Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Within SPHERE (Strengthening Public Health Research in Europe), a collaborative study funded by the European Commission, we have assessed the support for public health research at ministry level in European countries. METHODS: We surveyed the health and science ministries in 25 EU countries and 3 EEA countries, using a broad definition of public-health research at population level. We made over 600 phone calls and emails to identify respondents and to gain answers. We gained formal replies from 42 out of 56 ministries (73% response) in 25 countries. There were 22 completed questionnaires (from 25 ministries), 6 short answers and 11 contacts declaring that their ministries were not responsible for public health research, while in 14 ministries (both ministries in three countries) no suitable ministry contact could be found. RESULTS: In most European countries, ministries of health, or their devolved agencies, were regarded as the leading organizations. Most ministries were able to specify thematic areas for public-health research (from three to thirty), and others ministries referred to policy documents, health plans or public-health plans to define research priorities. Ministries and their agencies led on decisions for financial support of public-health research, with less involvement of other external organisations compared with the process of identifying priorities. However, the actual funds available for public health were not easily identifiable. Most ministries relied on general academic means for dissemination of results of public-health research, while ministries get information on the use of public-health research usually through informal means. Ministries made suggestions for strengthening public-health research through initiatives of their own countries and of the European Union: as well as more resources, improving coordination was most frequently suggested. CONCLUSION: There is no common approach to support for public-health research across Europe, and significant gaps in organisation and funding. Health ministries and national agencies value exchange between researchers and policy-makers, civil society organizations, and academic and public authorities, and the application of public-health research results. There would be benefits from better processes of priority setting and improved coordination for research, at regional, national and European levels.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC public health

Publication Date





Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 1600-560 Lisboa, Portugal.


Humans, Data Collection, Questionnaires, Public Health, Financing, Government, Health Services Research, National Health Programs, Europe, Research Support as Topic