On May 8th THCS organized its second Brainstorming meeting. As it was for the first one, the objective of the event was twofold: collect inputs on research and innovation gaps in health and care transformation, which should be addressed by the Partnership and reflected in its 2024 Annual Work Plan and future Joint Transnational Calls; and to establish synergies between the Partnership and parallel initiatives, with the ultimate goal of avoiding duplication of efforts.
In this occasion, special guests of the meeting were Natasha Azzopardi Muscat, Director of the Division of Country Health Polices and Systems at WHO Regional Office for Europe; Prof. Walter Ricciardi, Chair of the Mission Board on Cancer; Ejner Moltzen, Chair of IC PerMed; Magali Poinot, Team Leader of the Governance Cell, Innovative Health Initiative.
After the opening remarks by the THCS Coordinating Team, it was Natasha Azzopardi Muscat, Director of the Division of Country Health Polices and Systems at WHO Regional Office for Europe, who took the floor. Ms. Azzopardi Muscat introduced her office and its role, and subsequently gave an overview of the areas of health and care sectors that WHO currently deems the most critical: health workforce (wellbeing, supply, retention, performance); rethinking the role of Hospitals and strengthening the role of Primary Care; financing and economic viability of health systems; mental health; digital solutions for health and care.
Specifically, the research questions an priorities that she suggested were:
- Health and care workforce: as the number of graduates continue to fall in most countries of the Region, what are the key elements for recruitment, retention and training (including tertiary education curricula) for promoting a modern and digitally-literate workforce going forwards?
- Changing the model of hospital care: With the rise of the ‘health-promoting hospital’, the traditional links to PHC need to be rethought; what are key elements in this transformation to ensure integrated and quality care for patients?
- Health financing: Noting that health spending is a political choice, and that Covid-19 has resulted in a major economic shock, how can WHO/Europe help countries to increase their public spending on health (WHO calls on all countries to invest an additional 1% of GDP in PHC)?
- Equitable access to medicines: With medicines a major source of out-of-pocket payments in many countries of the Region, and many new medicines coming with high price-tags, what areas could be a priority for the new Novel Medicines Platform?
- Primary health care: Despite numerous calls – including at the highest political levels – to push the PHC agenda, and increasing evidence (also from Covid-19) that a PHC - centred health system remains the preferred model for delivering health for all, how do we move from the rhetoric to reality?
- Mental health: Tackling mental health is increasingly a priority across the Region, but most actions need to be taken upstream (preventative); where are the main gains to be made when looking at children’s mental health and what are the key investments that WHO/Europe should be supporting?
- Digital health: In a fast-moving and emotive area, who are the steady voices and partners to help balance the potential against the threats (for WHO/Europe, a major concern remains the need to mitigate against the digital divide and to ensure that advances are for the benefit of everyone)?
Finally, Ms. Azzopardi Muscat announced that the WHO is organizing a Conference in Tallinn in 2023, which will delve exactly on these issues, addressing health system transformation through collaboration and trust among patients, healthcare professionals, authorities, and governments.
The second guest to take the floor was Prof. Walter Ricciardi, Chair of the Mission Board on Cancer. By implementing its activities, the Mission Cancer has indeed identified several research and innovation gaps to be addressed, specifically in the area of prevention - understanding the effectiveness of personalized prevention measures; promotion of health literacy; effectiveness of screening programmes and early detection - as well as in the area of digitalization of health and care.
It was then the turn of Mr. Ejner Moltzen, Chair of IC PerMed. The proposal for the future IC PerMed, the European Partnership on Personalised Medicine, was submitted in April 2023, along with its draft SRIA, which will support a wide range of stakeholders and experts to further develop programs, activities, and research towards PM and care. The vision of the European Partnership for Personalised Medicine is to improve healthcare systems through research, development, innovation and implementation of personalised medicine approaches. Collaboration and frequent dialogue with THCS will therefore be needed in the future, to avoid duplication of efforts.
Last speaker to intervene was Magali Poinot, Team Leader of the Governance Cell, Innovative Health Initiative. IHI is a PPP of the European Commission with COCIR, EFPIA, EuropaBio, MEDTECH Europe and VACCINE Europe (Founding Members). Main general objectives are to turn health research and innovation into real benefits for patients and society; deliver safe, effective health innovations that cover the entire spectrum of care; and make Europe’s health industries globally competitive. IHI is seeking synergies with other Horizon Europe activities, including other European partnerships, as well as other EU and national programmes. Specifically, synergies with THCS can be built in the following areas: share lessons learned from previous initiatives, understand common goals and complement each other activities; ad hoc invitation to the SIP meetings for presenting THCS status of implementation, discussion of joint activities, align activities; contribution by THCS network topics for future calls; avoid conflicts of interest by inviting THCS Partners as board members; understand if IHI results may be further developed in THCS to assess and support their transferability in the health care systems.
The meeting ended with a lively debate among the participants, reflecting on the importance of tracking the results of projects funded under different instruments, in order to avoid duplication and promote transferability.