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Disparities in the health care system in the post-pandemic era

Date:25 May 2023

By Dr. Roxani Fragkou, Assistant Professor University of Groningen,

GCHL-member Roxani Fragkou recently had the privilege of addressing a keynote speech at the Seminar on Current Challenges in Medical Law, whichtook place on 3-4 May in Göttingen (Germany) and was co-organised by Medical Law Göttingen in cooperation with the European Association of Health Law.

The seminar focused on current challenges in medical law, offering a diverse range of topics for discussion. From challenges related to data and research to new standards for healthcare and for vulnerable groups and legal aspects of new areas of medical care, the seminar provided a comprehensive platform for addressing the pressing issues faced by practitioners, policymakers and researchers in the field. One of the most enriching aspects of the seminar was the opportunity to interact with young scholars and PhD students who are passionately dedicated to the field of health law. I was impressed by the depth of their research, their commitment to addressing the current challenges in medical law and their enthusiasm and fresh perspectives.

As a keynote speaker, I had the opportunity to share my insights on the topic of "Disparities in the health care system in the post-pandemic era". The point that I strived to make is that we are not only our genes, pure biology. As human beings, we are social creatures, and we are constantly interacting with others in the world around us. Our interactions with the people and the environment we engage with can significantly impact our development and shape who we are as individuals. Ultimately, this can have a serious impact on the enjoyment of our human rights and this leads us to addressing issues such as discrimination and inequality. In particular, we began by delving into the core components of the right to health and distinguishing between health disparities and equity. By emphasising the significance of social determinants of health, we underscored the importance of focusing on health inequity. We also explored the interconnectedness of health inequalities and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been recognised as a syndemic, to the extent that it has further exposed and exacerbated existing health inequities, disproportionately affecting marginalised communities and individuals with limited access to healthcare. By examining the pandemic through a syndemic lens, we could better understand its multifaceted impacts on health. Finally yet importantly, one specific area of focus in our discussion was the pandemic's profound effect on mental health. Indeed, after explaining that cumulative exposure to racial discrimination is a determinant of chronic social stress that negatively impacts mental health, we discussed the ways in which the burden on mental health has disproportionately increased for individuals and groups subjected to racial discrimination during the pandemic. 

The seminar provided an ideal platform for fostering collaboration and networking among participants. The various interactive panel discussions and social events facilitated meaningful exchanges of ideas and encouraged collaborations among legal scholars in the field of health law. Such networking opportunities are invaluable for promoting future research in the field of health law.