AHEAD Newsletter #8 2022

AHEAD Newsletter #8 2022

Calling on all policy makers and politicians to be health workforce advocates

The European Union should support its Member States with addressing their national health workforce shortages. The EU can contribute to solving this by: 1) Changing the narrative and approaching it as an EU-wide crisis, 2) Understanding what is happening by acquiring better data, and 3) Earmarking finance for structural investments in health workforce strengthening. These were the 3 main recommendations from Corinne Hinlopen, global health advocate at Wemos (lead partner organisation of AHEAD), at the European Institute of Health and Sustainable Development Conference on Nov 30th in Brussels. 

How to use our Medical Deserts Diagnostic Tool to address medical deserts

On November 21, we organised an interactive webinar about tackling and preventing medical deserts with our innovative Medical Deserts Diagnostic Tool, which policymakers and others can use for evidence-based policy measures to address medical deserts. The tool includes visual maps which show how far in the process of medical desertification certain regions in Europe are. The recording is now available on our website and YouTube. 
In addition, in this video, we also explain why medical deserts are a public health problem and how our tool can contribute to effective policy solutions.

Upcoming webinar: want to learn about our consensus-building methodology for successful collaboration on tackling medical deserts?

On January 27, 2023 we will organise a webinar about our consensus-building methodology, led by our partner VU Athena Institute. Have a look at our presentation about this methodology and its added value for effective policy measures for medical deserts. The AHEAD country teams are currently also holding policy dialogues and the national and at the EU level, with relevant stakeholders. 

Date: Friday, January 27, 2023 
Time: 10:00 – 11:00 AM (CET) 
Language: English 
Register HERE

We will provide more details about the speakers and agenda soon, so stay tuned!

Happy holiday and a healthy, joyful 2023 from the AHEAD team! 

AHEAD-Media Education Centre, Obilicev venac 21, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Copyright © 2021 AHEAD, all rights reserved

AHEAD Newsletter #6 2022

AHEAD Newsletter #6 2022

Understanding medical desertification through consensus-building sessions in Campania and Sicily (Italy)


Medical deserts are still an unknown concept in Italy. This is one of the conclusions from AHEAD partner Cittadinanzattiva’s research on medical deserts and their pilot project activities on consensus-building in Campania and Sicily. During these local consensus-building sessions, Cittadinanzattiva interviewed local stakeholders about their understanding of and perspectives on medical desertification in the two regions in Italy. The outcomes of these sessions confirmed what Cittadinanzattiva found through an analysis of the shortcomings of territorial assistance in Italy. Cittadinanzattiva identified several common patterns and trends which implicitly refer to medical desertification. Above all, three main characteristics in most research articles were: shortage of healthcare personnel, insufficient healthcare services, and lack of adequate territorial assistance, especially in underserved areas. Other key factors involve uneven and fragmented regional health services in rural areas, poor access to medical care and services, scarce prevention and follow-up, and acute hospitals and medical facilities unable to adequately meet safety and quality standards. Geography also appeared to be a key determinant; in fact, distance and rurality represent barriers of cost, time and inconvenience for patients in accessing primary care and prevention. AHEAD will use these findings for wider/national sessions, to ultimately achieve co-created policy options to address medical deserts.

The Italian paper Il Mattino published an item about AHEAD, you can read it here (in Italian).

How can participatory consensus building contribute to successful policies to counteract medical deserts?

One of AHEAD’s unique selling points is our participatory consensus building methodology.

It is known from literature that successful implementation of health workforce policies requires strong inter-sectoral governance and consensus building among the different stakeholders involved. As a consortium, we have therefore set out to draft, test and validate a consensus building methodology, in order to increase the chances of successfully counteracting medical deserts.

With the consensus building methodology, we aim to achieve the following:

  • Implemented in the AHEAD partners’ countries, it contributes to the identification and development of practical, feasible and context-specific policy options, that will support policy makers in their decisions on health workforce issues.
  • Implemented, contextualised and evaluated across the AHEAD partners’ countries, it will result in a validated methodology, that we will share in a practical guidance document, so that other organisations can apply the same methodology in their own context.

This method consists of two phases at local level and one at national level, all with facilitated dialogues:

Phase 1 (local level): Dialogues among groups of community representatives, among health workers and health managers and among local policy makers/policy implementers to discuss country research findings and set priorities.

Phase 2 (local level): Representatives from each group come together to discuss their priorities and jointly agree upon a priority of policies representing “the ideal mix of measures”, including advantages and trade-offs.

Phase 3 (national level): Discuss and select measures in a dialogue between local and national level policy makers.

We will share more on consensus building on a new page on our website. Stay tuned!

Join our webinar on September 16: What are medical deserts and how do we find them?

During an interactive webinar on September 16th – with a keynote speech from Katarzyna Ptak-Bufkens of the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (European Commission) – we will share key takeaways from our country reports on medical deserts in the countries on which AHEAD focuses on: Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands, Romania and Serbia.

