IANPHI Europe Network Elects New Chairs from Norwegian and Ukrainian Public Health Institutes

Dr. Trygve Ottersen, executive director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), and Dr. Ihor Kuzin, former deputy director general of the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine (PHC) and recently appointed deputy minister of Health, were elected chair and vice-chair (respectively) of the IANPHI Europe Regional Network during the network’s online election held between May 3 and May 7, 2021.

Ottersen and Kuzin are taking over from departing chair Dr. Quentin Sandifer, former executive director of Public Health Services and medical director of Public Health Wales, and vice-chair Annika Veimer, director of Estonia’s National Institute for Health Development, who had been in the roles for the past two years. 

“I believe IANPHI will be increasingly important in helping strengthen national public health institutes and addressing major public health challenges worldwide,” said Ottersen. “We need strong NPHIs more than ever and a shared international platform for these institutions to address social inequality, health- and social services, pandemics and international emergencies, climate and the environment, and how best to harness the benefits of migration and digitalization.”

Trygve Ottersen

Dr. Trygve Ottersen, executive director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and new chair of the IANPHI Europe Regional Network

Ottersen leads the division within NIPH responsible for health systems research, research on public health interventions, systematic reviews, economic evaluations, migrant health, and global health. He also directs the Norwegian COVID-19 Research Program. Established in 2002, the Norwegian institute was one of the founding institutions of IANPHI in 2006. The institute is responsible for knowledge production and systematic reviews for the health sector and provides knowledge about the health status in the population. NIPH’s missions also include infectious disease control, physical and mental health, environmental factors, substance abuse, tobacco, nutrition, and health promotion. NIPH is an active member of the IANPHI network; NIPH director general Camilla Stoltenberg has been a member of the IANPHI Executive Board for several years, and NIPH is currently involved in twinning projects with other IANPHI member NPHIs.

“NPHIs and the functions they embody will be central to a renewed quest for tackling these challenges,” Ottersen continued. “Our institutions are key to a more data- and science-driven response – while always stressing the prerequisites of transparency and scientific independence. I see numerous areas where NPHIs and IANPHI can drive change – and where the IANPHI Europe Regional Network may take on a leading role. Chief among these is building stronger systems for research preparedness and response during crises, in light of the experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Before being appointed deputy minister of Health and chief state sanitary doctor on June 2, 2021, Kuzin coordinated the national program to combat HIV, TB, and viral hepatitis at PHC. Established in 2015, the Ukrainian institute covers a wide range of functions including public health workforce development; reference laboratories; preventive and treatment programs; and emergency preparedness and response. In the past year PHC has been leading the Ukrainian COVID-19 response and COVID-19 vaccines logistics.

Ihor Kuzin

Dr. Ihor Kuzin, Ukraine's deputy minister of Health and new vice-chair of the IANPHI Europe Regional Network

“As an active member of IANPHI, I led the effort to enable the Ukrainian Public Health Center to become a part of IANPHI family,” said Kuzin. “I have contributed since then to the network in many shapes and forms, but I think that I will be able to do more as vice chair of the IANPHI Europe Regional Network.”

Established in 2018, the IANPHI Europe Regional Network is comprised of 36 member NPHIs. One of the focuses of the new chairs will be strengthening and formalizing the regional network’s partnerships with the WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) and the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER). Since 2017, IANPHI has been an active member of WHO/Europe’s Coalition of Partners, working to strengthen essential public health services and capacities across the European region. The elaboration of a work program was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since January this year I have encouraged IANPHI Europe to re-establish contact with WHO/Europe,” said outgoing chair Sandifer in a report he gave at the 2021 Europe Regional Network Meeting last spring. “In February I met with the regional director of WHO/Europe, Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, to consider opportunities for collaboration in the context of a year-long pandemic and the European Program of Work approved at the WHO Europe Regional Committee meeting in September 2020. Two areas for joint action were identified: the development of the WHO Leadership Academy, which aims to strengthen the public health workforce and create a professional network, and the WHO Country Presence Review, which seeks to improve collaboration at a national level.”

Quentin Sandifer

Dr. Quentin Sandifer, former chair of the IANPHI Europe Regional Network and new IANPHI strategy advisor, at the 2018 IANPHI Europe Meeting in Poland

Sandifer also shared some considerations about the Europe network, including the need to re-balance regional activities to increase participation of member institutes from Eastern Europe, and his hope that more institutes will start contributing their talent and experience to support shared objectives.

At the invitation of the IANPHI Executive Board, Sandifer has accepted a new role as IANPHI’s strategic advisor, an emeritus honorary position which reports to the board and works in collaboration with the IANPHI Secretariat.

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of international cooperation – we all have a lot to learn from the crisis, both at individual, country and regional level,” said outgoing vice-chair Veimer. “Crises tests the sense of unity of IANPHI and we have grown stronger as a network thanks to mutual valuable support, collaboration and learning from each other.”

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the former chair of the European network and now strategic advisor, Dr. Quentin Sandifer, for forward looking discussions and guidance”, Veimer continued. “I wish the best of success to newly elected chair of the European network, Dr. Trygve Ottersen, and vice-chair, Dr. Ihor Kuzin, in engaging the European network towards implementing the newly adopted strategic vision and shared objectives of IANPHI.”

“Last but not least – on behalf of the National Institute for Health Development I have the honor to invite IANPHI European network family to meet face to face in Tallinn, Estonia in spring 2022,” she added.

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