Health in Mediterranean Region: EpiSouth-Plus project
Health security and strategies to increase it (favoring and strengthening preparation to sanitary disasters and biological risks to health, to national and regional level) in Mediterranean and in the South-East of Europe, were the issue of the first Meeting Project EpiSouth-Plus, held in Rome from 5 to 7 December.
EpiSouth-Plus is an EU-funded project that aims to improve the ability to deal with threats in the field of health in Mediterranean area.
This meeting was attended by about 150 people, who discussed mains problems related to the issue of health security, including: opportunities and challenges for Mediterranean region coordinated actions, integration of epidemiological surveillance and rapid laboratory alert systems and epidemic intelligence for emerging infections; contribution to the network development of the World Health Organization guidelines for access points at the borders; organization of the network of a simulation exercise in response to an emerging problem.
The EpiSouth network includes 27 countries (9 European countries and 17 non-European countries of the Mediterranean, and one country candidate to the European Union membership). This is the largest collaborative sanitary effort in the region.
«EpiSouth-Plus is the continuation of the project EpiSouth started in 2006 on the initiative of nine European Union countries and focused on the control of infectious diseases in Mediterranean countries», explains the scientific coordinator of the project Silvia Declich, who works at the Superior Institute of Health. «During the first phase, the network has increased progressively, reaching the current 27 participating countries (including 18 Mediterranean countries, which are not European Union members, but that share similar ecosystems of the Mediterranean region). Since the beginning, Italy was the coordinator of the project and also the Italian Ministry of Health participated to the network activities and attended also financially, in harmony with the EpiMed project. Italy, in the field of epidemiology of infectious diseases, is the leader of the southern European countries and a bridge between Mediterranean countries and Balkans».
The scientific leader of the project declared: «EpiSouth Plus will end in 2013. The main challenge that awaits us now is how to further develop this project. Certainly, the participating countries have the intention of maintaining the viability of the key features of this network, at least with minimal activity, even when funds will end».