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Policy forum highlights importance of cross-sectoral data sharing

Representatives of ministries from 21 European countries have stressed the need for a solid legal base for sharing health data. The European Health Data Space is expected to improve collaboration between health sector stakeholders.

On 28 June, TEHDAS hosted its first Policy Forum for the representatives of the Ministries of Health, Economy and Research across EU member states and associated countries to engage different policy sectors in shaping the European Health Data Space. The event focused on the ministries’ expectations of the European Health Data Space and what benefits the ministries expect it will bring.

The participants emphasised the importance of having a sound legal base for sharing health data gathered both from public and private sector sources. There is now no comprehensive legislation or common practices for the secondary use of health data in Europe. The European Health Data Space is seen as a way to facilitate better co-operation with a range of stakeholders.

The participants say that the European Health Data Space improves data findability and accessibility. Health care can be improved when data from other sectors can be utilised along with health data for the benefit of public health.

Health has a strong impact on a variety of policies and ministries. The policy forum is an excellent arena for cross-sectoral discussion to ensure that national perspectives are reflected in the upcoming legislative proposal on the European Health Data Space. I want to thank all the ministries for their active participation.

Markus Kalliola, Tehdas coordinator, Sitra

Successful cross-sectoral data exchange

The forum opened with an address by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, highlighting the importance of digital health, the notion of a health ecosystem and the importance of sharing health data for both primary and secondary use.

The European Commission then outlined preparations for the European Health Data Space in the context of the EU’s data strategy. The legislative proposal is expected for early 2022. There was then a discussion, which mainly dealt with governance and regulatory topics, including the different interpretations and implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation between the countries.

Further discussion, Jon Cylus of the European Observatory of Health Systems and Policies and LSE Health presented a case study on the implications of population ageing for health financing. The European Observatory has developed a simulator that allows users to see how health expenditures and health revenues are expected to alter due to changes in demographics across a wide range of countries.

Examples of data sharing across sectors were also presented to highlight successful cross-sectoral collaboration, such as the WHIP project in Italy and a technical platform for data sharing and analysis developed in Norway.

The forum was attended by 50 designated participants from 21 European countries. The next Policy Forum, the second in the series of four, will be in November 2021.

TEHDAS initiative has great potential, and we need to continue engaging stakeholders to ensure maximum benefit.

Event moderator Neville Calleja, Director of Health Information and Research, Ministry for Health, Malta

The article has been updated on 13 July 2021.

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