August 27th 2021

Climate Change-d: How to Create Resilient and Healthy Communities

European Forum Alpbach 2021 - Seminar Week focusing on how communities in Europe can tackle climate challenges to secure subsistence and ensure health.

COVID-19 was not a surprise. It was known for a long time that we would have to expect a pandemic, and the experts and decision-makers responsible for health and safety were aware of the need for preparation at the European, national and regional levels.[1] 

Despite known scenarios, Europe has found that it has taken a comparatively long time to adapt regulations and structures of social and health systems to deal with this new threat. The fourth wave of the pandemic, which is now imminent despite the great and rapid development of vaccines, and the incomplete implementation of simple preventive measures in tourism and gastronomy businesses, which are existentially threatened, are examples of how society as a whole is adapting far too slowly to new challenges.

This year's seminar on the topic of "Securing Health - How to Create Resilient and Healthy Communities" looked at these lessons learned from the pandemic to deal with the upcoming challenges posed by climate change. The seminar was organized by the Center for Social & Health Innovation under the direction of Siegfried Walch from MCI | THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SCHOOL®.

This contribution to the Alpbach Seminar Week 2021 in particular, addressed the question of whether we can meet the challenges of climate change in a similarly reactive way to the pandemic or in a specifically prepared and proactive way. The participants in Alpbach came to two main conclusions in the discussion with Ayman Fouda, a physician and health economist. If global, European and national engagement and preparation for climate change is done as Covid19 is, then we have a lot of work ahead of us. And time is short, if we keep in mind that the climate has already changed and that we are not talking about a challenging situation in an undetermined future. In addition to this, Sociologist Lukas Kerschbaumer shed light on the disparities between individual countries and how climate change affects people in precarious living situations. If it is true for the pandemic that we are not safe until the whole world is safe, then this applies in a similar way to climate change. Lack of adaptation to climate change will hit the vulnerable regions first and trigger corresponding knock-on effects for other regions.

In another thematic focus of the seminar, political scientist Raffael Heiss discussed the issue of the current state of nutrition of the world's population and the agricultural and economic determinants of our food systems. The central conclusion was that with a healthy diet, we can achieve a twofold benefit. Protecting the climate and promoting health. To this end, economist Claudia Zoller presented approaches that can help raise health awareness to support lifestyle choices toward more healthy behaviors.

The ideas developed during the seminar to proactively deal with the effects of climate change will be presented at the European Health Forum in Gastein in a few weeks' time. Femke Jansen and Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb from the Forum Gastein, Anniek de Ruijter from the University of Amsterdam and Markus Frischhut from the MCI | THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SCHOOL® presented the European Health Union Initiative in Alpach and invited the participants to support this European response to the pandemic experience.


Seminar outline:

  • 18.8.2021 Opening of the Seminar Week
  • 19.8.2021 Healthy behaviour to create individual and community resilience - Claudia Zoller
  • 20.8.2021 A macroeconomic perspective on health systems resilience –preparedness framework - Ayman Fouda
  • 21.8.2021 Diet change or climate change? Modelling healthy and sustainable food systems for the future - Raffael Heiss
  • 22.8.2021 My healthy and resilient community – participants’ conclusions - Femke Jansen
  • 23.8.2021 Precarious lifes at a glance – the social determinants of health - Lukas Kerschbaumer
  • 24.8.2021 The European Health Union – will this initiative secure health and create resilient communities? - Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb


[1] e.g. McKee, M., Reichl, B. (2015) SECURING HEALTH IN EUROPE: SETTING PRIORITIES, SHARING RESPONSIBILITY, in Eurohealth Observer, Vol 21, No. 3, pp 5-7