Aysel Rahimli, project coordinator of the AHEAD project at Wemos, will present our country report findings. Stefan Mandic-Rajcevic, data research analyst with an MD from the University of Belgrade and a Ph.D. in Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene from the University of Milan (Italy), and part of AHEAD partner Media Education Center, will moderate the webinar.

During the webinar, we will:

  1. Show the different manifestations (‘faces’) of medical deserts in Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands, Romania and Serbia.
  2. Share the key findings of our country reports on medical deserts in the abovementioned countries.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Date: Friday September 16th, 2022
Time: 10:30 – 11:30AM (CET)
Language: English
Register here!

Our contribution to the European Health Parliament’s 7th round of policy recommendations on a resilient European Health Union

The European Health Parliament (EHP) has released the 7th round of Recommendations on Recover, Reinvest, Reinvent: Creating a resilient European Health Union. AHEAD project coordinator Aysel Rahimli from Wemos (lead organisation of the AHEAD consortium) contributed to the theme ‘Future-proofing health systems’, highlighting the need to address medical deserts in the European context. Read the EHP7 policy recommendations here; and the policy recommendations on future proofing health systems here.

EHP is a movement connecting and empowering the next generation of European health leaders to rethink EU health policies. It provides the next generation of European leaders with the connections, knowledge and platform they need to build a healthier and more innovative Europe.

AHEAD-Media Education Centre, Obilicev venac 21, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Copyright © 2021 AHEAD, all rights reserved

AHEAD Newsletter #5 2022

AHEAD Newsletter #5 2022

European Health Management Association (EHMA) Conference 2022: sharing our findings on identifying medical deserts


On June 15-17th, AHEAD attended the European Health Management Associaton’s (EHMA) annual conference in Brussels. Titled ‘From people to systems: leadership for a sustainable future’, the conference focused on exploring challenges and solutions for creating sustainable health systems and ways health managers can lead towards them. On June 17th, Mirela Mustata (from our AHEAD partner organisation CHPS) presented our literature findings on identifying medical deserts in Europe during an engaging abstract session.

Aysel Rahimli (AHEAD programme coordinator): ‘’It was fantastic to participate (in our first) in-person conference. We are proud to have our Romanian colleague Mirela represent us and present our preliminary version of the working definition of medical deserts, paving the way for a standardised approach to identifying and monitoring medical deserts in Europe. It was inspiring to hear about the research of other organisations and consortia that are working on similar issues on access to medical services, addressing health workforce shortages and retention, and improving health outcomes of marginalised and vulnerable populations, often in remote and rural areas.

We also were happy to have finally met several colleagues with whom we had only had online interactions during previous months. Returning to some in-person normality is a positive step towards successful collaborations and planning sustainability of our projects. It was also great to see other colleagues that are part of the EU Health Workforce Projects Cluster and the EU Health Policy Platform!‘’

Upcoming webinar… AHEAD!

We are organizing the next AHEAD webinar behind the scenes. We look forward to sharing our country findings with you during this exciting session. Stay tuned for the full programme, speakers and date!

AHEAD-Media Education Centre, Obilicev venac 21, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Copyright © 2021 AHEAD, all rights reserved

AHEAD Newsletter #5 2022

AHEAD Newsletter – April 2022

Watch back: online intermediate event of the EU Health Workforce Projects Cluster


Countries can address access to health inequalities in the population by improving health worker retention and task-shifting policies. So, what should these policies look like? On March 29th, the five projects of the Health Workforce Projects Cluster on the EU Health Policy Platform – including AHEAD – presented the first results of their research during their second webinar on ‘Fighting access to health inequalities by improving health worker retention and task shifting policies’.

On behalf of AHEAD, Mirela Mustata and Dana Farcasanu from the Center for Health Policies and Services (CHPS) presented the findings of our literature review on a multidimensional definition of medical deserts. This definition will be the basis of AHEAD’s research on identifying medical deserts and the Medical Deserts Diagnostics Tool (currently in development).

‘’What we discovered during the literature review stage was the variability of terms that are used to indicate medical deserts and the complexity behind this apparently simple concept. Yet, it became clear that two aspects are key when one indicates whether an area is a medical desert or not: low density of health services in certain areas as compared to population characteristics and needs and physical distance to the health care services that are available. From this starting point, different avenues of research are open: which levels of health care to consider in each country (primary care, emergency, specialized care, what types of specialized care), how to better define population needs, what is the referral point, how to measure distance, how to test and validate the solution? ‘’

Mirela Mustata, researcher

Did you miss the webinar? You can watch it back HERE

Upcoming participation in European Health Management Association (EHMA) in June

On June 15-17, 2022, the European Health Management Association’s (EHMA) Annual Conference 2022 – with the theme ‘From people to systems: leadership for a sustainable future’ – will take place in Brussels, Belgium. The conference will bring together key healthcare stakeholders providing the latest evidence on ways to transform health systems. The conference provides opportunities for health managers and health professionals to have their voices heard, to connect with decision-makers, and inform policymaking at the European level.

