-bearers to improve health and well-being, especially for the most vulnerable.
AHEAD and the METEOR project are both members of the Health Workforce Project Cluster.