International Public Health Symposium on Environment and Health Research, Madrid, Spain 20-22 October 2008
Science for policy, policy for science: bridging the gap
The Symposium presented the most recent scientific evidence to policy-makers in preparation of the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in 2010, the next milestone of the environment and health process.
Next steps to bridge the gap between research and policy-making include important cultural shifts, taking into account the complexity and interdependence of health effects related to multiple environmental exposures, the attention to vulnerable populations, the need to develop new paradigms to support decision-making in situations of uncertainty, and the importance of promoting an earlier involvement of stakeholders and improving the transparency of communication, including by engaging media.
Such shifts need new tools to sustain this leap, like improved risk assessment methods, guidance in applying precautionary approaches, enabling institutional settings that facilitate the integration of different disciplines and collaboration between government sectors, better capacity to evaluate the effect of interventions, and allocation of resources ensuring continued investments in creating the human capacity necessary to sustain this change.
Mechanisms to facilitate the dialogue between policy and science, assisting decision-makers in accessing research and building national capacity, would increase the opportunity of bringing research closer to decision-making process. By acting as a broker of knowledge, WHO could facilitate access to the best international research available and work with national policy-makers and scientists to support decision-making at the place and time where these decisions need to be made.