Workshop 5.N. Round table: Cross country COVID-19 policy learning: politics, arrangements and conditions for legitimate policy at European Public Health conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in or organising a workshop, seminar, courseProfessional


Across many countries public health experts question to what extent are COVID-19 policies ‘evidence-based', driven by uncertainties and precautionary principle, and narrow disciplinary focus. The policy reflex in 2020 led to a State of Emergency in about half of the countries in the WHO Europe region and managing by decree without Parliamentary approval. Policy decision-making in many countries is persistently dominated by virologist medical expertise. Pandemic response organized by hierarchical, partisan or technical dominance has led to an overly dominant policy focus on curative services and disproportionate effects on vulnerable and minority groups. Now, after 1,5 years and even during electoral campaigns in many countries, the public lacks interest representation because of ‘Parliamentary paralysis': It has been suggested mainstream political parties do not want to question response policies for being associated with populist radical right, antivax and conspiracy theorists.

However, policy mitigating and politically moderating options are available. Avoiding public litigation or electoral repercussions, rapid policy response can benefit from organizing quick consultations, rapid appraisals and fast feedback assessments. This will contribute substantially to the use, feasibility and acceptability of policies in society. Consequently, this may facilitate the actual implementation, organizational compliance and public adherence to regulations.

In this workshop we aim to explore the needs, capacities and lessons learned so far by health policymakers themselves in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and draw implications for the public health community of scholars, professionals in support of policymaking. Rather than asking to what extent the policy responses have been evidence-based, we take the policymaker perspective and focus on the rapid exchanges and emerging processes of policy learning across different countries. There is evidence of policy learning across countries, but not so directly related to research evidence - how does learning take shape? Are public health experts and scientist trained to induce such learning?

Three short presentations will share direct experiences with rapid pandemic response decision-making. A panel with politicians involved in pandemic decision-making will reflect on needs, capacities and conditions for well-informed and balanced pandemic response. Then the floor is opened for debate with the audience using Mentimeter and other facilities available for online interaction. The workshop ends with concrete recommendations for direct policy support by public health researchers, managers and professionals at regional, national and supranational levels.
Period10 Nov 202112 Nov 2021
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational