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The perfect storm

30 June 2023
On Wednesday, June 21st, the new Report of the National Observatory on Health in Italian Regions was presented in Rome, marking its 20th edition. The Osservasalute Report revealed the devastating effects of the pandemic on the health of Italians and the national healthcare system, raising the alarm of an impending perfect storm.
According to the report, unhealthy lifestyles and lack of prevention are among the main culprits of the health crisis. The aging population, projected to reach an average age of over 50 by 2050, clashes with an increasingly fragile and underfunded National Health Service (NHS) compared to European standards. The data is alarming: in 2022, public healthcare spending in Italy amounted to €131 billion, equivalent to 6.8% of GDP, the burden of healthcare costs on citizens reached approximately €39 billion, accounting for 2% of GDP. Italy ranks 13th in the European per capita spending ranking, far behind countries like France and Germany.
The report highlights the importance of prevention as a tool for resilience against deadly diseases. Territorial and social inequalities in the country are often linked to the lack of prevention, which depends on both individual behaviors and the ability of the NHS to provide the necessary services in time.

The situation is exacerbated by the burden of the pandemic, which has caused an excess mortality rate of 10.2% compared to the pre-pandemic period, one of the highest in Europe. Unfortunately, the number of avoidable deaths in non-pandemic periods remains high.
Walter Ricciardi, Director of Osservasalute, emphasized the urgency of taking rapid action and stressed the need to prioritize health and healthcare for policymakers. It is crucial for the population to become aware of this healthcare emergency and for adequate funding and support to be provided to the NHS in all Italian regions.

The future of the NHS will depend on the modernization of its organization, processes, and diagnostic and treatment tools. The resources made available through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) offer the country a unique opportunity, but effective political choices are required. It is essential that the new resources be additional and not replace regular state funding, in order to provide citizens with a healthcare system that meets the needs of a modern nation.
The report also highlights other concerning data: the growing number of overweight and inactive Italians, with over 46.2% of adults being overweight. Sedentary behavior is widespread, especially among young people, with a significant decrease in physical activity among children and adolescents. Southern regions show lower inclination towards sports and a high level of sedentary lifestyle.

Furthermore, the increase in antidepressant drug consumption in recent years highlights a significant issue related to the mental health of Italians.
Urgent action is needed to reverse this trend and ensure better health for all Italians. The Osservasalute Report sounds an alarm that requires immediate attention from policymakers and the commitment of the entire population to address this perfect storm that threatens the health of our country.
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