Press Release

Press Release


“Addressing medical deserts in Europe: a call to action”
Policy dialogue event of the Action for Health and Equity: Addressing medical Deserts (AHEAD) partnership with Members of European Parliament and experts

Many countries in the European region struggle with severe health worker shortages and an ageing and burned-out health workforce. This is leading to lack of access to health care for many European citizens. Several countries, such as Italy, Romania, Serbia and Moldova, also face the challenge of so-called ‘medical deserts’. These are areas with limited health services, resulting in unmet health needs of the population. They can exacerbate health inequalities, mostly affecting vulnerable groups.

Medical deserts and the lack of access to care for European citizens are therefore an increasingly urgent joint public health concern in Europe. This EU-wide problem needs EU-wide collaboration to come up with an EU-level sustainable solution, to ensure that European citizens receive optimal access to skilled and motivated health workers. Europe cannot wait – it is time to act now!

You are therefore warmly invited to our policy dialogue event with Members of European Parliament and experts, on April 27th in the European Parliament in Brussels. The event organisers are the partners of the project Action for Health and Equity: Addressing medical Deserts (AHEAD): the Center for Health Policies and Services (Romania), Cittadinanza Attiva (Italy), Media Education Centre (Serbia), National School for Public Health Management (Moldova), Wemos (Netherlands), and VU Athena Institute (Netherlands). We envision a Europe in which every citizen has access to sufficient, skilled, and motivated health workers, whenever and wherever possible. With this project, we aim to reduce health inequalities by addressing medical deserts in Europe with evidence-based policy solutions.

During our event on the 27th, our diverse expert panel will reflect on the problem of medical deserts in Europe and explore concrete policy solutions to address them:

  • Katarzyna Ptak-Bufkens, DG Sante
  • Paolo Michelutti, Coordinator of the new Joint Action on Health workforce planning and forecasting
  • Dr John Wynn-Jones, EURIPA, the European Rural and Isolated Practitioners Association
  • Tomas Zapata, WHO European Regional office (pre-recorded intervention)
  • Dorota Tomalak, Committee of the Regions
  • Marina Royo de Blas, DG AGRI

We will also highlight the main findings and innovative deliverables of our project, such as the Medical Deserts Diagnostic Tool and participatory consensus building methodology. We held participatory consensus-building workshops with stakeholders in Italy, Netherlands, Moldova, Romania and Serbia, exploring possible solutions to address medical deserts. We concluded that an effective solution to medical deserts would require many different actors to urgently work closely together.

Our recommendations therefore include (among others):

  • European institutions should prioritise the problem of medical deserts on the political agenda throughout the next European Commission’s mandate – and beyond.
  • The national governments of European Member States should improve the quality, systematic collection and analysis of data related to the health workforce, health services, and related indicators to medical deserts.
  • Health professionals’ associations should advocate the right to health for all, especially people in areas with limited or difficult access to health services, both in rural and remote areas, as in urban areas.
  • Citizens should call for multi-dimensional actions by duty-bearers to improve their health and well-being, especially for the most vulnerable.

Join our event to learn more and exchange ideas with our panelists!

Date: Thursday April 27, 2023
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM (CET)
Location and registration: Live from Brussels and online. Registration for in-person attendance is closed. To follow the livestream of the event, please visit this link.

Website: read more about AHEAD.

Mariam Zaidi

  • Beatrice Covassi (event host), Member of the European Parliament – Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Italy
  • Anna Lisa Mandorino, Secretary General – Cittadinanzattiva APS

Setting the scene – the AHEAD project:
Aysel Rahimli (project coordinator of AHEAD and Pillars of Health – Wemos)

Panel discussion with Members of European Parliament and experts (see above).
Final remarks: Corinne Hinlopen (global health advocate and project lead of AHEAD and Pillars of Health – Wemos)

Media partners: Health Europa and Trend Sanita



August 2021

Addressing Europe’s urgent health workforce problem:
Action for Health and Equity Addressing medical Deserts (AHEAD)

One of Europe’s urgent health challenges for the 21st century is medical desertification. Medical deserts are isolated or depopulated areas with such significant falling numbers of medical practitioners and overall health workforce shortages that they hamper health worker availability and exacerbate health inequalities in the population, especially among vulnerable groups. We – six civil society organisations of the European consortium project Action for Health and Equity Addressing medical Deserts (AHEAD) – aim to reduce these health inequalities by addressing medical desertification in Europe.

Over the course of 26 months, our goal is to achieve better access to health services, especially in underserved areas, and more equitable access to sufficient, skilled and motivated health workers. We will focus on the countries Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands, Romania and Serbia. The AHEAD partner organisations are Cittadinanzattiva (Italy), National School of Public Health Management (Moldova), VU Athena Institute (the Netherlands), Wemos (the Netherlands), Center for Health Policies and Services (Romania) and Media Education Centre (Serbia).

We will investigate the different manifestations of medical deserts in Europe and develop policy solutions that will improve health worker availability for all. We aim to do this by building knowledge, encouraging (digital) innovation in health service delivery, and applying a participatory approach to public health policymaking.

AHEAD is a member of the EU Health Workforce Projects Cluster Network that aims to provide tools, practical guidelines and improve the sharing of best practices that can help EU Member States design and implement their policies related to health workforce retention, task-shifting and regional medical desertification. Our project is primarily funded by the European Commission, with co-funding from Open Society Foundations.

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