A first glance at ASSET citizen consultation

Citizens across Europe participated to the daylong citizen consultations organized by the ASSET project at the end of September. “Citizens were presented with the same information prior and during the day, and deliberated in groups of 6-8 citizen before they voted on central issues in the current European epidemic and pandemic properness and response”, said John Haukeland, from the Danish Board of Technology (Denmark), who led the organization of the event. “At the end of the day the citizens were given the opportunity to write comments or recommendation to the national and European policy-makers”.

ASSET experts are analysing the results of the consultation in order to investigate such a remarkable source of information. While waiting for they analysis to end, we can already draw some first observations on some particular outcomes emerged at local level.

One of the problems highlighted by the consultation involves the information provided by public health authorities. “It’s quite remarkable to note that less than half the Danish citizens are satisfied with the information provided by national health authorities during epidemic treats”, said Haukeland. “This is a real problem and I’m quite this can have consequences, if the Danish health authorities don’t acknowledge that and take steps to mitigate such distrust”.

Being one of the most debated topics in public health, vaccines were involved in many questions. “This consultation underlined the current mood about vaccinations in Italy, with citizens complaining for a strong incomprehension due to a lack of communication”, says Alberto Perra, from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Italy). “For instance, a majority of them declared that, in risk conditions, vaccines should be mandatory for most of the population, in order to protect public health. And such a decision, in time of health crisis, is not considered unethical by citizens. Thus, the consultation revealed that citizens are more resolute than we expected on this topic and more prone to strict measures”.

In relation to gender, at a quick glance at the results from all the European countries shows that there is in general not much difference between the genders. However, there were a few points where there was a difference. “When dealing with the principle of distribution of scarce resources like medicine during a pandemic outbreak, both men and women favoured giving priority to health care workers and other people working in important fields” highlighted Vanessa Moore, from the European Institute of Women’s Health (Ireland). “However, women were more likely to prioritise high-risk groups than men”.

And what about the kind of communication channels that public authorities should use during an epidemic or a pandemic? “Both men and women favoured state media and television but, after this, men were more likely to prefer social media while women were more likely to prefer official state webpages”, explained Moore.

More information will be drawn by the complete analysis of the data available but, from these first observations, it is clear that there are some very relevant topics that arose from this consultation. It will be of particular interest to identify any eventual country-specific variation in some responses, since that would provide helpful information for possible local activities. “ASSET has demonstrated that dialogues among citizens at national level can be effective extended to a pan-European scale”, concluded Haukeland. “And this is true even in complex fields as epidemic preparedness, which usually is a field dominated by technical experts”.

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Solutions to improve CBRNe resilience
Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence