To the members of the International Association of Health Policy
from Vincent Navarro
Dear friends, colleagues, and comrades,
It is with an enormous sadness that I have to inform you that one of the greatest and best human beings we have had in this current and past century, Giovanni Berlinguer, has passed away. I just received a note from Giuseppe Costa communicating this news. Giuseppe had been keeping me posted for some time on the evolution on the prolonged disease and condition that determined his death.
Very few deaths have affected me as has Giovanni’s. He was like a brother to me, with whom we have shared so many joys and also so many pains, including so many projects, and so many struggles, for so many years. I first met Giovanni immediately after Amsterdam, when we started the International Association of Health Policy. It was so long ago that I don’t even remember when. He immediately helped us to have the first international meeting of the Association in one of the buildings of the Italian labor unions, and became a founder and major force in the Association. We also travelled together to several countries in Latin America, conducting many of the Association’s meetings on that continent, in conditions of almost clandestinely. It was when that continent was governed by many nasty, ultra-right wing dictatorships—where to be a member of the International Association of Health Policy implied a personal risk.
I also invited him to come to the United States, where he spent some time with us, and wrote a very entertaining and humorous book about that experience. He kindly invited me to attend political meetings of the PCI in Italy, asking me to speak at some of those inspiring meetings, with my lousy Italian, that he would always improve in the narrative and in its content. I was also very fortunate to get to know well his wife, Giuliana. Warm, kind and extremely acute and accurate in her perceptions. Giuliana and Giovanni were always so close, so loving, that it was an inspiration to all of us. They came to Barcelona frequently and he used to speak about the Catalan roots of his family.
Giovanni’s work has had enormous influence in all of the areas that he worked. He combined a very strong commitment to justice and democracy on the one side, with a great demand for rigor on the other, a combination that made him extremely effective. He also helped me to establish the International Journal of Health Services,that still keeps going and growing. I could have not done the international journal without his support and encouragement. He was also one of the founders of what is now called the “Social determinants of health.” It used to be called historical materialism. He was indeed very eloquent, showing that the current capitalist economic system was intrinsically pathological.
He will continue to influence through his work, which should be read by everyone who cares about the health and well-being of populations. Giovanni will always be with us, and will always be wherever and whenever there is a fight against exploitation, whatever that form of exploitation might take. We have been enriched by his life and will always have Giovanni with us. He is part of ourselves and we should honor his life.
First President of the International Association of Health Policy
April 7, 2015