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New types of evidence for measuring health in the 21st century

23 Sep, 2015

Euro report
Covering 53 member states and a population of 900 million people, the European Health Report 2015 is a landmark publication of the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Europe (WHO Europe). The report details the progress the European region has made towards the goals laid out in Health 2020, the European-wide health policy framework. Wellcome Trust Head of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dan O’Connor, welcomes the report’s multidisciplinary approach to measuring health and wellbeing…

Did you know that 30% of Europeans still smoke, even though it’s one of the three leading causes of mortality? Or that despite life expectancy going up across the continent, the gap between the countries with the highest life expectancy and those with the lowest is over ten years?

These are just an example of the facts you can find in the report, but in amongst all the usual interesting health and policy measures there is also a very welcome commitment to thinking about health more broadly, and to exploring the influence of culture on health and wellbeing.

Credit: WHO Europe

Credit: WHO Europe

The European Health Report 2015 represents not only a widespread acceptance that cultural factors (such as gender norms, faith traditions, and racial prejudice) impact health, but also an understanding that to measure and analyse such factors requires a multidimensional and interdisciplinary approach that includes the humanities and social science.

The Wellcome Trust has a long track record of thinking about health in the broadest possible contexts, from curious exhibitions at Wellcome Collection, through innovative work in public engagement, to our growing investment in humanities and social science research.

The report commits WHO Europe to engaging in further work on the cultural influences on health and wellbeing. The aim is to begin measuring health and wellbeing not just with numbers and bar charts, but with the subjective and narrative tools of the humanities and social sciences too. This will build upon work already supported by the Wellcome Trust in partnership with WHO Europe – connecting our humanities and social science researchers with policy makers at the national and international level.


The European Health Report 2015 reflects the partnership between the Trust and WHO Europe, which we hope will be the beginning of an on-going and broader collaboration with other major health organisations committed to making significant changes in the way we measure and improve health.

You can read the complete “European Health Report 2015 – Targets and beyond – reaching new frontiers in evidence” on the WHO Europe website. The highlights of the report are also available in English, French, Dutch and Russian, and WHO Europe have also created a smartphone app for Android and iOS, which allows you to search the data from the report.

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