The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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MAPHM tells voters to prioritise health concerns when voting

Tuesday, 14 May 2024, 12:00 Last update: about 12 days ago

The Malta Association of Public Health Medicine has told voters to prioritise health concerns when casting their vote on 8 June.

Five years have passed since the nation participated in MEP and local council elections. "Reflecting on this period, it's remarkable to consider all that has transpired in our country. We navigated through the challenges of the worst pandemic in a century, which revealed both strengths and weaknesses in our healthcare system," the association said Tuesday.

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"Throughout the pandemic, collaboration between the government and civil society was crucial in prioritising public health during the initial response. However, it seems that priorities have shifted away from health to other interests, which is evident in our daily lives. In the latest Eurobarometer survey carried out ahead of the EP elections, issues related to migration and asylum, public health, climate change and the fight against poverty and social exclusion emerged as the top concerns for the Maltese. These results are not surprising when considering the realities of daily life faced by many people residing in our country."

"In spite of millions of euros spent on road widening efforts, worsening daily traffic encountered on our roads is contributing to stress and air pollution. Despite some efforts to push alternative means of transport such as through free public transport, car dependency continues unabated. Cycle lanes are rarely (safely) incorporated into our transport infrastructure, and cycling remains a dangerous commuting option for most, the statement said."

"The urban spaces we inhabit are congested with poor planning policies resulting in overdevelopment and a lack of green spaces for recreation or exercise. All these facets of our built environment are contributing to our staggering overweight and obesity rates. Additionally, rising food costs resulting from high inflation mean many families are finding it difficult to make ends meet, let alone make healthy food choices," it said.

Mental health problems are on the rise for all the reasons already mentioned, but particularly amongst youth, with the increasing mental health issues resulting from substance abuse and dependency bearing special mention, the association said.

"Social media, known for fostering connections, is increasingly acknowledged as a source of distraction and anxiety-inducing or distressing content, which affects the mental wellbeing of both young and old alike."

"Our economic system is increasingly built around the importation of cheap labour and unskilled workers, creating opportunities for the systematic exploitation of these vulnerable individuals. Lack of adequate enforcement of housing regulations leads to public health risks due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. This sustained importation of large numbers of foreign workers has also cast a spotlight on issues related to the capacity and sustainability of our critical infrastructure, namely health, water, sewage and sanitation, food security and housing."

"Our health infrastructure is already challenged and experiencing capacity issues as it strives to maintain the same outcomes while serving a burgeoning population with increasing rates of chronic disease. Consequently, our health workforce is increasingly burdened and there are difficulties recruiting and retaining sufficient professionals in certain areas. If we also cast our sights beyond our shores, we also face other concerns on a regional and global scale."

"Having become accustomed to peacetime, war at the borders of Europe threatens our sense of security and wellbeing. Climate change is visibly accelerating as we counter extreme heatwaves, erratic weather and an uncertain future, which threatens to unwind the significant public health achievements that have been fought for over these past few decades and increases the likelihood of novel infectious threats," MAPHM said.

These realities, as challenging as they are, should inspire people to vote for candidates with a conscience, candidates whose values prioritise collective health and wellbeing, it said. "Any new public policy, any new development proposed in the run-up to the elections should be considered in terms of the impact this will have on our environment and our health and wellbeing; both now and in the future."

"We encourage the public to reach out to their candidates and ask them where they stand on these crucial issues. As public health practitioners, we implore our voters to prioritise health when going to vote. We ask voters to focus not on immediate gains but on long-term outcomes that will leave a positive legacy, a Malta where health and wellbeing are prioritised and our children can aspire to a better and healthier future," the statement said.

"As public health practitioners, we increasingly acknowledge the importance of every aspect of our living space and the profound impact it has on our health. Health is far more than an individual asset, it is a community resource. We aspire to have a social and physical environment that enables and supports the residents of our country to live healthy lives. We aspire to have a society that cares for the strong and the weak alike, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised among us. Our green spaces need to be valued as spaces that not only preserve our environment and biodiversity but also provide peace of mind, respite and face-to-face connection in our busy lifestyles."

"Any public health efforts made in this regard will have negligible effects unless there is a concerted effort by ALL (government, industry and civil society) to consistently and systematically consider the impacts on health in the decision-making and policy-making processes of all sectors. Achieving the right balance in our public policies is the key to a prosperous yet healthy community where wellbeing is prioritised. When you cast your vote, vote with health in mind. Our lives and wellbeing depend on it," the statement concluded.

 


 

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