20.05.2016 | Bonn, Germany

EU-Central Asia Expert Group Meeting on 'Health'

On May 20th 2016 an expert group meeting was conducted on the premise of the United Nations University in Bonn, bringing together scientific stakeholders from European and Central Asian countries to discuss both, the outcome of Health-related activities within the IncoNet CA and the thematic and methodological focus of future scientific cooperation between the EU MS/AC and Central Asia (CA) in the field of health. 16 experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, several EU countries (Austria, Germany, Portugal), the United Nations University as well as Turkey were present.

Before the event, the experts had received information about the relevance and completeness of the cooperation topics with CA. Also, the experts had sent information about the most efficient tools and instruments to stimulate and establish cooperation, information about innovation related questions as well as information about important drivers of cooperation in the field of Health research.

In general it was stated that the setting of priorities with regards to relevant topics should be reviewed regularly (for example on a bi-annual basis) and that it should be recognized that priorities differ for different funding agencies (public, private, industry, etc.). In addition to this, a good balance between the existing expertise and capacities (Table 1) and the needs of society and markets (Table 2) should be aimed at. In two rounds of qualified brain-storming, discussion and in-depth reflection the participants were asked to name current scientific expertise and trending research topics for CA and the top three thematic fields for the whole region. Each topic mentioned at least twice is reflected in Table 1. The four topics most often mentioned as top priorities are written in bold letters (decreasing order):

Topics  Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan
Infectious diseases (TB, HIV, emerging diseases) x x (x)
Environment related diseases (interlinkages with Climate Change) x x x
Water borne diseases x x x
Drug related diseases x x x
Cardio-vascular diseases x x x
Food Science x x x
Zoonotic diseases x x x
Biosafety / Biosecurity (Surveillance, Awareness and Capability) x
Genetic Inborn Diseases x
High-Mountain Influence on Health x x
Endemic Diseases x x
Transformation of Health System x x
Malnutrition x
Typhoid Fever x

Table 1: Current scientific expertise and trending research topics of the CA countries according to the workshop discussion. The table is not be understood in an exclusive manner, which would mean that the topics listed are the only ones for which scientific expertise worth cooperating with is offered. Instead, the list provides a first outline of existing expertise, by no means excluding other topics, not mentioned in the list.

In addition to this and applying the same set of methods (qualified brain-storming, discussion and in-depth reflection) the participating experts also identified and named the most important thematic areas for future cooperation with the region in the field of health research (Table 2). Again the experts were asked to name the three most important future fields. The four most often mentioned (in decreasing order) were: Infectious Diseases, One-Health approach, Neglected Diseases and Quality Insurance of diagnostics and treatment.

Intestinal / Infectious Diseases Hospital transmitted Infections Neglected Diseases (Research, Treatment) Common Diseases (EHEC, Cholera)
Food related Brucellosis
Zoonotic Diseases Viral, including Hepatitis viruses B, C,D, E  Bacterial anthrax, tularemia, plague Nosocomial infections
Non transmittable

Genetic Diseases (Family Marriage)
Cancer: Radiation (High-Mountain) (Lung, Skin, Intestinal, Kocon), Prophylaxis, Early Diagnosis
Maternity / Infant
Infant Diseases
Maternal Diseases Child Mortality
Health System
One-Health approach / diagnostic networks (Public health, Veterinary, Food, Environment) Biosafety: Hospitals, Laboratory Quality insurance of diagnostics and treatment (evaluation, monitoring) Prevention / Diagnosis
Health System:
- Monitoring
- Economy
- Management
- Surveillance Systems
- Databases
Training in lab methods Infrastructure/Equipment Laboratory Biosafety /Biosecurity
Interrelations between Climate Change and Health / water supply Water Pollution (Radiation, Microorganisms) Drug Use and Misuse (Social rehabilitation, Capacity Building) Nanoparticles / Pollution
Air Pollution Small Dose Radiation Antibiotic Resistance / Capacity Building

Table 2: Thematic focus for future cooperation with the region in the field of health research sorted by thematic areas

Once more applying the mentioned set of methods, the experts also identified and prioritised crucial methods to focus on in order to further develop the thriving cooperation between the EU and CA. These were divided into methods aimed at the working level, the project level and the strategic level. With regards to the working level, among the methods named, output oriented Summer Schools aimed especially at connecting young scientists and Workshops with the aim of Capacity Building especially with regards to proposal and publication writing were named as important tools. On a project level International Summer Schools for the defined thematic priorities, Project Funding including both, funds for fact-finding missions and a clear perspective for prolongation in case of successful first periods and the development of Institutional Funding (partnerships, institutional twinnings etc.) between EU and CA countries were mentioned by most experts. On a strategic level continuity with regards to CA-programmes and the promotion of mutual recognition of the scientific parties from the EU and CA countries were mentioned as top priorities.

Working Level
Output Oriented Summer Schools with clear aims, especially on:
- Connecting (young) scientists
- Connecting scientists with funding parties
- Producing and updating the overview on the state of the art of research in Central Asia
- Building research consortia
Workshops with the aim of Capacity Building in the “Language of Cooperation”:
- Proposal and Publication Writing
- SWOT of own instruments
- Visibility / Homepage setup
- Publishing in peer-reviewed journals
- …
Trainings / exchanges of young scientists Support of small networking events
Projects / Project level
International Summer schools on each of the thematic priorities for CA 2+2 (universities + SME-companies from Europe and Central Asia)
Funding of projects with clear responsibilities for the tasks (including funds for fact-finding missions) and with a clear perspective in case of successful first period for prolongation for research projects (e.g. 3 years with staff in EU and CA) Institutional funding / institutional partnerships or institutional twinnings
Strategic Level
Development of continuous CA programmes Promoting mutual recognition between the parties
Development of exchange of ideas (stock market) for input of CA and industrial countries to be posted before calls

Table 3: Methods for scientific cooperation between the EU and CA.

There was an overwhelming agreement that Health-Research is among the most important fields for cooperation between the EU MS/AC and CA. Therefore the chance for developing recommendations to the EC for the development of future thematic and methodological priorities was warmly welcomed by the participating experts. The importance of cooperation in the field of health is also mirrored by the IncoNet CA’s priorities. These were built around three dominant Societal Challenges – one of which health (Climate Change and Energy being the other two).

Learn more about the other EU-Central Asia Expert Group Meetings 2016...

Source: Hendrik Meurs | DLR