March 2019 special issue – Deadline for submissions 01-10-2018

Public Health Panorama calls for the submission of papers for a special issue on health information and evidence in the WHO European Region, including innovations in big data, reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), health information systems strengthening, and digital health applications such as eHealth and mHealth. The special issue will be published in March 2019 and will focus on innovative policy and practice from across the European Region. As this is the midway point in implementation of the Action Plan to Strengthen the use of Evidence, Information and Research for Policy-Making in the WHO European Region, the special issue offers an opportunity to reflect upon experience from the country and local levels, to consider lessons learned, and to explore some of the challenges and novel approaches to driving further progress in the coming years.

The strategic generation and use of information, evidence and research are now more important than ever

a) Health information is at the core of evidence-informed policy-making

Evidence-informed policy-making aims to ensure that the best available data, information and research evidence are used to formulate policies to improve the health of individuals and populations, and that the results of these policies in turn feed into the evidence-gathering process. At the core of this policy-making cycle is health information – measuring and understanding the health status of the population and the impact of policies that are aimed at improving the population’s health and well-being.

The WHO European Region’s cultural, economic and social diversity is a strength that requires concerted regional policy action and approaches to public health strategies, initiatives and programmes that are adapted to the individual Member States of the Region. This was outlined in the Health 2020 European health policy framework and is mirrored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Health information systems and research systems are at the core of the Region’s and Member States’ ability to inform policies and measure their impact over time.

Health information systems provide knowledge of the health status of the population, surveillance of health hazards and disease, as well as information on the performance of the health system. They are therefore essential for national policy-makers to gain a reliable picture of the health situation in their country and to understand the determinants that influence the health and well-being of their populations. They also allow the determinants of health to be linked across the dimensions of the SDGs.

b) Health information systems face the challenge of responding to the needs of multisectoral and increasingly complex policy action for health

Well-functioning health information systems provide the information needed for any monitoring framework that measures the results of policies.

Health information systems must be flexible enough to systematically respond to policy needs and, at the same time, to enable the consistent assessment of longer-term measures, for the analysis of trends in population health and the impact of policies.

To fulfil their role, health information systems require strategic and coordinated management with an emphasis, first and foremost, on collecting and analysing information that is useful for decision-making at all levels of government, and for operational management practised by data contributors.

Despite efforts to increase the availability and accessibility of information, health information systems in the European Region face difficulties in terms of standardization, interoperability and integration.

c) Use of innovations in data sourcing, linking and analysing, including big data and data science for public health policy-making

Big data and the associated emerging field of data science have been receiving much attention as potential new sources of information for sustainable development efforts ― outside routine information systems in official statistics and to inform policy-making. Consequently, reviews have been carried out to take stock of the current barriers to and opportunities for the use of big data in government, including case studies in using big data sets for public health and the provision of health care. In addition, linked data, open data, small and big data, and other aspects of data sharing and governance have added to and broadened the discussion about data innovations for use in public health policy. However, the potential of big data – in policy-making for health and well-being to support Health 2020 policy objectives or the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – is yet to be fully realized. For example, there is still no unanimous agreement on how big data should be used for health; nor is there a vision of how health information systems can use the innovation and advances coming from big data and associated developments for data governance, ethics, technology, interoperability, analytics and other areas. The WHO Regional Office for Europe is establishing a special high-level task force to examine these issues and advise the Regional Director on strategic steps.

Call for papers

The March 2019 special issue of Public Health Panorama solicits the submission of papers that try to address the challenges outlined above, in particular those that describe implementation of the Action Plan to Strengthen the use of Evidence, Information and Research for Policy-Making in the WHO European Region at the country level. It invites papers that examine issues relevant to the WHO European Region, such as:

  • assessments and enhancements of national health information systems, such as digital health (including eHealth and mHealth);
  • examples of successful implementation of policies informed by evidence;
  • successful strategies to report on SDG implementation at the country level;
  • innovative ways of measuring and/or describing health and well-being concepts at the country level;
  • use of data innovations and data science, including big data for health.

Guidelines for submitting papers

Public Health Panorama invites papers that showcase examples and research results from the WHO European Region and beyond and that are intended for policy-makers, planners, researchers, public health specialists, clinicians, educators, civil society and other interest groups. Priority will be given to papers that describe outcome-oriented approaches, successful practices, innovative solutions and lessons learned. In particular, papers that document experiences in low-resource and transitional economies are sought and welcomed. Manuscripts may be submitted in either English or Russian, and accepted papers will be published in both languages.

The deadline for submission is 01-10-2018. Authors should follow the guidelines for submission of manuscripts to Public Health Panorama and mention this call for papers in a covering letter. All submissions will undergo peer review. For further queries, please contact eupanorama@who.int.