A healthy and prosperous life for all in Italy

The new report from the Italian Health Equity Status Report Initiative (IHESRI), Healthy, Prosperous Lives for All in Italy, examines what prevents people from being healthy and provides key recommendations for reducing health inequity. IHESRi reaffirms the commitment of WHO/Europe and the Italian Ministry of Health to improve health and health equity in the country, leaving no one behind.

The report recommends ensuring resilience and sustainability of the health system, reducing poverty and building more robust and stable economies in the regions and at the national level. In addition, the Italian Health Equity Dataset Platform, launched by WHO/Europe, allows users to explore the data underlying the report and analyze who is left behind in poor health, as well as assess which policy gaps and services are key to health equity from early years to later in life.

“By implementing the recommendations of this report, Italy could increase its national gross domestic product by 4.2%.” With these recommendations, we could improve the lives of 150,000 Italians within 4 years,” emphasized Chris Brown, head of the WHO’s European Office for Investments in Health and Development, located in Venice.

The Italian government has taken a number of steps to improve health equity, including embedding an equity approach in the current National Prevention Plan 2020-2025. Investing in health and reforms to reduce regional, generational and gender disparities are also top priorities of the National recovery and resilience plan. In addition, in 2019 the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) created a Health Inequalities Unit, which promotes practical action to reduce health inequalities.

“Investing in new generations, to ensure access to childcare, improve the school system, ensure equal social opportunities for women and men and strengthen home care [and telemedicine] the system is essential for the Ministry of Health,” emphasized Dr. Angela Meggiolaro from the General Directorate of Health Prevention at the Italian Ministry of Health.

From analytics to action

Analyzes in the report show the differences over the past 10 years between the most and least disadvantaged adults. For example, the gap in self-reported health and well-being has narrowed, but for other key indicators, such as non-communicable diseases, the incidence gap has not followed the same trend, especially for women. In addition, it shows that women with less education suffer more symptoms of depression.

The main drivers of health inequalities in Italy include lack of income security and social protection, as well as poverty. The report’s analysis shows that 43% of the population in Italy struggle with income security and social protection, and 22% of people live in poor housing conditions. In addition, the cost-of-living crisis is a new challenge that could further widen health care gaps. Unless mitigation measures are adopted, poorer households will be disproportionately affected.

“If we are to move from the problem to solutions, we need to understand the drivers and underlying conditions to prioritize action to reduce inequality. We need policies with reliable data on their impact on health equity and that are relevant to Italy,” emphasized Dr Sara Darias-Courvo, Professor of Public Health at La Laguna University and Consultant at the WHO European Office for Investments in health and development.

Regional participation

IHESRi brought together key stakeholders from various Italian institutions, including the ISS, the General Directorate for Health Prevention and the National Institute for Health, Migration and Poverty, a legal body under the Ministry of Health, with representatives from the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto, who appreciated this multi-sectoral cooperation particularly highly.

“Our main achievement is promoting local health equity processes: rethinking priorities together with local health units, defining feasible interventions and redesigning equity boards and integrating them into organizational processes,” said Luigi Palestini, equity management coordinator in health care from the Regional Agency for Health and Social Services of Emilia-Romagna.

Lombardy Region is piloting IHESRi, highlighting the importance of integration between schools and health services to reduce inequalities between students and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the student population and their families.

“Lombardy has adopted and disseminated the health-promoting schools model in a widespread way and implements evidence-based programs in the school context to support the development of life skills and competencies to reduce health disparities,” said Corrado Gelata, Manager of the Healthy Division for Lifestyle, Prevention, Health Promotion and Screening, General Directorate of Social Care of the Lombardy Region.

Improving people’s lives

During the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 million people in Italy lost their jobs. According to the latest data from the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), 7.7% of families and 9.4% of individuals lived in poverty in 2020, compared to 6.4% and 7.7% respectively in 2019 The Veneto region is also affected and has taken measures to improve people’s lives and health, including through a communication campaign called “Vivo Bene”.

“Vivo Bene is part of the Veneto Regional Prevention Plan, which reinforces the creation and strengthening of an environment in favor of people’s health by investing in health-promoting schools and workplaces, active municipalities and child-friendly communities. The plan tackles inequalities in health by supporting a gender-based approach and protecting vulnerable people,” explained Federica Micchiletto from the Directorate for Prevention, Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health, Veneto Region.

Leave a Comment