New approach to debating key policy issues involving citizens
EU citizens’ experience is often not connected with the expertise of EU researchers. Tackling this challenge is what REIsearch, a European Commission co-funded project, aims to do via a series of citizen engagement initiatives centred on key themes on the European policy agenda. By stimulating a public debate between policymakers, scientists and citizens on the topic, this initiative aims to better understand the evidence, the constraints and the opinions of citizens across Europe.
The first initiative, starting this week, focuses on chronic diseases prevention. Ultimately, this citizen engagement campaign is designed to support policy makers in making decisions which affect society as a whole. In this context, the REIsearch promoter, Atomium European Institute for Science, Media and Democracy (EISMD), has launched on 15th February 2016, the first of its citizen engagement campaigns. It is due to run through through its own online platform as well as the online editions of media partners including EuroScientist, as well as national newspapers throughout Europe including Der Standard, El País, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Gazeta Wyborcza, La libre Belgique, Luxemburger Wort, Público, Il Sole24ore, and The Irish Times.
Over the next five weeks, REIsearch will introduce a set of very diverse issues related to chronic diseases: from big data to social innovation, from E-health to the connection between wealth and health, and many more. These issues matter due to the changing patterns of disease, socio-demographic transitions, emerging technologies, emerging models of care, changing expectations of consumers and changes in the political and economic environment—including globalisation and economic constraints—which are posing significant challenges for our current health care system. There is therefore a need for new thinking and approaches to induce changes in behaviour.
According to the World Health Organisation, avoiding cigarettes, alcohol and junk food and exercising for 30 minutes each day could prevent up to 80% of new heart diseases, strokes, and type 2 diabetes cases. However, only 3% of the EU public health budget is spent on prevention and citizens often lack the necessary information to make healthy choices. Furthermore, 10% of patients – the so-called high-cost patients – account for 65% of the health care budget.
So how can we encourage healthy habits and prevent chronic diseases from arising any further? Is this the responsibility of the public sector or of the individual citizen? Should healthy habits be incentivised? And what is the role of schools and employers? These are the kind of questions that our audience is invited to answer to, by participating in the public debate on chronic diseases prevention via surveys advertised on our banners and by getting involved via social media channels. .
In parallel, EuroScientist will provide its own independent editorial coverage of policy issues related to chronic diseases prevention, which will be published on Wednesdays, our usual publication day. Our readers are invited to leave comments at the bottom of each article and to interact with our content on social media.
Ultimately, the goal of this initiative is to enable policy makers across Europe to obtain useful and significant insight, expertise, and data on key issues in chronic disease management and prevention, while taking into account the opinions of European citizens. The results of this campaign will be presented to the European Parliament and European Commission at the end of April 2016.
This initiative hopes to create the conditions for a debate in public sphere adequate to a democratic society, as defined by German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas as depending on both the quality of discourse and the quantity of participation.