Policy

“Public health surveillance is the bedrock of outbreak and epidemic response”. With these words, Marie-Paule Kieny – WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation – introduces the WHO guidelines on ethical issues in public health surveillance, a document targeted to a wide range of stakeholders involved in the constant monitoring of health threats.

ASSET is close to its conclusion and a concluding conference will be held in Rome, on October 30-31, to present all the main outcomes of the project. This event will take place at the hotel NH Roma Leonardo Da Vinci and will be targeted to a selected audience of EU stakeholders and policy makers. It is conceived as a mobilization and mutual learning event at local, national and international levels on Science in Society related issues in epidemics and pandemics.

People with already existing conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and pulmonary/respiratory disease, are at greater risk from influenza (Logue et al., 2011). Women are more likely to have diabetes in their lifetime than men, and studies in the US show that women, particularly those in lower socioeconomic groups, receive less adequate diabetes care than men from the same socioeconomic group (WHO, 2010).

European Institute of Women’s Health. February 2013.

Traditionally regarded as a male disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer of women worldwide. It also is a major cause of serious illness and disability, costly to healthcare systems and destroying women’s quality of life. In the EU, CVD remains the top cause of death for women in each of the twenty-seven EU countries. Only during the last decades has awareness been rising how CVD affects women differently from men, alerting women to their risk. 

Gender is considered a main issue in Horizon 2020, the largest ever EU Research and Innovation programme, with €80 billion worth of funding available over seven years. The European Commission has identified seven priority areas of societal challenges, with the goal targeting investment in research in these fields. They are:

As reported in the ASSET Strategic plan, the three Summer Schools on Science in Society related issues in Pandemics (2015, 2016, 2017) pose the main challenge of the collaborative project overall that is dealing with the intersectoral approach required by the management of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC), like epidemics and pandemics.

​Abraham T. Eur J Public Health. 2013 Oct 1;23(1).

Post SARS, the WHO and other organizations charged with public health in different parts of the world began to focus on the task of refining emergency risk communication strategies and principles. Based on the experience of communication during SARS, as well as earlier infectious diseases such as Nipah and Ebola, the WHO identified five critical best practices for effective outbreak communication.

Link to full text

In front of low rates of immunization, many claim for compulsory vaccination, especially as far as healthcare workers are concerned. Their institutional role and ethical purpose is to take care of a subgroup of citizens particularly weak, because of their health conditions. This is always true, but even more when immunocompromised or frail patients, vulnerable to infections, are involved. All healthcare workers have therefore a moral duty not to hurt people they have to take care of, following the ancient principle “Primum non nocere”.

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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
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
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
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
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
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
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