HORIZON EUROPE┋Improving social and societal preparedness for disaster response and health emergencies
Projects’ results are expected to contribute to some or all of the following outcomes:
- Identification of different factors in inequality and ways to communicate with vulnerable groups, of individual, organisational, and systemic resilience factors and pathways to support these, and of ways to address vulnerabilities in acute crisis as well as during prevention, in order to elaborate an interconnectedness of resilience and vulnerability;
- Improvement of populations health literacy and basic understanding of how medicine and vaccines work and how they are developed and produced;
- Improved crisis communication through increased awareness and risk perception regarding bio security, identification of challenges for and limits of communication strategies and interventions regarding different vulnerable groups and approaches to address these, elaborating of ways for resolving barriers for crisis communication: interlinguality, interculturality, intersemiotics;
- Putting the citizen at the centre of the crisis management process (involving where relevant citizen volunteers in demonstrations related to research developments), increasing their capacity to access, read and interpret scientifically sourced information, analysing gender behaviours regarding unpopular measures (e.g., quarantine) and vaccination attitudes and identification and relieving of barriers for vaccination readiness: Trust, risk appraisal, barriers for registration for vaccination, information, collective responsibility;
- Incorporation of information technology and bias-free data into crisis management through improved information processing in transformative governance, illustrating possibilities, challenges, and limits of digitalisation and enabling usage of data for political decision making;
- Incorporation of machine learning and artificial intelligence in governance and political decision making based on interdisciplinary discussions on definitions on problems in compliance with EU law; areas of application; and definition of responsibilities and competences in data governance;
- Validation of novel, smartphone sized or wearable technologies with laboratory-level diagnostics capability (e.g., wearables with integrated digital dosimeters, handheld PCR test devices);
- Strengthening of the One Health approach including not only human physical health but also mental health as well as environmental and animal health, and understanding of the biological risks posed by environmental changes such as climate change and preparedness for impacts on human health;
- Projects should comply with privacy safeguards to ensure that disaster response systems protect EU fundamental rights such as privacy and protection of personal data.
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the specific challenges of health emergencies and the necessity to be prepared not only on a material and physical level but also from a social and societal perspective. Challenges during the pandemic included difficulties of working with protective gear such as insecurities and usage mistakes; additional disadvantages for vulnerable groups among others due to communication issues; and lack of local cooperation and prevention regarding equipment, stocks, and coordination. These challenges were largely due to deficiencies in the inclusion of social sciences in disaster research. The COVID-19 pandemic poses an opportunity to analyse successes and difficulties during a global health crisis and thereby preparing for future health crises.
Currently, different groups are not reached equally by public communication efforts. Risk communication especially fails to contact vulnerable groups. Social inequalities are present in different forms and on different levels. For communication strategies and interventions, it should be considered how they are affected by different groups, localities, and cultural factors. In different crises, different vulnerability factors can be more pronounced and different groups can be more vulnerable. On the other hand, resilience can protect against negative effects of crises. Resilience can be supported on an individual, organisational, or systemic level. All should be considered in preparation for crisis as well as in acute situations.
Information technology and digital data processing are becoming increasingly important in public health issues. Processing large datasets and automated analyses can open new possibilities in understanding health and illness on a population level and for deriving prevention strategies. However, the implementation of information technology poses several challenges and research on how to effectively use the results in political decision-making. Data security is another challenge when large amounts of personalized (health) data are processed automatically. Concerns about data security and general scepticism about digital information processing in the population need to be taken seriously and addressed, and the solutions need to comply with EU law, including on data protection and cybersecurity.
Health encompasses several aspects and levels. Human health incorporates both physical and psychological health which are interconnected and mutually dependent. At the same time, humans are embedded in their environment so human and environmental health cannot be approached in isolation from each other. According to the One Health approach, health of humans, animals, and environment are intertwined. This is illustrated by the current health crisis of COVID-19 which is attributed to SARS-CoV-2 jumping over from wild animals to humans. Another illustration of the interconnectedness are health impacts of climate change. These interdependencies make an interdisciplinary approach to health necessary that incorporates all aspects of health and their interconnectedness.
This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH as well as gender experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH and gender expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities. The involvement of citizens, including citizen volunteers in demonstrations of tools and technologies, civil society and other societal stakeholders in co-design and co-creation should be promoted. In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is encouraged.