Brexit a risk to our nation’s health

SSM overwhelming support ‘Healthier in’ and ‘Scientists for EU’ campaigns to remain in the European Union

Over the past two weeks, our members have been voting to decide on the Society’s position towards the forthcoming EU Referendum. 275 of 619 total members (as of 29/04/2016) participated in the vote, giving a turnout of 44%.

Among these the opinion was resounding, with 82% believing that the SSM should lend its public support to the ‘Healthier In’ and ‘Scientists for EU’ groups, compared to just 4% who supported a Brexit and 15% who preferred neutrality.

EU Poll result

The Society are therefore releasing the following statement and remarks from our President and Honorary Secretary:

The EU makes a vital contribution to our health. Indeed, supporting wellbeing is one of the EU’s core objectives. Population health is heavily influenced by political choices, particularly social determinants such as poverty, employment, education, and exclusion. A healthy population is a huge asset for economic growth. The EU recognises this, and many of the EU priorities for 2020 focus on addressing the social determinants of ill health.

SSM President Aileen Clarke:

The EU is vital for co-ordinating public health among member nations. Health issues are not often restricted to national borders; most are too big for any nation to face alone. The collective benefits of the EU towards public health are clearly evident from innovative legislation on tobacco control, clean air and water, and consumer and food safety.

SSM Honorary Secretary Peter Tennant:

The UK has a huge success in winning EU research funding. The UK received a net gain of almost £3billion from the EU research budget between 2007 and 2013. Those funds are vital, and support nearly a quarter of all UK medical and health sciences research. Losing that income would have a profound impact on the sector. Such a loss would greatly harm the effectiveness of UK public health and the NHS.

President Clarke concludes:

The risk goes beyond what is easily measureable. It is impossible to quantify the benefits of sharing and exchanging ideas across borders and between cultures. The best science is inclusive and collaborative, not isolated and insular. UK research benefits hugely from the free movement of expert labour within the Union, plus the ability to share and combine data. Large international collaborations are increasingly important as we move towards big data and stratified medicine, but our access to these networks would be threatened by leaving the EU.

The press release can be downloaded here

Flag image credit: Nicolas Raymond

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