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Building health
promoting systems
fit for the future.

EuroHealthNet Annual Report June 2020-June 2021

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Building health promoting systems fit for the future.

EuroHealthNet Annual Report June 2020-June 2021

5. Research

EuroHealthNet’s research platform identifies and promotes evidence-based approaches to understand and improve health, equity, and wellbeing. It provides the knowledge needed to develop policies and implement practices that tackle health inequalities. It helps our members to collaborate, identify funding opportunities and build consortia.

Our approach is intersectoral, bridging across interlinked health, environmental, social and economic considerations. As we look ahead to recovering from the pandemic and restructuring our health systems, it will be crucial to ensure that this intersectoral, interlinked nature of health and wellbeing is at the forefront of research and decision-making. Our approaches to tackling health challenges must also seek to 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.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put into a harsh spotlight the need for reliable information from trustworthy sources. EuroHealthNet and its partnership strive to identify and produce good, scientific evidence able to respond to the multifaceted challenges we are facing, and which highlight the effectiveness of approaches to promote health and prevent disease, and help ensure the sustainability of health systems.

Our work this year covered

Contributing to research on health inequalities worldwide through our partnership with the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research, CHAIN.

European funding for research: informing and building consortia with our members.

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

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

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.

The pandemic has once again shown us that public health is inherently a global matter. Not only do viruses disregard borders, key lessons and patterns in public health tend to ring true across countries, with all nations struggling with inequalities in health outcomes between better- and worse-off groups. Recognising the need to work together to advance research and tackle common struggles, the Global Centre for Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN) brings together the world’s leading health inequalities researchers, civil society and the UN society to advance health inequalities research and to enable evidence-driven policymaking and practices.

Collecting data: Building a European and global database on health inequalities

Comparable and high-quality data is fundamental to monitor health inequalities and identify the pathways through which such inequalities originate. By building the world’s first Global Burden of Health Inequalities data warehouse and by adding a health equity dimension to the European Social Survey, CHAIN has taken the revolutionary step to collect such data and make it publicly available.

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    Using this data, CHAIN researchers have examined, among other things, how working conditions link to occupational inequalities in non-communicable diseases, and what role the diffusion of technology plays in creating and perpetuating health inequalities. Other CHAIN researchers focus on identifying what needs to happen to address such inequalities,  for instance by examining the role of civil society in improving access to health services, or by setting out policy actions and good practices that help improve gender equality in the EU.

Bridging between research, and policy and practice

As a partner in CHAIN, EuroHealthNet leads the efforts to feed research findings into the policymaking process, and to disseminate the centre’s results to other research institutes, policymakers, public health experts and the general public.

How are developments in data changing health inequalities research?

During the 2020 World Congress on Public Health we had the opportunity to present CHAIN to the global public health community when we organised a CHAIN World Leadership Dialogue on developments in the world of data and their implications for health inequalities research. A recording of the webinar is available on EuroHealthNet’s YouTube channel.

CHAIN leader Terje Eikemo led the discussion with speakers from WHO, IMHE and the 3-D Commission
CHAIN leader Terje Eikemo led the discussion with speakers from WHO, IMHE and the 3-D Commission

The COVID-19 Syndemic Pandemic

In June 2020, CHAIN researcher Clare Bambra published a very popular article on COVID-19 as a syndemic pandemic, arguing that the current pandemic interacts with pre-existing pandemics of health inequalities and non-communicable diseases. EuroHealthNet and CHAIN created a factsheet on COVID-19 and health inequalities based on this article.

In a webinar that was part of the UNESCO Global Health & Education webinar series, Professor Clare Bambra joined CHAIN leader Terje Eikemo and EuroHealthNet Director Caroline Costongs to discuss the syndemic pandemic, and how education can be seen as a ‘social vaccine’. Watch a recording of the webinar here.

