Cultural contexts of health project expands with grant to build better evidence base for Health 2020

WHO/Europe’s cultural contexts of health project will undertake a 2-year effort to create a better evidence base for key Health 2020 concepts such as subjective well-being, community resilience and empowerment. This work will be made possible by support from the United States of America-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has provided a 2-year grant totalling US$ 250 000. Through the grant, the project will deliver actionable strategies that can support 21st century systems in prioritizing health and well-being and advancing the health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The project operates under the umbrella of the European Health Information Initiative, a multimember WHO network that seeks to improve and harmonize health reporting among the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region. Results from the project will be disseminated to a wide range of influential state and nonstate actors, thereby ensuring a short journey from research to policy and practice.

The project’s specific outputs will be to:

  • devise a culturally centred approach to measuring health and well-being;
  • develop meaningful, country-level reporting mechanisms that include quantitative and qualitative health information, and that can also be applied in non-European contexts; and
  • share lessons with policy-makers on the importance and benefits of health information that goes beyond numbers, in order to better understand the key drivers of positive, holistic well-being.

Opening a unique window for learning

Dr Claudia Stein, Director of the Division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation, said, “The cultural contexts of health project is one of our newest endeavours and it is very gratifying that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has chosen to invest in us. It’s especially heartening to know that the evidence resulting from this project will also have a positive effect outside our Region, including in the USA, thanks to this collaboration.”

“Engaging with the WHO Regional Office for Europe around its Health 2020 framework opens a unique window for learning that will shape our ongoing work in the USA to build a culture of health,” said Dr Alonzo Plough, Vice President of Research-Evaluation-Learning and Chief Science Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We’re eager to explore this parallel effort to improve health and well-being and draw out specific lessons from it for measuring our own progress as we move forward.”

Awareness of the cultural contexts that affect health and well-being is central to the work of WHO. With the adoption of Health 2020, the European health policy framework, more emphasis is being placed on the perceived well-being of European populations. The challenge now is to take a systematic approach to researching how culture affects perceptions of, access to and experiences of health and well-being. WHO/Europe is leading the project on the cultural contexts of health to push forward in-depth analyses in this important area.