First meeting of the European Health Information Initiative: working together to improve information for better health
Improving health information and using high-quality information as the foundation of sound health policy was firmly on the agenda at the first ever meeting of the European Health Information Initiative (EHII). Representatives from seven Member States (Austria, Finland, Latvia, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, Sweden and Turkey) joined colleagues from WHO collaborating centres, the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and The Wellcome Trust at WHO/Europe on 24–25 March 2015. The meeting took place under the chairmanship of the Netherlands and the vice-chairmanship of the Russian Federation.
EHII's main aim is to support the development of a single, integrated health information system for the entire European Region, which can be achieved by activity in six key areas:
- development of information on health and well-being, with a focus on indicators;
- enhanced access to and dissemination of health information;
- capacity building;
- strengthening of health information networks;
- support for development of health information strategies;
- communications and advocacy.
The meeting participants adopted processes and procedures and a scoping document; they also agreed on a comprehensive action plan covering all six key areas. Member States made concrete commitments to their contributions to the action plan. New activities approved include:
- preparation of a mapping exercise on existing and future health information developments, with a particular focus on indicator development;
- regular progress reports from WHO/Europe, European Commission and OECD to the EHII Steering Group on their joint collaboration in the field of health information;
- development of a communications and advocacy strategy for EHII.
The meeting also suggested the idea of the collaborating centres in Moscow (Russian Federation) and Manchester (United Kingdom) exploring avenues for knowledge exchange and cooperation.
Open and in-depth discussion
Dr Anna Korotkova, Deputy Director of the Federal Research Institute for Health Organization and Informatics of the Ministry of Health (Russian Federation), said that the meeting had been a useful and important step in the development of the initiative. "Every country, institution and collaborating centre is different and we need to understand how to move forward," she explained. "Information is playing a more and more significant role in health systems. It was useful to make connections with colleagues, sharing our points of view and experiences. We had already connected via email but the discussions we have had here have been very open and in-depth. This is only possible face to face."
Truth is born of debate
Her colleague Professor Alla Ivanova, Head of the Department of Population Health Statistics Analysis at the Federal Research Institute for Health Organization and Informatics of the Ministry of Health (Russian Federation), echoed these views, saying: "It's very important to take part in discussions and get the opinions of others. The proposal of a joint initiative between the Moscow and Manchester collaborating centres was born as a result of today's meeting. As we say in Russian, 'В споре рождается истина', which translates as 'truth is born of debate'."
WHO will organize a web-based EHII Steering Group meeting in late May/early June 2015 to review the updated scope, terms of reference and action plan, and to discuss the progress of work as outlined in the action plan so far. Information about EHII, including these documents and the meeting report, will be uploaded to the WHO/Europe website.