The National Meeting of Italian Healthy Cities Network focuses on migration health

Palermo, in the region of Sicily, between 12 and 13 May 2016, hosted the 14th National Meeting of the Italian Healthy Cities Network, which in 2016 focused on migration health. The Meeting emphasized that to be a healthy city means, first of all, to reduce inequalities among people including unequal access to health care.

Discussions during the Meeting were practical and enriched by stories of the everyday work of stakeholders in this field. Workshops focused on three main topics for a healthy city: migration and education, migration and security, and migration and health inequalities.

Health is a human right

"Health is a human right. We must work to guarantee this right, because today for migrants and refugees it is not always considered as a right," stated Simona Arletti of the Italian Healthy Cities Network and one of the meeting organizers. She added, "Our priority as a network of healthy cities is to understand how to respond to the health problems of these people who are not ill when they leave their country, but often arrive with severe mental disorders, due to the terrible conditions of the journey, and very often they are alone, without friends, parents and a community."

This is why building healthy cities also means addressing migration problems, and Sicily is a good example of a community where different stakeholders (public health system, organizations), cooperate to ensure that access to health is a right for all, starting with preventative care. Migration health is often thought of in terms of communicable diseases, but the real problem – underlined by many of the involved stakeholders – are noncommunicable diseases and especially chronic diseases and mental disorders among migrants.

Migration health is an important topic for Europe, and this is the first Healthy Cities Network that puts this topic at the forefront of the discussion. Considering this topic within the Health 2020 framework and among the challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is fundamental. WHO is currently developing a European strategy that takes a public health view of migration health to improve the health coverage of migrants.

"Building a healthy city must also mean working on the inclusion of women, and we do not forget the triple bind that these girls face today: they are women; they are young; they are migrants. This makes them very vulnerable," added Nadine Abdia, from the "Conference of Culture", in Palermo. "Moreover, women and children are the first example of unequal access to the health care system, because they are very often left alone, without a family that could help and support them."

About Sicily and migrant health

The region of Sicily was chosen to host the Meeting due to its continuous commitment over the last few years to give aid to people who left their country under precarious conditions to find a better place to live.

In 2015, the Mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, launched the Palermo Chart during the international conference "I am a person", in which numerous institutions, nongovernmental organizations and associations participated and made proposals. The objective of the Chart is to start a cultural and political process to abolish residence permits, to propose radical changes to the laws on citizenship and to consider mobility as a human right.