Research must inform the European environment and health agenda


What kind of research is needed to inform the contemporary European environment and health agenda? What research priorities will best support European countries to address air quality, water and sanitation, waste and contaminated sites, chemicals, and climate change, and to harness the policy potential – for example, at the city level – to improve the health and well-being of millions?

More than 30 top scientists, convened by WHO/Europe, met at UN Campus in Bonn, Germany, on 30 November–1 December 2017. Together they discussed the answers to these questions and the way forward in this crucial domain.

The scientists built upon the outcome of a first WHO consultation, held in April 2017, at which criteria for establishing environment and health research priorities were initially developed. On this basis, they considered the objectives and commitments taken by European governments in the Declaration of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in June 2017 in Ostrava, Czechia.

The Ostrava Declaration sets out the priority topics for the coming year, framing them within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Upholding the Ostrava Declaration is challenging, and requires Member States and all stakeholders to engage in ambitious and complex cross-sectoral work. This work involves multiple disciplines, mixed types of scientific evidence, and sometimes-contentious interests and values. Robust, reliable, relevant and trusted science is a prerequisite for this endeavour.

The meeting considered the Ostrava Declaration’s priority areas and the role of current transversal issues such as burden-of-disease and monetary assessments, big data, and the private sector. By deploying state-of-the-art research methods and resources, by recognizing the underlying complexity of the issues at stake, and by directing available resources to research with high societal value, the environment and health community at large can further ensure a solid evidence base for the development of health-friendly policies.

The meeting in Bonn was financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.