Increased health care cooperation
In summer 2013 the former Swedish Minister of Health Care and Social Security, Bo Könberg, was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers to write an independent report on ways to develop and strengthen Nordic cooperation on the health care sector over the next 10 years.
Now that the 14 recommendations have been submitted, Mr Könberg hopes that the Nordic health ministers see the potential in his proposals and support more comprehensive Nordic cooperation on health care.
“The purpose of the report was to find out where we can realise stronger Nordic cooperation on health care. The 14 recommendations identify areas that I believe have great potential for improvement and where closer cooperation may lead to better, more effective health services, especially for people with rare medical conditions,” says Bo Könberg.
“A larger patient base will make it easier to study rare diseases and to obtain more certain results than those achievable through national research alone,” he adds.
Vast opportunities in registerbased research
The fourth recommendation in Mr Könberg’s report deals with register-based research and proposes strengthening Nordic research cooperation on data registers, biobanks and clinical studies by establishing a Nordic virtual centre for register-based research.
“Greater use of register and biobank data in research can lead to better insight into the causes and prevention of disease and the development of more effective pharmaceuticals and new treatment methods. Measures that strengthen Nordic cooperation in this area will enhance the Nordic countries’ position as an attractive region for research and may lead to more clinical studies, which in turn will provide quicker access to new medications and treatment methods,” says Mr Könberg.
Mr Könberg emphasises, however, that a number of obstacles must be overcome before the national data registers can be used in research.
“There is no doubt that this recommendation presents certain challenges, but the potential is enormous. Therefore, before we can proceed, the health ministers and the Nordic countries must agree on how they will dismantle the technical, legal and ethical barriers associated with data sharing across national borders,” he says.
A Nordic virtual centre for registerbased research
If consensus is reached on data sharing within the Nordic region, Mr Könberg emphasises the importance of investing in research infrastructure and establishing a Nordic virtual centre for register-based research in the long term.
“A centre of this type will ensure that our unique data registers and biobanks can be used by researchers as a collective Nordic resource. The centre may serve as a cooperative platform with national actors, as well as continue the efforts to simplify register-based research at the Nordic level. I propose that such a centre could be administered by NordForsk in close cooperation with key national actors,” concludes Mr Könberg.
The report “The Future Nordic Co-operation on Health” is available at norden.diva-portal.org
Text: Tor Martin Nilsen