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A Modern Partnership for a Changing World

EuroHealthNet Annual Report June 2019-June 2020

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A Modern Partnership for a Changing World

EuroHealthNet Annual Report June 2019-June 2020

5. Research

Our ability to rapidly generate and spread information though digital media has increased the appeal of sensational narratives over facts and scientific evidence. It has also made it increasingly difficult to ensure that the information is accurate and that it comes from trusted sources.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, put the importance of good, scientific evidence into sharp perspective; it can make the difference between life or death for millions of people. The pandemic is an acute crisis, that should not fully distract us from the other chronic crises, environmental and social challenges that can also have profound impacts on people’s health across the EU, and in how the pandemic affects their lives.

Approaches must be sought to recover from the pandemic in ways that also address other pressing societal challenges, such as climate change and other forms of environmental degradation that impact health, and the persistent and growing levels of social and health inequalities. More than ever, research is also required into the effectiveness of approaches to promote health and prevent disease, and help ensure the sustainability of health systems. EuroHealthNet is committed to coordinating and contributing to research in these areas, by taking part in multi-sectoral consortia that approach issues in holistic and systems-oriented ways, and that contribute constructive, forward looking solutions to today’s pressing health and social challenges. The emphasis is also on ensuring that the outcomes of such research inform policy-making processes at all levels of government.

Our work this year covered

INHERIT: A Horizon2020 research initiative identifying ways of living, moving and consuming that protect the environment and promote health and health equity

Collaborating with CHAIN, the centre for global health inequalities research

Contributing to European-level forums, research-related Joint Actions, expert panels, and other research initiatives

Raising awareness and engaging at the European Public Health Conference, bringing together many health researchers and other professionals

A healthier, fairer future for people and planet

Through the work of its Research Platform, and in particular of the INHERIT research initiative, EuroHealthNet is making the case for why different sectors – for instance, environmental, health and social – must work together. Collaboration is needed on a shared conceptualisation of problems. Efforts are also needed to frame and address issues in ways which reference all the factors that bear upon them.

EuroHealthNet will continue to set out positive visions that motivate stakeholders to come together and to design, implement and build the evidence base around concrete solutions that encourage and enable people to live in ways that promote environmental sustainability, health and equity.

Conference 'A Future for All to INHERIT: Taking Action Now'. December 2019
Conference 'A Future for All to INHERIT: Taking Action Now'. December 2019

INHERIT Research: Identifying ways of living, moving and consuming that protect the environment and promote health and health equity

In the second half of 2019, EuroHealthNet worked to successfully finalise the INHERIT research initiative, which it had been coordinating since the beginning of 2016. INHERIT, which was funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, brought together an interdisciplinary consortium of 18 partners from across Europe.

It sought to foster ways of living (green space, energy efficient housing), moving (active transport), and consuming (healthy and sustainable production and consumption of food) that simultaneously restore the environment and contribute to health, and equity – ‘triple-wins’.

Over the course of four years, INHERIT approached the question of what can be done to make healthier, more sustainable choices and lifestyles the ‘default’ option for all, through policies and practices that simultaneously impact positively on health, the environment and equity. It investigated this from many different angles – analysing literature, visioning future scenarios, carrying out surveys and focus groups, and implementing and evaluating case studies on the ground across Europe.  Together with INHERIT partners, EuroHealthNet brought together these results and translated them into tailored messages for a wide range of audiences.

“You are so impressive in the way you put together events such as the one we had in Brussels on Tuesday – an interesting day that shows how INHERIT has to possibility to move the agenda along.
I do hope we will continue to work together.”

Professor Sir Michael Marmot (Director, Institute of Health Equity)

Learning from case studies: lessons and guidance on implementing local ‘triple-win’ initiatives

A synthesis report brings together learnings from qualitative, quantitative, and cost-benefit evaluations of 15 local initiatives that can simultaneously restore the environment and improve health and health equity.

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    It sets out ten elements of good practice to help design initiatives promoting the triple-win. These include the need to embed initiatives in international, national or local priorities, to engage people and communities of interest for co-creation, to identify strengths and positive feedback loops, and to explore innovative and effective ways to secure long-term funding. A scientific article, which was already cited in the Lancet, provides an overview of the results.