EuroHealthNet further disseminated CHAIN findings through statements, such as to the WHO Europe’s General Assembly and a press release for the 2020 World Health Day. CHAIN’s evidence on health inequalities was used during public presentations, such as the Healsy Conference on Resilient Health Systems, and in a number of consultation responses, for instance on the child rights strategy. CHAIN’s results and developments were also shared with European public health community through a newsletter.

The UNESCO-CHAIN webinar set out how education could be seen as a 'social vaccine'.
The UNESCO-CHAIN webinar set out how education could be seen as a 'social vaccine'.

Applying the lessons learnt from COVID-19

During the 2021 European Public Health Week, EuroHealthNet organised a webinar titled COVID-19 and health inequalities: applying the lessons to deliver change. The webinar aimed to identify strong examples of ‘investable’ solutions that can instigate change in the systems and structures that shape our lives, based on what we have learnt from the current pandemic.

CHAIN researcher Professor Clare Bambra was one of the speakers. She set out the findings of her book, called The unequal Pandemic: COVID-19 and health inequalities’ (to be published in June 2021), which emphasises lessons learnt for a post-covid future. Other speakers built on these lessons and focused on practical measures such as improving the situation of vulnerable children and migrants, and making decision-making processes more representative.  

During the webinar, Prof. Clare Bambra set out that COVID-19 was an unequal pandemic.
During the webinar, Prof. Clare Bambra set out that COVID-19 was an unequal pandemic.

European funding for research: informing and building consortia with our members

Throughout the course of the year, EuroHealthNet has actively kept our partnership updated of European funding opportunities for research. Members benefit from monthly ‘Calls and Opportunities Alerts’, as well as detailed briefings. We have closely followed developments and informed our members on new funding programmes launched by the European Commission, in particular Horizon Europe, and also produced a comprehensive overview of funds and programmes in the new EU budget and their relevance for health.

EuroHealthNet led and took part in several applications for research funding on a variety of topics, involving members of the EuroHealthNet partnership as appropriate. Despite the highly competitive nature of EU funding calls, a number of these applications have been successful, and others are still pending. We continue to actively advocate for a European research landscape which prioritises health promotion and reducing inequalities, and which jointly considers interlinked environmental, health and societal factors, building on our Horizon 2020 research initiative INHERIT.

RIVER-EU

EuroHealthNet is engaged in a new Horizon 2020 research project called RIVER-EU (‘Reducing Inequalities in Vaccine uptake in the European Region – Engaging Underserved communities’) which will run for the next 5-years (2021-2026). Along with EuroHealthNet – which will serve as the Communication and Dissemination Work Package lead – three EuroHealthNet members/observers are represented in the consortium: THL (Finland), PHE (England) and PROLEPSIS (Greece).

The project will work to improve access to MMR and HPV vaccines among specific underserved populations in Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia by identifying and removing health system barriers. RIVER-EU will identify and/or develop promising interventions that will be piloted. The results converted into evidence-based guidelines to address equitable access to vaccination across Europe.

RIVER EU presentation v2

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

In November 2020, EuroHealthNet and many of its members and partners took part in the World Public Health Conference, initially planned to take place in Rome, but moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

EuroHealthNet organised and contributed to the following sessions:

  • Co-organised and co-moderated the Plenary on “The Earth – A Strategy for Survival”
  • CHAIN World Leadership Dialogue on developments in the world of data and their implications for health inequalities research
  • JAHEE World Leadership Dialogue on comparing responses to the pandemic from across the world to identify common challenges and potential best practices
  • EuroHealthNet Thematic Working Group (TWIG) on Best Practice Portals Workshop: How to Improve the Uptake of Best Practices?

The Plenary brought together a global panel of speakers to discuss whether and how we can work together to learn from COVID-19, and potentially to seize this moment as an opportunity to rebuild our societies and our economies in ways that are better for people and for the planet. Panellists included Stella Kyriakides (EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety), Katherine Trebeck (Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Wellbeing Economy Alliance), Andy Haines, Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Carolina Urrutia (Secretary of Environment, City of Bogotá) and Desmond D’Sa (Environmental campaigner from South Africa).

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