Tackling racism and discrimination to achieve greater equity in health is what binds the people and organisations who have joined forces in the DisQo network. What started with 24 organisations applying to run a Thematic Network on DG SANTE’s EU Health Policy Platform end last year, has now grown into a movement of 66 organisations (and counting) represented by almost 120 people, who are committed to act against racism and discrimination.
Over the last eight months, DisQo has organised a series of webinars with key experts exploring some of the priority areas that the network identified. These priorities, including DisQo’s own commitments and areas where the network envisions stronger leadership by the European Commission, are written up in DisQo’s Joint Statement. The statement, which was presented to DG SANTE on 19 April, has also been endorsed by three members of the European Parliament and was picked up by scientific and media outlets, including Politico and Nature.
First and foremost, it’s about people. About meaningful participation and inclusive language when engaging them, for instance to develop anti-discrimination policies or to gather evidence in a research setting. Meaningful participation, however, can only happen if the issue is recognised in the first place – that racism and discrimination are indeed fundamental determinants of health, impacting both physical and mental health irrespective of one’s socioeconomic position in society. Operating in silos, whether that is at the highest governance level in the EU, or within smaller, local organisations, is a key barrier to progress on mainstreaming anti-racist and anti-discrimination efforts, as well as not having diversity and representation in positions of power. A quote that I took from the Anti-racism and diversity week 2023 at the European Parliament in March of this year is: “diverse decision makers make different policies”. However, as long as we have discussion panels in high-level settings (e.g., at the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly in May) that consist entirely of white men above a certain age, we don’t get crucial voices heard and the equitable policies that particularly the underserved and discriminated groups in society are entitled to.
The real work starts now
The Joint Statement forms the basis for the next phase of DisQo. On 20 June, the network convened again to brainstorm and agree on next steps. The diversity among the people, the expertise, and the energy around the virtual table – and in the network as a whole – is precious and makes that there is huge potential for DisQo. To transform this potential into sustainable impact, however, additional resources will be required and securing these will be one of the first steps. Action is required at all levels, now and in the future, so if you think that your organisation can contribute, do not hesitate to get in touch!
More on health equity
This issue of EPHA’s newsletter on health equity also features the story of Sunny. In this first video of EPHA’s People Behind the Numbers project, Sunny openly speaks about the struggles in his life and how obtaining a house has helped him getting on the right track. That housing is one of the crucial factors affecting health, can be seen in EPHA’ latest infographic on Achieving Health Equity in the EU; although society should be providing a fair platform for all citizens to reach good health, this platform is not equal for all.
Finally, we highlight the work of some of our members. For example, on child poverty by Eurochild; on how 83% of Roma children live in households at risk of poverty, and how 2,000 children each year are being separated from their families and institutionalised in Bulgaria. There is also an article on the refusal of healthcare to people in precarious situations in France, which is recorded by an observatory of the French Federation of Solidarity Actors for cases of discrimination, describing how people in precarious situations are refused healthcare. Led by our member Wemos, the AHEAD project has developed and validated a bottom-up participatory policy-making methodology in the context of medical deserts. Lastly, there is a call for an EU Strategy for Women’s Health. In their manifesto, the European Institute of Women’s Health urges the EU to address the societal challenges that lead to health disparities; improve data collection and analysis; harmonise current legislation; and ensure that women’s voices and needs are embedded in all EU policies.
On behalf of EPHA’s Health Equity team, I wish you happy reading!