We live in the Euroregion Meuse Rhine (EMR), where national health systems and policies are in place. However, our environment knows no borders. This leads to some interesting questions: what are the differences in environmental health among the EMR countries? How do these differences affect our health and well-being? What are the challenges faced by the communities in the border region, whereas their health can be heavily impacted by environmental factors from neighbouring countries? Can we collaborate to bridge these gaps and how?
These are the key questions addressed at the EMR conference on environmental health on 22 June in Eupen. This conference is initiated by the EGTC EMR (European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation Euroregion Meuse-Rhine) and organised by euPrevent. It brought together about 50 health experts, professionals, policymakers, and stakeholders from within and beyond the EMR.
Dr. Bettina Menne from the WHO Regions for Health Network provided an overview of the health challenges posed by climate change and its implications for the border region. Dr. Odile Mekel from the North Rhine Westphalia Centre for Health shared her experience using the place standard tool to engage citizens in assessing the quality of their living environment.
In addition, experts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany offered their perspectives on various topics, including:
– climate change and heat, with the specific examples of how heat health is addressed in the policy goal in Flanders and Kerkrade,
– the burden of disease and environmental justice with insights from experts from Sciensano and RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment),
– a healthy living environment, particularly focusing on how health concerns can be integrated into other policy areas such as city planning,
– environmental risk factors for health, particularly air and noise, how they are addressed euregionally and nationally.
The conference constituted a platform for exchanging experiences and knowledge on environmental health and climate change. A clear message is conveyed to the participants that only through collaborative actions we can better tackle the health challenges posed by environment and climate change in the border region.