The Malta Independent 4 October 2023, Wednesday
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MAPHM: advocating for public health in Malta

Sunday, 10 September 2023, 07:32 Last update: about 24 days ago

Kathleen England

The Malta Association of Public Health Medicine (MAPHM) is a voluntary, independent and non-profit making organization which was founded in 1999 and is composed mainly of public health doctors and other public health specialists. As the main professional public health body locally, MAPHM’s role in society is to always advocate for public health and help educate and empower the population about current public health issues. It also advocates for and advises upon policies and programmes that impact public health in the country. The Association also strives to promote high standards in the teaching and practice of public health medicine in Malta.


Public health is the medical speciality that promotes and protects the health of people where they live, learn, work and play. This is done through the various disciplines within public health including surveillance and monitoring of diseases, health promotion and health education, health policy and programme development and implementation, public health services within the community and many other important public health roles. The COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opener in exposing the important role of public health in protecting the health of the population. The pandemic also showed that for public health measures to work there is a need for engagement of the community at large to safeguard the health of the population. As we start to emerge from the covid-19 pandemic, there are challenges created both by the pandemic itself as well as other health challenges which need to be addressed. Current public health issues such as obesity, air pollution, migration, mental health, diabetes, tobacco,         and substance misuse are among some of challenges facing us today. Public Health challenges are also impacted by the wider determinants of health including population changes such as ageing and changes in population structure and composition, socio- economic challenges both at a global and local level, changes in societal and family values and environmental and climate changes which all impact population health.

While during the COVID-19 pandemic it was felt that the COVID-19 threat was important enough for entities within and outside health to work together for a common goal, and it was also appreciated that a negative health outcome e.g. increased COVID-19 cases would result in a negative outcome on other sectors such as tourism, economy and education. A similar mind-frame is needed to curb other health epidemics such as obesity. Currently, according to the Health Behaviour in School Aged children 2017/2018, in children aged 13 years of age, 35% of girls and 38% of boys are overweight or obese while according to the European Health Interview Survey 2019/20, in adults aged 18 years and over

71% of males and 58% of females are overweight or obese. Obesity is an important risk factor associated with several serious medical health problems including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and respiratory conditions among others. Obesity is a complex condition which requires focusing of interventions both at the individual as well as the environmental and culture we live in. Unless a multifocal, multidimensional approach is undertaken which involves both public health and other sectors of society working together for a common goal, we will not succeed in curbing this epidemic.

While the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine is relatively small organisation, it is composed of public health doctors and other public health professionals working both within and outside of government in various areas of public health. This gives MAPHM the opportunity to be at the core of all prevailing public health issues and be the voice for public health in Malta. The role of advocacy remains an important focus for MAPHM who will continue to speak out in favour of the wider determinants of health, including: health equity and sustainability, the physical environment, health behaviour and the social determinants of health amongst other issues.

More information about MAPHM, its advocacy initiatives and membership criteria are available on the website:


Dr Kathleen England is a member of  the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine

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