Report from the SALUS Network event in the EU Parliament in Brussels
The international conference "Promoting health and sustainability: the natural way out of the permanent state of emergency" was held on 28 and 29 September at the European Parliament in Brussels. Thanks to the MEPs Rosa D'Amato and Manuela Ripa and the Greens / Efa group, it was possible to bring the theme of health promotion linked to environmental sustainability to an institutional place.
The conference took place over two days: the first dedicated to the urgent need for a paradigm shift that from the current emergency system, where skills are increasingly separated, goes towards a healthy collaboration between health and non-health actors, who are concerned with promoting health. The second day focused on the experiences of education, health promotion and environmental sustainability currently present at European and international levels.
The event builds on the European Manifesto for healthy longevity, published in 2021 by the SALUS European Network. The Manifesto starts from an observation: life expectancy in Europe in recent decades has grown but the quality of life has not equal. The data and studies presented in the two days of the conference outlined how it is actually possible to achieve healthier longevity thanks to a paradigm shift that focuses on a concrete strategy to promote healthy lifestyles that unite health and the environment.
The one indicated by SALUS is a paradigm shift that becomes even more urgent if we consider the health emergency of the last two years. The response of European governments to the spread of Covid, in fact, has highlighted a system vacuum: the emergency approach that has been put in place has not been accompanied by any significant intervention in health promotion that would have helped the population to strengthen the natural immune response to infection. "The motto we thought of to define this paradigm shift is 'compone et collabora' (unite and collaborate)" said the Italian naturopath Milena Simeoni, creator of the SALUS initiative in 2019. Director of the LUMEN School of Naturopathy, Simeoni presented, among other things, the MINERVA project (MIgraine and Naturopathy: Empowerment with nutRition, attententiVness and yogA). MINERVA represents an example of the paradigm shift that can concretely be implemented; the project, in fact, aims to promote, at a European level, independent and non-profit research on the effectiveness of holistic naturopathy in the prevention and treatment of migraines. Another critical piece of this paradigm shift is the European Citizens' Initiative (ICE) # Time4SustenaibleHealth. "The SALUS European Network" explained Simeoni "wants to collect more than one million citizens' signatures to ask the European Commission to recognize and support the central role of all those professionals who promote health and sustainability, to activate local experiments, to coordinate the Member States to increase investments in health promotion up to 5% of health and social budgets, to set up an independent research center on health promotion and environmental sustainability ".
The conference was opened by the video message of the Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP). To show the feasibility and concreteness of the proposals made by SALUS, the intervention of Dr. Pekka Jousilahti, epidemiologist and researcher who works as a research professor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Wellness (THL), was illuminating. The professor presented the positive results of a public campaign to promote healthy lifestyles conducted on a stable basis in the North Karelia Region from the 1980s to today. Ton Nicolai, Secretary General of EUROCAM, showed the data of practitioners of Traditional Complementary Medicines in Europe, a workforce trained to support health promotion. Spencer Doman, CEO Doman International, explained the usefulness of working on healthy lifestyles to support people with special needs by recounting the experience of DOMAN International.
Among the interventions, several international speakers, including the famous Indian activist Vandana Shiva recalled how the industrial agricultural model, characterized by monoculture, biodiversity reduction and widespread use of chemicals and, in parallel, a wrong diet strongly affects the incidence of chronic degenerative diseases and contribute to reducing the quality of life with advancing age. On the same wavelength, the speech by Prof. Mìguel Angel Martinez Gonzalez, a Spanish doctor, epidemiologist, professor and researcher in nutrition who for twenty-five years has been engaged in research involving more than 22,000 participants and in which the importance of the traditional Mediterranean diet is demonstrated, both to ensure greater health and to ensure environmental sustainability.
Amarjeet Bhamra, secretariat of the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) Indian Traditional Sciences (ITS) illustrated the commitment of this esteemed group in the Palace of Westminster in London to promote parliamentary and public understanding of Indian traditional sciences (Ayurveda, Yoga, Jyotish, Vastu , Unani and Sangeetam) in the UK and overseas and broaden and integrate medical pluralism into the NHS. The contribution of the Portuguese naturopath André Dourado focused on the importance of integrated medicine in the case of the treatment of mental illnesses. "Integrating approaches such as mental exercise with existing health promotion and cardiac rehabilitation services," he said, "can improve self-efficacy and long-term adherence to healthy behaviors, as well as improve personal skills of stress management ".
Among the concrete paradigm change proposals that emerged during the conference, there was also talk of the gradual transition from a health system that pays for the disease to one that pays for the healthy longevity generated. "This ambitious goal is possible" said Dr. Alberto Donzelli, president of the Allineare Sanità e Salute Foundation, an Italian specialist in hygiene and preventive medicine. "It is necessary to make health profitable and create a bridge between education and promotion of health. A proposal that goes in this direction, which emerged within the SALUS initiative, is to involve non-health professionals in the health system, such as experts in traditional and complementary medicines, who can collaborate with doctors in supporting citizens to achieve a change of lifestyle ".
Among the practices related to the holistic world, we talked about meditation and its positive effects on the quality of life, as explained by Davide Pirovano, teacher of effective communication and meditation at the LUMEN network. "With mindfulness it is possible to reduce systemic pressure, perceived stress and anger," he said. “This is why meditation can also be a fundamental tool for that change we want to see in the world”.
As part of the SALUS initiative, legislative proposals were also born: Dr. Alberto Zolezzi, an Italian parliamentarian, presented legislation on the recognition of sustainable intentional communities" people who come together around a purpose, a project and a whole common of values that contribute to the good of the territory. The environment and ecology always return as fundamental ingredients for the change of paradigm" he explained.
Sabine Materlik, German respiratory therapist and president of the professional association ATEM, illustrated the importance of respiratory therapy and respiratory education. After documenting the effectiveness of breathing also in the treatment of depression and social isolation, Materlik explained the path proposed by ATEM to the teachers of the school to reach the children and offer them support and assistance for a healthy lifestyle. Director of the Cenatho school of naturopathy (France) Aude Veret explained how environmental degradation is at the origin of numerous diseases and stressed the impact of nutrition and environmental epigenetics on health and disease. “Naturopathy” she said “for its global approach, always considers the role of the environment in the state of health. There are many pathologies that could benefit from the medical/naturopathic collaboration, among these a new pathology has also emerged in recent years: hyperelectrosensitivity ”. Dr. Elena Maria Pirovano previewed the latest study on the correlation between the stringency of pandemic restrictions and total mortality developed with Dr. Lorenzo del Moro who, in turn, presented their new pathophysiological hypothesis of migraine that they called the neuroenergetic hypothesis.
Davide Cascino, naturopath, homeopath and Director of Omeonatura sagl, gave the example of Switzerland which was the first in Europe, through the vote of citizens, to ask for complementary medicine to be considered within the national health protection. The choices, then, with respect to the programs and the professional identity of the Naturopath, have ensured that many Swiss naturopathic professionals, researchers and practitioners began to collect their research and practical experiences in actual manuals.
Numerous and innovative are the philosophical and scientific contents of the event that will soon see new European appointments to continue building the bridge between sustainability and health. Those who subscribe to the newsletter on the website www.salusnetwork.eu will be sent the conference proceedings.
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