On behalf of AHEAD, Mirela Mustata (CHPS) will present our literature review findings on a multidimensional definition of medical deserts.

Would you like to attend the conference? Please register on EHMA’s website

1 year anniversary AHEAD

This year’s World Health Day 2022 – April 7th – marked AHEAD’s 1st anniversary!

Our first year has been exciting, with many activities and developments which should lay a solid foundation for our project. For example, based on the contexts of the countries AHEAD focuses on, we have been working on a multidimensional definition of medical deserts, conducting qualitative research with stakeholders and collecting quantitative data. In our second year (starting in April 2022), we will implement our draft consensus-building methodology, and design policy options for policy makers to possibly implement in their countries.

We are also excited about finalizing our ‘medical desert maps’ (for our Medical Deserts Diagnostics Tool), which will provide an overview of the locations of medical deserts in the AHEAD focus countries. Stay tuned for more exciting developments AHEAD!

AHEAD-Media Education Centre, Obilicev venac 21, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Copyright © 2021 AHEAD, all rights reserved

AHEAD Newsletter #5 2022

AHEAD Newsletter – February 2022

Save the date: Webinar on fighting access to health inequalities by improving health worker retention and task shifting policies on March 29

On March 29th, 2022 (2:30-4:30 PM Brussels time), the Health Workforce Projects Cluster will organise its second webinar. During the webinar ‘Fighting access to health inequalities by improving health worker retention and task shifting policies’, the five Cluster projects will share their progress so far, focusing on the findings from literature review and applying varying methodologies that the projects are implementing. Mirela Mustata and Dana Farcasanu (Centre for Health Policies and Services, Bucharest) will present findings on behalf of the AHEAD project.

Besides the speakers from each project, the Cluster also invited several external speakers. The webinar will be opened by Miklós Szócska – Director, Semmelweis University, Health Services Management Training Centre and Andrzej Rys – Director Health systems, medical products and innovation, DG SANTE, European Commission. The keynote speakers will be Sarada Das, from Standing Committee of European Doctors, who will present their updated workforce strategy, followed by Heather L. Rogers, (Biocruces Bizkaia Heath Research Institute) with an intervention on the mental health opinion of the Expert Panel on effective ways of investing in health.

We are also excited to hear reflections from Ber Oomen, Executive Director of ESNO (European Specialist Nurses Organisation).

Maya Matthews, Head of Unit Performance of Health Systems, DG SANTE, will conclude and close the webinar, with some reflections from DG SANTE.

The Health Workforce Projects Cluster consists of five EU co-funded projects under the umbrella of the 3rd Health Programme. The projects focus on three key topics – medical deserts, task shifting and retention policies:

  • Action for Health and Equity – Addressing Medical Deserts: AHEAD
  • MEnTal hEalth: fOcus on Retention of healthcare workers: METEOR
  • prOmoting evidence-bASed rEformS: OASES
  • Empowering EU health policies on Task SHIfting: TaSHI
  • A Roadmap OUT of mEdical deserts into supportive Health WorkForce initiatives and policies: ROUTE-HWF

With this exciting agenda, we hope you will join us on the 29th of March!
Please follow this link to register for the webinar.

On March 1st, 2022, the OASES project will organise its first anniversary webinar on ‘the role of health workforce data to identify medical deserts’. Please visit OASES’ website for more information and registration.

AHEAD: in full research mode

From autumn 2021 onwards, the AHEAD partners have been busy conducting the in-country research and engaging with their stakeholders in project countries.

This stakeholder engagement is aimed at learning about the lived experiences of affected communities and health workers in medical deserts areas. This will help us validate our working definition of medical deserts that we developed earlier in 2021:

“Medical deserts imply the inability of a given population (and / or a population group) to access health services, or the state of isolation when it comes to receiving health services, based on three categories of quantitative and qualitative barriers (‘dimensions’), which are interrelated and dependent on each other, in varying degrees and modalities.”

These barriers are: (1) physical barriers, (2) social barriers and (3) policy barriers. Read more on our website.

Furthermore, we will be circulating surveys and conducting focus group discussions in spring this year.  If you are working in remote areas or are interested to find out more about AHEAD’s research, please get in touch via the contact us form on the AHEAD website.


What we’re reading

Lots of new publications on medical deserts and health workforce reforms are being published every day. Have a look at the list below to see what we’re reading!

Australian Journal of Rural Health – relevant for our research on medical deserts: Australian Journal of Rural Health: Vol 29, No 5

A Doctor’s Tour de France, One ‘Medical Desert’ at a Time’ – New York Times article (note: from August 2021)

State of Health in the EU: companion report 2021 – Project country reports: for Netherlands, Italy, Romania

Health workforce protection and preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic: a tool for the rapid assessment of EU health systems

CPME’s new policy on health workforce (November 2021), to be presented by Sarada Das during the March 29 webinar

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AHEAD-Media Education Centre, Obilicev venac 21, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Copyright © 2021 AHEAD, all rights reserved

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