European Health Information Initiative: celebrating growing commitment to the use of health information and research in health policy-making

WHO/Olga Fradkina

Outgoing Co-chair Ms Annemiek van Bolhuis (Netherlands) under the EHII umbrella.

The tenth meeting of the Steering Group of the WHO European Health Information Initiative (EHII), held on 19–20 March 2018, celebrated the increasing commitment of WHO European Member States to the use of health information and research in policy-making.

The EHII is a network of Member States, the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other international organizations, as well as professional associations, WHO collaborating centres and stakeholders, who work on strengthening the use of health information, research and evidence in policy-making in the WHO European Region.

EHII membership has grown from 1 Member State in 2012 – the Netherlands – to 37 participants in March 2018, most of them Member States. This reflects Member States’ increasing support for and recognition of the essential role of evidence, information and research in informing health policy, and in assessing the health and well-being of populations and the impact of policies.

In the words of Dr Claudia Stein, Director of the Division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation, “The EHII has grown from strength to strength, and is delivering for the benefit of Member States. But there is still more to be done under the umbrella of the EHII, guided by the vision that the Member States have set for us by adopting in 2016 the first-of-its-kind European Action plan for strengthening the use of information, research and evidence in policy-making, and endorsing the EHII as its implementation platform.”

The event was a face-to-face meeting of the Steering Group, which oversees the implementation of a detailed work plan and aligns the contributions of its members under the EHII umbrella. The goal is to integrate and harmonize health information and improve the evidence on which health policy is based.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, congratulated the Steering Group, adding: “I am pleased to see the continued expansion of the efforts to improve and integrate health information in Europe under the umbrella of the EHII. European Member States are at the forefront of using good and relevant evidence in policy-making. The EHII adds the strategic coordination dimension to this important technical work and ensures collaboration with many partners, including international organizations such as the European Commission and the OECD.”

The meeting also marked the occasion of passing 1 co-chair seat from the Netherlands to Malta. The Russian Federation remains the second co-chair. Incoming Co-chair Professor Neville Calleja of the Ministry of Health of Malta said: “Coordinating Region-wide work in health information is important now more than ever, with increasing demands on health information systems to integrate and use information from multiple sectors to inform health policy-making and guide management of the health system.”

Professor Calleja continued: “The EHII is instrumental to ensure exchange of information among all stakeholders and alignment of our efforts, and I see the EHII as an active partner in the shaping of the post-Health 2020 strategy for the WHO European Region. I look forward to continuing the work that has started under the co-chairmanship of the Netherlands and the Russian Federation.”