European NPHI Directors meeting highlights collaboration, advocacy

May 21, 2015

Katja Heikkiläinen

Prague, Czech Republic

The European NPHI directors have gathered regularly to discuss topical public health issues since 2006. This year, with Latvia and Luxembourg as EU presidency holders, the meeting took place in Prague, Czech Republic on 24 – 25 April 2015, and was hosted by Dr. Jitka Sosnovcová, director of Czech National Institute of Public Health. The institute’s long history dates back to 1920s, and it has been a member of IANPHI since the founding year of the association, 2006.


In his opening address Prof. Pekka Puska, IANPHI president pointed out that having good, longstanding relationships with IANPHI partners such as WHO, European Commission and ECDC in Europe is a cornerstone for NPHI work both nationally and in international project consortiums. Establishing shared goals and seeking efficient ways to assist each other is elemental to improving public health across borders both regionally and globally. IANPHI partners’ presence at the European NPHI directors’ meetings has been an important asset for exchanging news and information, and to strengthen the collaboration also on informal level.

The meeting begun by a discussion about possibilities for collaboration and joint activities with IANPHI partners. Dr. Stefan Schreck, European Commission, discussed the growing role of IANPHI in the Commission’s health work. He explained that in the future the Commission will require more evidence base for decision making, placing IANPHI European members in a key role to contribute to the Commission. Additionally, IANPHI can assist by both providing the Commission the required knowledge and data through its `, and also by disseminating best practices and experience. Professor Puska commented that as IANPHI members are by definition linked to national governments, they can thus provide European Commission a pool of thousands of experts.

IPraguet was also pointed out that at the times when the economic situation results in difficult budget cuts, NPHIs should keep the importance on public health on the national agendas: health should be implemented into strategies also on the operational level. Budget cuts may also result negatively in the sharing of information that is elemental to public health preparedness, and therefore the sustainable funding base for monitoring and surveillance is crucial.
The IANPHI network can also be utilized in identifying different resource clusters for project work, including the management. In their presentation on IANPHI’s current structure and activities, Anne-Catherine Viso from IANPHI Secretariat at InVS, France, and Katja Heikkiläinen from IANPHI President’s Office in Finland noted that it is within IANPHI’s work plan for the coming years to create a more structured way for IANPHI members to form partnerships for project work and subsequent resourcing, and that it is IANPHI’s objective to closely collaborate in this with the Commission as well as other IANPHI partners.
The IANPHI Evaluation tool is currently being implemented in some European IANPHI member institutes. Dr. Kevin Balanda of the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) gave an overview on the evaluation beginning at Scientific Institute of Public Health, Belgium, on behalf of Dr. Johan Peeters, and concluded that the evaluation tool has been very useful in the NPHI’s work in defining whether the organizations day-to-day activities and structure support their vision and fulfill their purpose. It was also discussed whether IANPHI partner organizations like WHO could learn from the evaluations conducted, and how the results of the evaluations are best collected and utilized in collaborative work. Dr. Viso, leader of the IANPHI Evaluation program, told that IANPHI is further developing the program, also to more systematically collect experience from its members.  

On the second day of the meeting, the institute directors and partner participants shared their current news during a tour de table session.  The discussion gave a good overview on how vast the field of public health work is in Europe. All participants pointed out the importance of having good networks, and that as an association of governmental institutes, IANPHI plays a unique role.

A current topic discussed during the meeting was the recent measles outbreak in Europe. In the general discussion it was pointed out that the anti-vaccination groups are increasingly vocal and NPHIs need to be able to respond actively. It was also noted that political will is required in order to provide NPHIs with sufficient resources for eradicating infectious disease, and that NPHIs should collaborate in advocating for it both through IANPHI, but also in partnership with other international partner organizations.

In his closing speech of the meeting, Prof. Puska thanked Dr. Sosnovcová and her team on the successful event, and reminded that some topics discussed both during the meeting sessions and in the lively conversations during the breaks are to be further elaborated at the global IANPHI Annual Meeting in Paris, France, 13 – 15 October 2015. The next European NPHI directors meeting will take place in the Netherlands in spring 2016, and will be hosted by IANPHI member institute RIVM.

Learn about past meetings here: European Union Regional Networking