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Member's blog - Other

November 2021 President's Message

Publication date: 26.11.2021
Author: John Middleton

Greetings friends and colleagues. Since my last message in September, I have been busy travelling around Europe presenting at scientific business meetings on ASPHER’s behalf. Virtually. I have been to the SorbonneKrakowBielefeld, Dublin, Madrid, Israel (twice) Brussels, Stafford and Coventry, UK. Virtually. Courtesy of, I calculate I have released 4.822 tonnes of carbon in my journeys. Virtually. I have no idea what 4.822 tonnes of carbon dioxide looks like. I am told I can off-set it with a donation of 125 Euros. We are all going to have to think very carefully about the actual journeys we make, and how we do business in future. We all want to return to more meetings in person, but the pandemic has shown us we can do more, and better business virtually, and we can do less damage to our shared environment. ASPHER will continue to develop its own corporate citizenship in carbon management. We academics must break our fossil fuel addiction too.

Rudolph Virchow 1821-1902

Last month saw the 200th anniversary of the birth of Rudolph Virchow. The great physician, pathologist and pioneer of social medicine straddled the scientific worlds from the cell to the social. He spelled out his famous ‘medicine is politics’ quote in Die einheitsrebungen in der wissenschaftlichen medicin (1849) ‘For if medicine is really to accomplish its great task, it must intervene in political and social life. It must point out the hindrances that impede the normal social functioning of vital processes, and effect their removal’. Never was this truer, than today, and rarely has it been paid more lip-service.

COP-out 26? Anger, disappointment, betrayal

This month we have seen the COP26 in Glasgow agree to add only a bit more fuel to the fires consuming our planet. We have yet again seen the Global North pleading concern to protect their future generations whilst allowing present generations of the Global South to face extinction. My thoughts on the achievements of this Conference of the Parties can be found in the companion blog ‘Shames of our time’.

ASPHER continues to develop its work on climate change and health education. We launched our new Climate and Health Competencies for Public Health Professionals, on October 25th and will launch our European Union Health Policy Platform on Climate and Health in Europe on November 25th. Details can be found later in this newsletter.

COVID-19 Vaccine TRIPS waiver-still needed

The parallels with COVID vaccine availability are striking. Again the rich world refuses to meet legitimate calls from the Global South to make available the technology to expand capacity for vaccine production to save lives in the poorer countries now, whilst protecting global health for all for the future. Again, a problem not made in the South, causes catastrophic disease and death in the South. Again, a problem requires support for actions by the Global South, but they will not get it from the Rich World.

ASPHER has joined with the Global Network for Academic Public Health and the World Federation of Public Health Associations in calling for a Vaccine Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights waiver, to enable vaccines to be produced across the globe, and enable a truly effective response to be mounted to the COVID—19 pandemic.

You can catch up with my comments this month from the ASPHER Task Force, in the companion blog feature: ‘Vaccines work, but with COVID-19 they cannot work alone’.

Our work with the Global Network for Academic Public Health continues. We have published a statement on the role of schools of public health in education and training in the post-pandemic era and a call for investment in our schools and in the development of the public health profession, systems and services, at global, national and local levels. We urge our members to use this statement widely in your lobbying and influence on funders, Health and Educational ministries and politicians. 

Thank you all

I would like to give my thanks to the ASPHER Secretariat for their tireless work on our behalf. I would also like to thank the ASPHER COVID-19 Task Force for their continuing energy and commitment to our COVID related materials. The UCCAIDE project team on updating competencies for applied infectious diseases epidemiology has delivered its report to ECDC, following a final survey which nearly 300 of our experts and colleagues took part in. Many thanks to everyone who has been involved in this vital work. I would also like to thank all our members who presented or took part in the European Public Health conference, virtually in Dublin last week. I am particularly grateful to our young professionals who were an inspiration in the opening plenary. We owe it to them to create a career structure and profession of public health in which they can develop to their full potential, and most importantly, to enable them to save some lives and improve the health of the people we serve, and the planet we share.

John Middleton
ASPHER President 

Read Part 2 and Part 3 of the President's message.

Download the ASPHER October-November 2021 Newsletter here.

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