by Nelly Papalambros
Lacing the walkways in the Athens airport are banners with images of white-washed villages and aqua blue waters. Scrawled across an image of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon are the words “Live your myth in Greece”. This is the Greece that tourists see. Despite the raging economic crisis the façade continues to be upheld, but beneath those beautiful layers of sun and sea you find a nation that has been pushed to the brink in more ways than one.
Six years into the economic crisis, this small country of 11 million people is reeling with the consequences of austerity measures. International attention on Greece tends to focus on economic conditions resulting from the 323 billion euros Greece owes to the banks, the 25% unemployment, or the thousands of refugees washing up on its picturesque beaches. Staggering as these numbers are, they fail to capture the extent to which the crisis has affected the everyday lives of Greeks, especially with respect to the impacts on their health. To meet austerity measures imposed by the European Union, Greece has made budget cuts of nearly 50% to health care, which include social welfare programs and publically funded pharmaceutical spending. This harsh economic policy, in conjunction with a nearly 40% reduction in household income, has lead to a prolonged humanitarian crisis with reductions in access to healthcare and medications, resurgence in diseases of poverty, food insecurity, and dramatic increases in mental health issues.
Nelly Papalambros is a PhD/MPH student in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program at Northwestern University. She currently works in the laboratory of Dr. Phyllis Zee studying sleep and circadian rhythms. Nelly is interested in using science to advocate for evidence based health policy.