BACKGROUND: In Europe, data on population health is fragmented, difficult to access, project-based and prone to health information inequalities in terms of availability, accessibility and especially in quality between and within countries. This situation is further exacerbated and exposed by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The Joint Action on Health Information (InfAct) that builds on previous works of the BRIDGE Health project, carried out collaborative action to set up a sustainable infrastructure for health information in the European Union (EU). The aim of this paper is to present InfAct's proposal for a sustainable research infrastructure, the Distributed Infrastructure on Population Health (DIPoH), which includes the setup of a Health Information Portal on population health to be maintained beyond InfAct's time span.
METHODS: The strategy for the proposal was based on three components: scientific initiatives and proposals to improve Health Information Systems (HIS), exploration of technical acceptability and feasibility, and finally obtaining high-level political support.. The technical exploration (Technical Dialogues-TD) was assumed by technical experts proposed by the countries, and political guidance was provided by the Assembly of Members (AoM), which gathered representatives from Ministries of Health and Science of EU/EEA countries. The results from the AoM and the TD were integrated in the sustainability plan compiling all the major outputs of InfAct.
RESULTS: The InfAct sustainability plan was organized in three main sections: a proposal of a new research infrastructure on population health (the DIPoH), new health information tools and innovative proposals for HIS, and a comprehensive capacity building programme. These activities were carried out in InfAct and are being further developed in the Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI). PHIRI is a practical rollout of DIPoH facilitating and generating the best available evidence for research on health and wellbeing of populations as impacted by COVID-19.
CONCLUSIONS: The sustainability plan received wide support from Member States and was recognized to have an added value at EU level. Nevertheless, there were several aspects which still need to be considered for the near future such as: (i) a commitment of stable financial and political support by Member States (MSs), (ii) the availability of resources at regional, national and European level to deal with innovations, and (iii) a more direct involvement from EU and international institutions such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD for providing support and sustainable contributions.