From national to international health policy making: Lessons learned from ASPHER’s covid-19 task force
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ASPHER United Kingdom
Ben-Gurion University, Israel
BGU and ASPHER Israel
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A554
* brief outline * ASPHER, (Association of Public Health Schools in the WHO European Region), convened a COVID-19 Task Force (TF) in early 2020. TF has involved over 60 experts, 30 member schools, more than 20 countries across four continents, supported by young professionals (YPs). The COVID-19 TF became a unique expert forum for mutual support, sharing, reviewing, and presenting evidence on epidemiological, technical, societal, and political dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic across Europe. Working with European and national health authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it prompted and supported the coordination of policy responses across WHO European Region. * Drawing on members’ collective knowledge and expertise, the TF produced a significant body of work on different public health aspects of the pandemic and gaps in responses. Since its inception, the TF has produced more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, regular position statements, reports on topics from personal to planetary protection including: face masks, testing, tracking, vaccination, health inequalities, safe schools, advocacy for wider social protection and global vaccine equity. * This workshop will reflect on how to set-up, build, scale-up, and sustain collaborations with wide geographic, cultural, linguistic, and political-administrative coverage to support the capacity and preparedness of public health institutions during future challenges in the context of strengthening global health response. * specific objectives * The panel will explore key lessons from ASPHER’s COVID-19 Task Force: fostering independence, interdisciplinarity, and trust; a flexible, bottom-up organisation; and involving young professionals. It will consider what should be replicated, scaled up, improved, and reshaped to improve preparedness and response to other public health challenges, including future pandemics. * Key questions* The panel will explore how to set up collaborations across cultural and political-administrative boundaries to strengthen the advisory capacity of public health institutions during future challenges with a strong focus on international collaboration and the need to move from national to international / global health perspectives. * The panel will reflect on three key lessons. First, effective cross-country comparative work was made possible by the group’s independence, interdisciplinarity, and high trust between members. These characteristics enabled unencumbered rapid sharing of ideas, utilisation of data, insights in local languages, and access to the front-line experience of members, those in health authorities or advising national or regional governments. Shifting perspective from national to international perspective will be emphasized, with vaccination policies, TRIPS waivers and addressing inequities as examples. * Lesson 2 is the importance of a flexible, bottom-up organisation, enabling members to pursue individual research, education, and advocacy agendas while acting in concert. The TF strengthened and deepened collaborations between ASPHER Schools of Public Health. * Lesson three combines policy advocacy, shaping public health education and providing training opportunities. YPs’ expertise has been critical, preparing weekly situation reports, horizon scanning exercises, surveys of ASPHER members, and contributing an early-career perspective to the groups’ outputs. These opportunities in knowledge transfer and leadership should be replicated as we tackle wider public health challenges including climate change, austerity and war.