PHIRI Rapid Exchange Forum (REF): a key tool for cross-country exchange in times of crisis and beyond
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Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare - THL, Helsinki, Finland
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal
Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, Sciensano, Brussels, Belgium
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1615
Since its start, the COVID-19 pandemic demanded a quick exchange between European experts and institutions supporting national governments in the crisis response to provide evidence-based information. However, there was no such regular cross-country forum established in the field of population health causing fragmented responses to the covid-19 crisis. Thus, European population health experts from public health institutes, ministries of health, universities or governmental agencies started in April 2020 to meet regularly online to foster cross-country exchange. In these meetings, partners could approach each other for questions and share views in a trusted environment regarding the management of the pandemic in their own country and learn from other participants’ experiences. The European Commission recognized this achievement and supported this exchange as part of PHIRI - The Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (WWW.PHIRI.EU), allowing a quick exchange of data, indicators, good practices and experiences in the COVID-19 crisis response in an efficient manner. By 5/12/2022, 45 so-called Rapid Exchange Fora (REF) have taken place, involving project partners, national advisors to ministers/heads of agency, representatives of expert networks (e.g. Healthy Cloud), EU services (ECDC, JRC) and different health stakeholders (e.g. ELIXIR, OECD). The bi-weekly one-hour online meetings cover in a moderated, structured format pre-agreed topics in the field of population health that are proposed by the participating countries. Such topics include, but are not limited to, discussion on suitable Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI) and their application, child vaccination strategies, testing regimes, digitalization of death certificates or treatment options for Long COVID patient. In average, 25 delegates from different European countries attend each exchange. Responses by the countries (backed up by national reports, and guidelines that are briefly presented in the meetings) are compiled and shared immediately after the meeting via the Corona-Corner of the Health Information Portal ( [1]). In addition, the Portal features a concise overview of NPIs established by European countries. This is of special interest as a sister project under the auspices of ECDC ended in Sept. 2022, whereby the PHIRI partners still update their country information. The main objectives of this workshop are: 1. To increase the awareness of the scientific community for the Rapid Exchange Forum and the Health Information Portal, 2. To stimulate their use and exploit all benefits and 3. To learn which topics and features are available for research and policy making purposes to stimulate the COVID-19 response – lessons learnt – process. After introducing PHIRI via video and four brief inputs from PHIRI partners there will be ample time for the delegates to: 1. Familiarize themselves with topics that were crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2. Assess the features of the Health Information Portal and especially the REF section, 3. Suggest questions to be covered in upcoming bi-monthly meetings and 4. Identify need for further training in the field.
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