Welcome to the 15th issue of Health Europa Quarterly, which focuses on the prevention and control of the spread of infection and disease as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic begins to rise.
With a potential vaccine for the virus still months away at best and the increase in COVID-19 cases exacerbated by the worsening weather and flu season, preparation for the winter of 2020 would appear essential to maintain a functioning healthcare system. Our 15th edition is introduced by Dr Caroline Walters, showcasing the work of the UK’s wide-ranging REACT study on COVID-19 prevalence and transmission and the importance of taking infection control precautions in order to avoid a second lockdown.
Dr Hans Kluge, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe, raises concerns over the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and explores the impact of the pandemic on the welfare of healthcare providers.; while the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) highlights the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women around the world. Former Irish Minister for Health Mary Harney tells HEQ about the importance of futureproofing healthcare as a resilience measure, and University of West England Associate Professor Nazmul Karim speaks about the need for sustainable intervention in the PPE supply chain.
Infection prevention and control have been particularly pressing priorities within clinical and healthcare settings. HEQ speaks with healthcare environmental hygiene network Clean Hospitals and Infection Prevention and Control Canada President Barbara Catt about the importance of adequate infection control measures; examines the shocking results of a bacterial screening study at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm; and ECDC experts Dr Agoritsa Baka and Dr Diamantis Plachouras tell us about public health planning and infection control policy during a pandemic.
One key issue which the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief has been that of vaccination: not only in terms of the ongoing race to develop a functional COVID-19 vaccine, but also in the need to protect the citizens – many of them young or vulnerable – who have not been able to access needed vaccines due to the pandemic; the importance of citizen engagement in vaccination programmes; and the impact of spreading misinformation on vaccine hesitancy. With this in mind, HEQ has partnered with Active Citizenship Network to produce a special feature on vaccination-related issues, with contributions from Active Citizenship Network Director Mariano Votta, EU Pharmaceutical Group Professional Affairs Advisor Jan De Belie, Magdalena Rodriguez de Azero, Executive Director of Vaccines Europe, and Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) Dr Jane M Barratt.
The rush to adopt technological solutions to assuage the impact of COVID-19 has, in some cases, led to the cutting of important corners around issues of essential data protection. Our section on technology and digital innovation opens with JMW Solicitors’ Head of Data Protection Toni Vitale assessing inherent data security flaws within the UK’s Test and Trace system. Elsewhere, Mandeer Kataria of health technology coalition the Health Tech Alliance and Caroline B Hing and Yasmin Antoniou of Artificial Intelligence (AI) social enterprise AI for Good showcase the potential uses of AI as healthcare becomes more digitally driven; and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) explore the future of cybersecurity and data protection in healthcare.
Our diseases and conditions section features contributions from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Pancreatic Cancer Action and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, among others; while our mental health section focuses on growing concerns over mental health in the workplace with articles from the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In the medical cannabis section, we speak to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) about the challenges of regulating medical cannabis products and addressing misinformation. The book closes with our healthcare in practice section, led by interviews with Professors Irving Zucker and Brian J Prendergast, who give us an insight into their study on the impacts on women of sex biases in clinical drug trials.
Health Europa Quarterly