On 1 January, the EU-funded research project FRESHER was launched, and the kick off meeting was held on 2 and 3 March. Representatives from all project partner organisations were present: Austrian Institute of Technology (AU), University of Aix-Marseille (FR), Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche médicale (FR), National Institute for Health and Welfare (FI), European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Fourth View Consulting (EE), Istituto di Studi per L’Integrazione dei Sistemi (IT), Istituto Superiore di Sanità (IT), Silesian Center for Heart Diseases (PL), Governance and Economics research Network (ES). Members of the OECD, supporter of the project, also attended the meeting.
The FRESHER project will produce quantitative estimates of the future global burden of chronic non-communicable diseases in the EU and its impact on health care expenditures and delivery, on population wellbeing, and on health and socio-economic inequalities, as well as potential changes in these impacts according to alternative health and non-health policy options.
The recommendations generated by this project will be based on different foresight techniques including horizon scanning, scenario building, and the use of an empirically based micro-simulation model. Horizon scanning is a tailored and systematic analysis of known, potential and yet-to-be-highlighted threats and opportunities for health and wellbeing in Europe. It will enable the elaboration of scenarios, used to engage in a dialogue with relevant policy-makers. The simulation model is a complex mathematical tool that will be used to assess the occurrence or non-occurrence of health events on a large number of simulated individuals, based on statistical and probability equations using European data and results of the horizon scanning. It takes into account a panel of characteristics and behaviors attributed to each simulated individual. This model will also be applied to the different scenarios to assess the impact of policy action combinations.
The kick-off meeting of the project was held on 2 and 3 March and was hosted by the French University of Aix-Marseille, the project coordinating institution. Ms Ann Uustalu, from European Commission - DG Research and Innovation, opened the session with a presentation on ’Public Health research and foresight‘ that highlighted the current situation in Europe and the challenges that lie ahead in the health and wellbeing sectors. She introduced the ‘Horizon 2020’ priorities and emphasised the role of foresight in health.
During the meeting, the Project Coordinator, M. Jean-Paul Moatti (University of Aix-Marseille), talked partners through the project’s approach and methodological strategy. As the research aims to explore a broad public health issue from different angles, the project’s tasks are divided into seven work packages - each package involving several partners. The leaders of each package presented their research protocol, explaining the methodology they are planning to follow.
The third work package, responsible for identifying health related trends and drivers (horizon scanning), outlined plans for organising three workshops in three different countries. The aim of these workshops is to gather a panel of experts from various related fields and analyse the known trends and drivers as well as to identify hidden trends influencing the prevalence and incidence of non-communicable diseases. As for the workshop venues, three different countries are chosen in order to best reflect possible variations among the different European regions. The first workshop will be held in Vienna on 15 September. The second will be conducted in Stockholm (date TBA), and the third is planned for 26 October in Lisbon.
Paula Santana and Monica Oliveira, representatives of EURO-HEALTHY, a twin research project, discussed the possibilities of collaboration with FRESHER. Both research schemes are comparable in the sense that they aim to evaluate determinants of health. Sharing evidence for determinants and drivers, aligning for various scenario narratives and reflecting on policy analysis and recommendations were suggested as ways to create synergies between the projects.
Before bringing the kick-off meeting to a close, assignments among the different working groups were attributed and future meeting dates were scheduled. The next priorities of the groups is to identify additional experts for external input, as well as scientific events and other opportunities to present FRESHER to key decision-makers. Active collaboration with EUROHEALTHY will also be initiated in the near future.