Governments across Europe face many complex issues relating to health and healthcare which they have traditionally analysed and tackled on a national basis, often ignoring the parallel efforts being made by other health authorities across Europe.
© Fotolia, 2012|
An initiative supported by European Union (EU) funding under the FP7 research programme has helped develop the European Science Advisory Network for Health (EuSANH) which is able to bring together health science experts from across Europe to pool their knowledge and expertise and jointly tackle social challenges relating to health.
The EuSANH network which was started in 2006 and became a permanent structure in October 2011 now brings together national health institutes and authorities from 14 European countries: Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
It is steadily developing into a highly reputed organisation which can make available to EU governments the state-of-the-art thinking from a large number of countries.
European countries often face similar health-related issues such as, for instance, vaccination policy, chemicals in the workplace, exposure to substances in the environment, nutrition or new technology in healthcare.
The early work of EuSANH revealed an unnecessary duplication of effort. A comparison of evidence-based science advisory reports in the area of diabetes and obesity, for example, showed that in different EU countries, comparable guidelines had been produced at the same time, without relevant exchange and international collaboration. Similar situations were noted in areas such as smoking and prenatal screening.
This, alongside the growing complexity of many health issues, emphasised the need for the transnational exchange of information and collaboration in the area of science advice on health to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts.
Louise Gunning-Schepers president of the Health Council of the Netherlands and current president of EuSANH commented:
"The EuSANH network is about bringing together the scientific literature, interpreting and evaluating it. Based on this collaborative effort, the members themselves can properly advise their governments. And by collaborating, sharing knowledge and expertise, advisory bodies can do more with fewer people.
"Avoiding duplication of work, learning from each other and having access to experts from all over Europe - these are important advantages of a European network for science advice on health issues in the public domain."
Since its start in 2006, the EuSANH network has sought to develop for itself a name and reputation that signifies quality.
It has established an agreed methodological framework for producing science advisory reports and guidelines for all participants to help streamline the processes and ensure consistency. Based on this framework two joint EuSANH advisory reports have been produced.
In February 2011, EuSANH organised a 2-day workshop with European experts on cancer screening implementation to prepare a first joint science advisory report relating to the successful implementation of cancer screening programmes and leading to recommendations for national policy makers. This is the first piece of scientific advice on public health at European level (a field where the Europeans all face the same problems).
Within the framework of EuSANH two of the participating Science Advisory Bodies (SAB), the Health Council of the Netherlands (GR) and the Belgian Superior Health Council (SHC), decided to collaborate on a scientific advice regarding the role of environmental factors in the induction of childhood leukaemia.
These two examples show how working together at an EU level decreases the workload and adds an extra dimension to the advice.