Feature Health Policy

Europe’s knowledge broker

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3871 (Published 23 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3871
  1. Tessa Richards, assistant editor
  1. 1BMJ, London WC1H 9JR
  1. trichards{at}bmj.com

    The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies provides evidence to support Europe’s health ministers develop their policies. Tessa Richards looks at its work

    Next week policy makers, researchers, and clinicians from across Europe will meet at the annual European Health Forum in Bad Gastein, Austria. Debate will focus on the effect of the financial crisis on Europe’s health systems and strategies to rein in costs, improve efficiency, and meet rising demand for services.

    Let’s hope the discussions prove more productive than recent ones in the US. There, a summer of well orchestrated attacks on Barack Obama’s proposed health reforms and scare stories about Britain’s “dreaded NHS” all but drowned rational dialogue.1 This is regrettable, not least because policy experts on both sides of the Atlantic agree that the US could learn useful lessons not only from the NHS but from several of Europe’s cheaper, equally effective, and more equitable health systems.

    One organisation committed to furthering such cross country learning and using it to promote evidence based policy making is the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a major contributor to the agenda and background information for the Gastein meeting.

    From small beginnings

    The idea of setting up an independent organisation to look at the different ways countries in Europe provide health care, extract policy lessons from their experience, and flag up examples of good practice, germinated in the corridors of two academic centres in London in the early 1990s. Chance brought together a small group of health researchers with a commitment to public health and an interest in policy analysis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics and Political Science. They included Josep Figueras, the observatory’s full time director; codirector Elias Mossialos, who is also director of LSE Health; and Martin …

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