I’ve been undertaking research in and on Europe for 25 years. As an epidemiologist and health policy researcher, Europe is a fantastic natural laboratory. First, we have learned so much from studying the different patterns of health. Take the Mediterranean diet. The changes that so many people have made in what they eat has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. And then there are the natural experiments, when one country introduces a new policy we all learn from it. The list is long – the Irish smoking ban, road safety in Sweden, alcohol policy in France – indeed there are so many that we wrote a book on them – Successes and Failures of Health Policy in Europe.
Much of this research was only possible because of the European Union. And it’s not just the money. Much more important are the networks, the mobility of researchers, and the avenues into policy to get things done. I sit on the EU’s Expert panel on Investing in Health and I see just how much Commission officials value evidence. If only it was the same in some member states!
For me and my team, Brexit would be catastrophic. We saw what happened when the Swiss restricted freedom of movement. That is the last thing we need.
Because some of us were so concerned, we have set up a new group Healthier in the EU. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we have received. It is very clear to us that those who actually engage with researchers in Europe and understand how the EU works recognise the enormous range of positive reasons for staying it, and the huge risks of leaving.
Martin McKee is Professor of European Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine