ISSA Webinar: Addressing the challenge of medical deserts – National strategies and responses

8 March 2021 | Virtual

ISSA Webinar: Addressing the challenge of medical deserts – National strategies and responses

8 March 2021 | Virtual

Monday, 8 March 2021, 09:30−12:30 (UTC/GMT+1 or CET)

Languages: Simultaneous interpretation in English, French, German and Spanish

Organised in collaboration with the ISSA European Network and the ISSA Technical Commission on Medical Care and Sickness Insurance

In the context of ageing populations and urbanization, many European countries are facing the challenge of how to ensure access to adequate medical services for all, and in particular for people living in rural and remote areas. Shortages of general practitioners, specialised and emergency care lead to the development of medical deserts, a term used to describe regions where the population has inadequate access to healthcare.

Medical deserts can negatively impact on the health of people living in affected areas. Access to qualitative care, essential medicines and assistive technologies should be available to all patients, regardless of where they live.

There is a need for strategies and innovative solutions − including regulation, incentives or telemedicine − to support policymakers and social security institutions in facing the challenges related to medical deserts, and even more so in the context of COVID-19.

The ISSA Webinar on medical deserts will provide an overview of the challenges, strategies and innovative solutions in a comparative perspective across Europe.

Jens Schremmer Jens Schremmer, Head, Office of the Secretary General, ISSA
Franck de Rabaudy Franck de Rabaudy, Head, Health Professions Department within the Directorate for the Management and Organisation of Health Care, National Sickness Insurance Fund), France
Johannes GregoritschViktoria-Maria Simon Johannes Gregoritsch and Viktoria-Maria Simon, Department Healthcare Provision and Innovation Management, Austrian Social Insurance, Austria
Arnd Spahn Arnd Spahn, Chair of the Board, Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture (SVLFG), Germany
Cinzia Zeltner Cinzia Zeltner, Research Associate, Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), Switzerland
Alessia ComacchioStefano Portas Alessia Comacchio, Doctor in Legal Medicine and Stefano Portas, Forensic Pathologist, National Employment Accident Insurance Institute (INAIL), Italy
François Perl François Perl, Director of Public Affairs, Studies and Advocacy, National Union of Socialist Mutual Benefit Societies (Solidaris), Belgium

This webinar will examine the following questions:

  • What is the scope of medical deserts and the main related challenges?
  • What are the key shorter- and longer-term strategies to address these challenges?
  • What are the concrete lessons learnt so far? Which types of measures were successful and why ? Which actions did not achieve the expected results and why?
  • How is COVID-19 influencing the challenges and responses?


  • Welcome by Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano, ISSA Secretary General
  • Introductory remarks by the ISSA
  • France: Measures implemented to promote access to care
  • Austria: Primary care and general practitioners in rural areas
  • Germany: Medical care in rural areas
  • Short break
  • Switzerland: Medical deserts
  • The experience from Italy
  • Belgium: Development of accessible first line healthcare services
  • Q&A – Discussion
  • Conclusions
Nathalie De Wulf Moderated by Nathalie De Wulf, Technical Officer in Social Security, ISSA

Practical information

The webinar is open to delegates of ISSA member organizations and invited institutions without registration fee.