RegenerAction 2022: One Health: cure and cure yourself not to forget us!

The challenge: embracing collective well-being

No matter what beliefs we have, what culture we embrace, or what part of the world we live in: we all share a life and each of us is driven by common values and desires: to be happy, to be healthy, to have access to sufficient quality natural resources. Yet, never before has reaching the Buen Vivir, as reported by the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia, been so full of obstacles and challenges. Pursuing collective well-being means first of all ensuring quality of daily life: quality of food, air, nutrition, care services, psycho-physical health - all aspects that are substantiated in animal welfare, in the care of the environment and the enhancement of ecosystem services and that give back to people, communities, relationships, territories and economy collective prosperity. This is the real challenge of our time.

Why it is important: increase resilience by promoting physical and mental balance

There is a huge difference between living and surviving. Life, understood in its real complexity, embraces a plurality of factors and dimensions that denote the need of our time to restore an eco-systemic mentality (and therefore solutions).

The current agri-food system is clear proof of this.

Selfishness, privatization and commercialization have arbitrarily supplanted the value of food, without considering everything that cannot be immediately monetized: access to land, people’s rights, gender equality, environmental regeneration, social cohesion, shared knowledge, trust. At EU level, the side effects of industrialization have spread unhealthy general patterns, such as massive consumption of ultra-processed foods, minimal nutritional levels, sedentary, monoculture and waste. We standardize methods, but we are losing our cultural and culinary heritage. With it, all the majesty, traditional knowledge, local crops and endemic forms of biodiversity are disappearing, those that guarantee valuable ecosystem services and regulate collective well-being.

Despite some variations between regions, no region in the world can really be said to promote a healthy diet, reveals the Global Nutrition Report; a price that weighs not only on human and environmental health but also on global economies, with the annual global financial cost increasing (+10.8 billion dollars) to implement the nutritional targets set by 2030.

This is inevitably one of the costs of conventional agriculture, which is based on massive chemical inputs and which prioritizes quantity over quality and profit over natural and social welfare. Aspects that make it not only highly vulnerable to any external disturbance (natural dysfunctions, energy prices, access to resources, availability of poorly paid agricultural labour) but also humanly and economically expensive. Antibiotic resistance causes around 33,000 deaths per year in the EU, reveals the european commissionand it costs our healthcare system 1.5 billion euros a year. These are the effects triggered by a deep and gradual dissociation from natural rhythms and processes that inevitably also affects the current psycho-physical state.

The link between mind and body is something that has been theorized and recognized for a long time: "mens sana in corpore sano" said the Roman poet Juvenal in his Satire of the second century A.D. An awareness that in time we lost, or forgotten, in the quest for homologation to the current society, the society of performance. We now suffer, in fact, from a constant frenzy, a famine of time that led us to forget the beauty of savoring the taste of what we eat, to share a meal in the family, to erode the quality of inter-relationshipWe need to be personal, to lock ourselves inside the closed and restricted spaces of offices, houses, cities, increasingly far from nature.

It is no coincidence, then, that the deterioration of psychic health and the erosion of social cohesion are perceived among the most worrying threats to the world in the next two years, as well as the concerns about climate change, now specific reason of anxiety especially in the younger generations.

It is time to bring health back into its concrete dimension: individual well-being (physical and psychological), collective well-being, environmental well-being, a multidimensional conception of health as "bio-psycho-social well-being". Restoring a better balance between personal and professional life is one of the reasons for the global phenomenon of Great Resignationwhich has affected 41% of the world’s workforce and is inevitably bringing people back to universal human values: care, mutual listening, empathy, mutual support. New priorities that are capable of recreating more decentralized systems and aimed at improving the health of the planet, invigorating communities and a sense of community, even with greater attention to the local economy and putting power back in the hands of people, more sensitive and attentive to the needs of the territory.

The ability to recover quickly from difficulties, to adapt to disturbances, to mitigate negative effects is only possible when diversity is respected and all dimensions of life are perfectly balanced.

