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Public health research systems in the European union

Author(s): Conceição Cláudia | McCarthy Mark

Journal: Health Research Policy and Systems
ISSN 1478-4505

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 38;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background Strengthening health research is an important objective for international health organisations, but there has been less attention to support for health research in Europe. We describe the public-health (population and organisational level) research systems in the 27 European Union countries. Methods We developed a typology for describing health research structures based on funding streams and strategies. We drew data from internet sources and asked country informants to review these for consistency and completeness. The structures were described as organograms and narratives in country profiles for each of the 27 EU member states. National public-health research structures included public and independent funding organisations, 'mixed' institutions (which receive funds, and both use and allocate them) and provider institutions. Results Most health research is funded through ministries of science or science councils (and sometimes foundations), while parliaments and regions may also contribute. National institutes of public health are usually funded by ministries of health. Many national research organisations both determine research programmes and undertake health research, but there is a move towards public-health sciences within the universities, and a transition from internal grants to competitive funding. Of 27 national research strategies, 17 referred to health and 11 to public health themes. Although all countries had strategies for public health itself, we found little coherence in public-health research programmes. The European Commission has country contact points for both EU research and health programmes, but they do not coordinate with national health-research programmes. Conclusions Public-health research is broadly distributed across programmes in EU countries. Better understanding of research structures, programmes and results would improve recognition for public health in Europe, and contribute to practice. EU ministries of health should give greater attention to national public-health research strategies and programmes, and the European Union and the World Health Organisation can provide coordination and support.
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