Greater focus needed on research on disease prevention

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Members of the European Advisory Committee on Health Research (EACHR) meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 2–3 May 2013. Photo: WHO/Oluf Christoffersen

Looking at health research in Europe, and finding the gaps and missed chances to take research findings into account when drafting policy are key tasks of the European Advisory Committee on Health Research (EACHR). Comprising senior academics and influential researchers, EACHR advises the WHO Regional Director for Europe on the strategic direction for research in the WHO European Region.

At its most recent meeting in Copenhagen, on 2–3 May 2013, it recommended that greater investment be made in exploring the outcomes of research into the developmental origins of health and disease, and research on preventing ill health and disease, rather than treatment. Specifically, members called for research on mental health, reproductive health and health systems to be stepped up.

New chairperson, objectives and work plan

EACHR redefined its objectives and established a work plan for 2013–2014, agreeing to focus more closely on areas such as:

  • reviewing the scientific basis of some WHO/Europe programmes and priorities;
  • advising on new research findings on priority public health issues, and effective strategies and policies to address them;
  • facilitating dialogue and interaction among research bodies and funding agencies to exchange information and address evidence gaps in priority areas such as noncommunicable diseases; and
  • supporting the development of potential and capability for research nationally and regionally, with particular focus on the eastern part of the Region.

“Setting the work plan and objectives for this year and next has given the committee a new lease of life. It has focused our attention on the areas where our expertise can really add value, and where research investment needs to be made,” commented Professor Tomris Türmen, newly elected EACHR chairperson, and President of the International Children’s Center, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.

Preparations for the 2013 session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe

EACHR also reviewed the evidence base for action plans and draft resolutions to be discussed by Member States at WHO/Europe’s annual meeting in September. It will meet again in the autumn.