The EU strategy and the need to restore a single approach to health

Promoting real and collective well-being is undoubtedly part of European policies and strategies.

The Institute for European Environmental Policy together with the European Commission, since 2016, has explored and disseminated the positive effects of nature on people (mental health, stress reduction) and societies, promoting greater contact with it. According to these studies, implementing green infrastructure, in addition to significantly mitigating noise and air pollution, would also promote greater interconnection with nature, encouraging outdoor physical activity. If as of 2017, the European Commission has adopted a new One Health action plan specifically on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), with the aim of promoting good practice in terms of research, development and innovation to control the spread of antimicrobial resistance and jointly preserve animal and human health, equal commitment must also be recognised in terms of mental well-being. Part of the recent The European Youth Strategy is in fact aimed at promoting multidimensional forms of well-being, from physical activity to mental health (in the workplace and in schools, also with the development of actions against depression and suicide), from care to eating disorders to the enhancement of sport as a lever to encourage teamwork, intercultural learning and responsibility.

These are actions and strategies that, in different ways and forms, help to create the basis for aEuropean Union of Healthwhere all EU countries prepare and respond together to health crises, medical supplies are available, accessible and innovative, and countries work together to improve prevention, treatment and post-disease care.

Regeneration and the potential of the Mediterranean lifestyle

Well-being, individual, collective and environmental, can only be the starting point for a real ecological transition.

It is for this reason and considering the urgent need to focus on the essentials, that the Future Food Institute is actively working so that our lifestyles are rethought - even before being restored - through holistic and integrated approaches, who know how to properly consider body and mind, spirituality and nature. For this reason, right in the middle of the pandemic, Future Food decided to open a Living Lab in Pollica. Part of the international movement Slow Cities, the "Cities of good living", Pollica is not only promoting the beauty of slowness, new humanism of being and living places, but is also an Italian representative of the Mediterranean Diet, leading this year’s UNESCO Network of Emblematic Communities.  The Mediterranean Model teaches us, in fact, since its ancient origins, that the only way humanity can prosper is through the achievement of collective well-being. Because the Mediterranean Diet teaches us precisely the idea of interconnectedness and the importance of keeping all aspects of life in balance, not only between the different areas of our daily lives (feeding, moving, being in company, feeling healthy both physically and mentally), but also of what is external to us: cultures, techniques, stories, languages, traditions, teachers, knowledge. This is the incredible interweaving that we today call the Mediterranean, the only real recipe for prosperity together, through trust, generosity, enhancement of diversity and care.

From those places of unique natural and cultural wealth, from the Cilento National Park and the Archaeological Park of Velia, from its protected marine areas, from the potential of community and conviviality every year students and professors, foreigners and innovators are welcomed, to live and experience the quality of life that the rest of the world has forgotten.

Well-being is a fundamental element in the design of healthy, inclusive and sustainable cities, but also a new lever to promote the territory with new forms of tourism that focus on biophilia and the enhancement of wild nature. This is the Paideia Campus in Pollica, an open-air campus where you can experience nature and beauty, slowness and sharing, where you can be fully regenerated, in body and spirit.

It’s also because of this that the Mediterranean Mind Lab of Pollica, Strobilo in collaboration with the Future Food Institute, was born: as a research activity to study, through the use of neuroscience, our link with nature starting from the monitoring of environmental and human health. The ambition is to create a real algorithm of longevity and human well-being, which requires however to return to touch nature, approach it, live it, smell it, breathe it, explore it. Because only if lived, an aspect can be truly understood, appreciated and loved. It’s time to reconnect with food, nature and our territories. It’s time to really feel good and spread our well-being with each other to create a collective and ever wider serenity.

It’s time to restore a real One Health Approach. Therefore, in the context of the European Union’s Food and Agriculture Week, well-being will be a central theme. In particular, between 26 and 27 May students of Hotel, Tourist, Sports and Agricultural Institutes will compete in a hackathon, to translate the values of the Mediterranean Diet and spread it among the new generations.

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