Good start for the new health and welfare initiative

Good start for the new health and welfare initiative

A kick-off conference held in Oslo on Thursday, 8 March 2012 provided the foundation for some excellent input on NordForsk’s proposal to establish a programme in the field of health and welfare. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Norwegian Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2012. The thematic areas of the new programme were described as essential not only for the Nordic region, but also as a means of putting the Nordic region on a broader international map. The conference participants also emphasised the importance of cooperation within the Nordic countries, especially with regard to coordination of the national data registries and biobanks.

The nordic welfare model under pressure

The conference marked the launch of consultations on NordForsk’s new programme on health and welfare, thus comprising the first step in the upcoming consultative process. State Secretary Kyrre Lekve of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers Halldór Ásgrímsson opened the conference.

“The challenges we are facing are enormous and critical for the future of the Nordic welfare system. The answer to these challenges is greater focus on technological development, innovation and structural efficiency,” said Secretary General Halldór Ásgrímsson in his introductory remarks. He added that more emphasis on cross-disciplinary research is crucial for achieving this.

State Secretary Kyrre Lekve emphasised that Nordic cooperation on health research could generate significant synergy effects. The region shares a variety of common political challenges and strengths, for instance related to infrastructure. Cooperation across national boundaries in the Nordic region will lead to a breadth and quality of research that cannot always be achieved at the national level. On their own, the individual Nordic countries are too small to have a major impact, but acting together, the region can become a powerful force at the European level. The ability of the Nordic countries to cooperate is attracting great attention throughout Europe. According to Mr Lekve, the Nordic region is being viewed as an example for many to follow.

Improvement of the nordic research infrastructure

Camilla_Stoltenberg_1Web.jpgMaiken Engelstad, Assistant Director General at the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services, and Camilla Stoltenberg, Deputy Director General of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, stressed the importance of Nordic research cooperation. Ms Engelstad presented a proposal on Nordic cooperation on clinical multi-centre studies which would facilitate the recruitment of an adequate number of patients for these studies. Ms Stoltenberg referred to a comparable research project that explored whether the flu vaccine caused spontaneous abortion in pregnant women. The project, which studied a Norwegian population, produced results that would be very useful if comparable results were obtained in the other Nordic countries as well. Ms Stoltenberg recommended improving coordination by using Nordic health registries and biobanks. The use of these registries entails great potential for research, and can provide new, valuable information about diagnostics and disease courses. A major obstacle to this is the legal aspect of the use of the registries: "We have constructed legal systems that make it almost impossible to conduct thorough surveys in the area of public health," says Ms Stoltenberg.

During the spring NordForsk will plan further activities in a dialogue with relevant interested parties.

Text: Marius Hagen

Photo: Terje Heiestad

Upcoming events…