One of the many great things about representing the Global Initiative on Loneliness and Connection is the chance to work with other countries, even other continents in their efforts to tackle loneliness. This week I was therefore thrilled to support and co-host an amazing event in Grenoble, France alongside research leader and fellow GILC representative Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad. It was the first ever summit on social isolation which was organized by the Université Grenoble Alpes, with support from the French Minister for Solidarity and Health, Mr. Olivier Véran . It brought together the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, a cadre of political leaders, researchers, and other thought-leaders from across the globe including Christopher Mikton from the World Health Organization to catalyze a platform to address social isolation, loneliness, and social connection within France and the European Union (EU) more broadly.  

I was fortunate to have the honor of interviewing Dubravka Šuica, the European Commision’’s Vice President for Democracy and Demography about her campaign to study and address social isolation and Loneliness across the 27 EU nations. Her leadership and dedication to embedding this policy agenda over the long term will have an immense effect to addressing social connection through evidenced-based national and local program deployment in the coming years. 

Overall, the Social Connection Policy Research and Action Summit was successful in beginning to bring  together various stakeholders to: 

  1. To raise awareness of the importance of social connection for public health in France and the European Union
  2. To socialize a systemic framework and plan for the development of a multi-sectoral strategic plan to address social connection
  3. To mobilize political actors to establish mechanisms of population surveillance of loneliness and social connection at the national (including French) level via nationally representative sample
  4. To initiate the conversation with local political actors to ensure reliable and effective interventions are crafted throughout the European Union

My involvement in the summit began August 2020, when I received an email from a researcher in Australia describing the work her organization had been leading for several years to raise national awareness of the negative impacts of loneliness on the citizens of Australia. They established a standing scientific advisory board to ensure that their work was evidence-based, however they felt there was much more that they could be doing to influence policy and the private sector.  The reached out to the organization that I co-lead, the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness, because we had demonstrated convened a multi-stakeholder collaborative focused on advocating broad health and social policy reforms to reduce social isolation and loneliness with some success.  What started out as an informal attempt to share best practices, multi-disciplinary expertise, resources, and opportunities between two organizations led to the formal development of the  Global Initiative on Loneliness and Connection (GILC), which was established on 1 January, 2021.   And the spirit of supporting nationally-focused organizations in their attempts to raise awareness, disseminate best practices and evidence, and develop national strategies to address social connection lives on through the 18 March 2022 Social Connection Policy, Research, and Action Summit in Grenoble, France. 

On behalf of GILC I am pleased to see a resounding commitment to addressing social connection across France and the EU and to welcome its newest nationally-focused member organization representing the great country of France, led by the Université Grenoble Alpes.   

Over the coming weeks and months, we look forward to our continued support of France and the EU as they develop their strategic plans to end loneliness and social isolation. We are also excited to support this French and EU movement and are committed to lend our expertise at the next annual conference.

Stay connected!

Edward Garcia, MHS

Co-Chair, GILC

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