Excellent biomedical and health research is the best medicine for a healthier and innovative Europe

15 december 2015

In order to grow and prosper European countries will need a healthy population and the ability to innovate and incorporate new technology and strategies to overcome the various challenges modern society is facing. The eight Dutch University Medical Centers intend to play a key role in the required biomedical and healthcare research that will provide the knowledge to come to this innovation and new health policies in Europe.

The Dutch University Medical Centers have chosen Sustainable health as common focus for 2020. This theme encompasses questions on how to keep our citizens healthy at a reasonable cost and our healthcare affordable, accessible and of good quality, especially in view of the ageing population and a number of environmental concerns. In the current transformation of healthcare, the role of medical faculties and university hospitals is crucial to generate and take advantage of new knowledge and technology. In addition, they will teach and train the next generation healthcare professionals in Europe. As integrated organizations University Medical Centers (UMCs) in the Netherlands are capable of forming bridges between research, innovation, health care delivery, and training of future health professionals and researchers. Thereby facilitating the translation of new findings to new practical solutions.

Part of the aim of the UMC's collaborative European strategy is to increased participation of end-users and stakeholders (e.g. via social sciences research), and to a more personalized, risk prevention approach through their big data collection and analyses. In addition, UMCs are essential partners in cross-cutting approaches with other scientific disciplines such as engineering and technology (e.g. in medical devices) with nutritional (e.g. food and lifestyle in health) and environmental (e.g. public health and healthy cities) research, and with ICT for eHealth and mHealth solutions. Hence, the Dutch University Medical Centers are positioned at the heart of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.

In 2012 and 2014, the Dutch University Medical Centers presented their priorities to the European Commission: ‘Dutch perspective in a European context’, summarizing a comprehensive approach to meet the needs and demands of the European citizens. Five main topics were selected. First healthy aging, with the emphasis on vitality and a whole life cycle multidisciplinary approach, including longer and healthier lifestyles by facilitating and consolidating behavioral change, self-management and health promotion for individuals as well as populations. Second are enabling technologies, including medical devices which is a topic where several sectors come together (ICT, enabling, devices) to support risk prevention actions. Also, health advancement in excellent regional ‘triple helix’ collaborative actions between government, knowledge institutes and industry are included here. Third, personalized care (medicine and nutrition) defined as the ability to determine an individual's unique characteristics and to use these to select successful treatments, or to predict an individual's susceptibility in order to prevent disease offers an interdisciplinary way to support prevention and life style actions in general, and metabolic syndrome and obesity in particular. Fourth are eHealth and mHealth, which are considered key elements to increase sustainability of the Dutch Health Care System by making more efficient use of available resources, and by strengthening the engagement of citizens, patients and the health and social sector. Last, research infrastructures are critical for an integrated value chain for sustainable health care and research. Examples of European infrastructures in the Netherlands are the Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure BBMRI (biobanking), the European Advanced Translational Research Infrastructure in Medicine EATRIS (translational research), and networks of Clinical research partners (ECRIN) European research infrastructure activities.

Taken together, the eight University Medical Centers in the Netherlands are prepared to deliver crucial and relevant contributions to the European challenges and are willing to work together amongst themselves and with various European partners to provide a healthier and innovative Europe in the years to come.

Marcel Levi
Chairman executive board Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam and dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Amsterdam
Chairman of the deans of the eight university medical centers in the Netherlands.

More information:
Website NFU: Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres
Publication NFU: Position Paper NFU, Sustainable health; delivering health at a reasonable cost


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