The theme of this year’s ESCAIDE is ‘data for action’, and possibly involves how we move from data to action. Action is a complicated word, but one could define it as a sequence of events being set in motion that will lead to a desired outcome. We as a community of public health experts are doing an overall excellent job when it comes to generating compelling and convincing scientific data, and presenting these results especially within our community of experts. More often, the action part is where we cut severely short. I am paraphrasing Marcia McNutt, a foremost geophysics’ expert and an editor of science who wrote the following “in these times it’s important that science becomes more than a body of facts.”

What responsibility do we have as a public health community? That responsibility must certainly be larger than generating expert opinions and reports? In times of crisis, advocacy should be a significant part of our curriculum as well, even if it is not the most popular theme from a political stance. But should that ever be an argument? As scientists, we let data speak, we reason by international law. However, reflecting on scientific data and international law one cannot conclude anything else than a massively failing towards large vulnerable group of fellow human beings.

Some of us might believe that this is not strictly our domain, it’s the domain of politicians, but ask yourself the question, what is a politician? Is it not someone who represents, someone who advocates for groups of people?

Some say our responsibility might end with producing data and writing reports, but does it? If data sketches a dark scenario before us, don’t we have an inherent ethical and moral responsibility to act more strongly, to enter the political domain? To protect and speak in favour of the most vulnerable?

So I am addressing you, a diverse public health community, expecting answers, because if we don’t have them, who does? Are we doing enough? I would answer that question with a steady no. But if you feel the answer is yes, then it might be time to redefine our role. Do we feel we should do more? And if so why is this not happening? I want to bring us back to our fundamental responsibility; To protect and promote health, and to prevent disease and injury, especially of those populations in turmoil, the ones most vulnerable. And I invite you to share your view, to discuss how we collectively can make a stance and move forward. 

Amrish (EUPHEM fellow C2015)