National, European and global institutes and networks for public health

Countries establish national institutes that address key challenges and due to the global nature of the problems addressed, regional, European and global networks are formed. National institutes for health, for example, play a central role in infectious disease control and prevention and population screening programmes. They conduct independent (scientific) research in the field of public health, health services, environmental safety and security and are typically embedded in international networks. In their role as trusted advisors, they supports citizens, professionals and governments in the challenge of keeping the environment and citizens healthy.


The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM) promotes public health and safeguards a healthy environment. Public Health Agencies exist in most European countries, examples linked below are from France and Sweden.

In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) investigates disease and health on all levels: from viruses in human cells to obesity in the population. RKI scientists collect data on non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cancer, on infectious diseases and (new) biological dangers. On this basis, the institute develops policy recommendations and preventive strategies. The work rests on two pillars: research that generates data for decision-making, and independent advice for specialists, particularly Germany’s public health service and policy-makers. In addition, the institute helps partner countries to better prepare themselves for disease outbreaks and health crises. The Robert Koch Institute, therefore, contributes to health protection not only in Germany but across the world.

On a European level, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is an agency of the European Union which cooperates with the competent bodies in the Member States on surveillance, responses to health threats, scientific advice and opinions, scientific and technical assistance, collection of data and identification of emerging health threats as well as public information campaigns. In each member state, coordinating bodies are established, national focal points as well as operational contact points for strategic and operational cooperation on technical and scientific issues, also feeding into further dedicated networks and partnerships. All outputs with scientific content produced by, or on behalf of, ECDC are published as open access.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a long-standing experience in facilitating scientific advice for public health emergencies (its Constitution came into force in 1948, on 7 April, now celebrated as World Health Day). It has several thousand people working in 150 countries offices, 6 regional offices and at the headquarters in Geneva. WHO, as the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system, adheres to the UN values of integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity. Diverse global health stakeholders engage with the WHO. It works closely with decision-makers at the national levels: Ministries of Health, government agencies, other government departments. Furthermore, it works with influencers: health partnerships, foundations, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisation, civil society, media, professional associations, and WHO collaborating centres. Its engagement with the United Nations at the global, regional, and country-level is an asset. It is guided by the best available science, evidence and technical expertise.

The World Health Summit is one of the world’s leading strategic forums for global health. Every October, the World Health Summit draws international experts from academia, politics, the private sector, and civil society to Berlin. During the summit, stakeholders and decision-makers from 100 countries and every field in healthcare work together to find solutions to global health challenges and set the agenda for a healthier future. The World Health Summit was founded in 2009 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Berlin’s Charité Hospital and is traditionally held under the patronage of the German Chancellor, the President of the Republic of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization. In addition to the World Health Summit in Berlin, there are annual Regional Meetings and regular Expert Meetings around the world. These meetings are organized by the M8 Alliance, the academic backbone of the World Health Summit.The World Health Summit promotes a science-driven and broad approach to global health development with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core. The key issues are therefore interdisciplinary, science-based, cross-sectoral, and concerted.

The Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) is an informal network of countries and organizations that came together shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to exchange information and coordinate practices within the health sector for confronting new threats and risks to global health. Delegations of the GHSI include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Commission. The World Health Organization (WHO) serves as an observer and acts as a scientific and technical advisor.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched at Davos 2017 as the result of a consensus that a coordinated, international, and intergovernmental plan was needed to develop and deploy new vaccines to prevent future epidemics. It is an innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations working to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for affected populations during outbreaks. Close collaboration with global partners is crucial to ensure the success of the work. Therefore, it supports coordinating activities to improve the collective response to epidemics, strengthening capacity in countries at risk, and advancing the regulatory science that governs product development.

Visit sites: (on ECDC), (on RIVM), (on the French Public Health Agency) or (Public Health Agency of Sweden), (for RKI), (on the World Health Organisation), (for the Global Health Security Initiative),, (on the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations)

Keywords: Partnerships, Coordination of scientific opinions, Science advice, Statements, Platforms, Collaboration, Publications, Expert meetings, Cross-border health threats, Emergencies, Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology, Antimicrobial resistance, Vaccines, Biological threats, COVID-19

Laure-Anne Plumhans

Posted by Laure-Anne Plumhans