Putting research into policy: tools and recommendations for policymakers

A key focus for EuroHealthNet in late 2019 was to ensure the INHERIT findings had an influence on policy. We did so by drawing out policy-relevant conclusions from the research, and formulating recommendations for policymakers and those who advise and support them at EU, national and local levels.

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    EuroHealthNet published results in three policy briefs, covering the areas at the heart of INHERIT’s work (health equity, behaviour change, and integrated action), as well as in a more extensive policy toolkit, which contains three tools and ten recommendations setting out how policymakers can encourage a triple-win mindset in the design and implementation of policies and interventions.

An online course: How to protect the environment, promote health and reduce health inequalities through living, moving, and consuming

To ensure widespread learning and foster the sustainability of the INHERIT approach, project partners developed a freely-accessible online course, which is still open to new participants.

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    The course draws on INHERIT’s research findings on how to modify current unsustainable lifestyles to provide a unique, interdisciplinary approach to advancing intersectoral initiatives and policies in the areas of living, moving and consuming. It features tailor-made interviews of INHERIT partners explaining and discussing key aspects of their work. It was developed for a wide range of stakeholders (public health professionals, public sector, civil society, private sector, students and engaged citizens). The aim is to inspire the theoretical and practical, applied transmission of INHERIT findings and ethos.

Conference on creating a future for all to inherit – “taking action now”

EuroHealthNet organised a high-level conference in Brussels in December 2019. Over the course of a day, over 150 stakeholders gathered to discuss INHERIT in the broader context of EU, national and local debates on environmental sustainability, health, and equity.

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    Keynote speaker Professor Andy Haines highlighted the urgent need for action against the slow pace of change. Expert panellists debated whether it is possible to foster environmentally, socially and economically sustainable growth, noting that it was, above all, a question of political will. The day ended with an inspiring discussion between two young climate activists from Poland and the Netherlands and Sir Michael Marmot, who paused at the irony that today’s youth were ‘rebelling’ by calling for environmental and social justice. A report of the event is available here.

    EuroHealthNet also presented and debated INHERIT results and recommendations at a range of international conferences, such as at an event organised by the European Parliamentary Research Service on ‘Health threats from climate change: Scientific evidence for policy-making’. INHERIT was also the focus of an editorial by Caroline Costongs, published in DG SANTE’s Health-EU Newsletter, with a readership of over 23,000 people across Europe.

Although the INHERIT initiative is over, EuroHealthNet continues to apply the triple-win mindset in its work, and to promote and disseminate INHERIT results.

Conference 'A Future for All to INHERIT: Taking Action Now'. December 2019
Conference 'A Future for All to INHERIT: Taking Action Now'. December 2019

CHAIN: contributing to research on health inequalities worldwide

CHAIN, the Global Centre for Health Inequalities Research, brings together academia from all research disciplines, the UN system, civil society, and the private sector to identify and analyse the determinants of health inequalities and the policy and practice responses that are most effective in reducing them.

CHAIN’s cutting-edge research and dissemination activities help address modern challenges, such as the impact of trade and labour markets on health and inequalities, and unequal access to preventive health care measures such as cancer screening. Moreover, by building the world’s first Global Burden of Health Inequalities data warehouse, CHAIN responds to a current obstacle in health inequalities research: the scarcity of comparable, rich data on health determinants and outcomes that allows for worldwide comparison of the scale of health inequalities between and within countries.

As a partner in CHAIN, EuroHealthNet leads the efforts to disseminate the centre’s research evidence to other research institutes, policymakers, public health experts and the general public. In September, we presented CHAIN’s research on structural, social and individual processes that lead to health inequalities to then-Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, during a European Social Survey event on using social science data and research to help reduce global health inequalities. Moreover, we facilitated a dialogue with DG SANTE on CHAIN’s extensive experience using indicators to measure health equity, and presented CHAIN’s findings to the World Health Organization. CHAIN’s research was also used in EuroHealthNet press releases, during Country Exchange Visits, and for an article in the EuroHealthNet Magazine. To be able to disseminate CHAIN’s findings to relevant players in the field of European public health, EuroHealthNet led a comprehensive stakeholder mapping exercise that led to an extensive contact database.

CHAIN meeting with Commissioner Andrukaitis, September 2019
CHAIN meeting with Commissioner Andrukaitis, September 2019

European fora and expert panels: ensuring health equity remains at the forefront of scientific debates

EuroHealthNet has contributed to a number of expert bodies on public health research, such as the European Scientific Panel for Health, as well as the EU Expert Panel on Investing in Health. In addition, EuroHealthNet is one of the founding members of the European Forum for Health Promotion Research.

We have used these platforms to highlight the importance of investing in research on health inequalities, on health promotion and disease prevention, and on the social and environmental determinants of health. This is particularly important in light of the upcoming Horizon Europe programme, Europe’s next research and innovation framework programme.

EU Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health

The EU Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (EXPH) serves as a mechanism to develop cross-country knowledge and expertise of health systems that can inform policies and provide advice at national and EU level.

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    In October 2019, EuroHealthNet provided input on the EXPH draft opinion on “Options to Foster Health Promoting Health Systems”, by actively participating in a hearing and providing a statement of evidence.

    At the final conference of the EXPHs panel mandate in November, EuroHealthNet also highlighted the importance of sustained multi-level partnerships for health and health promotion, and for timely evidence and impact assessments as part of policymaking cycles across sectors.

    Read our response in full.

    The final EXPH opinion, which takes into account many of EuroHealthNet’s recommendations, is available here.

European Commission Scientific Panel for Health

The European Commission’s Scientific Panel for Health (SPH) is a science-led expert group based on the provisions of the Horizon 2020 Specific Programme, which is tasked with helping to achieve better health and wellbeing for all.

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    The SPH aims to provide foresight and overall vision and strategy, and to identify bottlenecks to innovation and propose solutions in the area of health and biomedical research. Over the years, EuroHealthNet has been arguing for more public health research alongside the dominant biomedical approach to research.

    In November 2019, EuroHealthNet participated in a workshop exploring the state of play of research in disease prevention and health promotion in Europe, and contributed to the process of developing recommendations on what can be done to increase the impact of research on achieving better health outcomes for European citizens.

European Forum for Health Promotion Research

EuroHealthNet is part of the European Forum for Health Promotion Research, which brings together European researchers on health promotion.

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    The Forum aims to foster synergies, develop common theoretical and methodological grounds for health promotion research, and facilitate collaboration. In 2019-2020, EuroHealthNet took the initiative to develop and submit a World Leadership Dialogue on health promotion, on behalf of the Forum, for the upcoming 16th World Congress on Public Health, due to take place digitally in October 2020.

Identifying knowledge gaps and setting research agendas

EuroHealthNet also served on the Advisory Board of the Seas, Oceans and Public Health (SOPHIE) Horizon 2020 research project  and contributed expertise to initiatives like the Health and Environment Research Agenda (HERA), which aimed to identify knowledge gaps and research needs in the environment, climate and health nexus.

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    In addition, we supported the advancement of the TO-REACH Strategic Research Agenda in the field of Health Services and Systems, which is led by the Italian Public Health Institute (ISS).

Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health
Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health

“One of our main duties is to constantly remind doctors, nurses and other workers of health sector on the essential impact of public health on the overall and individual health situation.”

Professor Dr Mirosław J. Wysocki (Head, Dpt. of Health Promotion and Prevention of Chronic Diseases, National Institute of Public Health of Poland)

PROF. WYSOCKI b&W133

European Public Health Conference: profiling the EuroHealthNet partnership and raising awareness of our work

In November 2019, EuroHealthNet and many of its members took part in the 12th European Public Health Conference in Marseille. EuroHealthNet organised a plenary debate on “Migrant inequalities in urban settings and changing public health practice”, a video recording of which is available online.

This work, and the contacts that were established, led to further research preparations on migrant mental health, focusing on counselling and volunteering as approaches to foster the integration of migrants in host societies.

As well as being present in the exhibition hall, EuroHealthNet also spoke at, or moderated, the following sessions:

  • Pitch of INHERIT at a session on nutrition and food safety.
  • Workshop on CHRODIS+: tools and opportunities for health promotion.
  • Workshop on best practice portals for public health policies and interventions.
  • Workshop on creating healthy living environments in municipalities.
EuroHealthNet Plenary Session at the European Public Health Conference
EuroHealthNet Plenary Session at the European Public Health Conference

A Modern Partnership for a Changing World

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