On Friday the 10th of November PDPC organized an engaging roundtable workshop at the European Public Health conference in Dublin. Featuring a dynamic panel of five experts who work on how to reach Underserved Groups across Europe from various angles. Guided by our Chair, Jeannette de Boer, and Co-chair, Valerie Eijrond, the session unfolded into a wide range of ideas, insights, and interactive discussions.
Kicking off the session, Jeannette de Boer warmly welcomed the audience. Followed by Valerie Eijrond with a presentation, introducing the international audience to PDPC and the Underserved Groups project. Subsequently, five panelists delivered diverse pitches, each conveying a distinct message:
Katrine Bach Habersaat, Regional Advisor, Behavioural and Cultural Insights, World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, initiated the discussion by highlighting that all public health challenges revolve around health behaviors. The initial step involves thoroughly exploring and comprehending the barriers and drivers faced by underserved communities. Following this understanding, the aim is to use this knowledge collaboratively to engage with these communities. The goal is to identify effective approaches that can facilitate, support, and encourage the adoption of the desired health behaviors. Notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) has intensified its focus on applying behavioral science to address these challenges.
Prabhjot Kour, Post-doctoral researcher, University of Bergen, discussed the insights from the “Health Ambassador Project”, which was conducted during the pandemic aimed at efficiently distributing correct and updated information about the COVID-19 pandemic to migrants through the inclusion of ambassadors. 78 health ambassadors participated in 5 digital models and 850 migrants were reached by health ambassadors.
Shakib Sana, General Practitioner and PhD candidate, Erasmus University Rotterdam, underscored his role as a patient ambassador, emphasizing the crucial connection between clinical health practitioners and public health. He explained how the idea of going to marketplaces to engage with underserved groups came to be and stressed the significance of providing individualized attention.
Robin Peeters, Internist-endocrinologist, Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, delved further into the achievements of the COVID-19 vaccination doubt line, established by doctors in the Netherlands for who are still unsure whether or not they should get vaccinated. He also recognized the significance of offering personalized attention in aiding people to make informed decisions. He expressed optimism that the doubt line could evolve into a permanent program encompassing a broader range of medical topics.
Anja Schreijer, Medical Director PDPC, pitched the necessity of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration among biomedical experts, epidemiologists, social scientists, and economists. Furthermore, she stated that it is imperative to build a resilient knowledge and data infrastructure for the systematic collection and integration of information across diverse domains. This is crucial for offering evidence-based recommendations to the government, facilitating the rapid identification of vulnerable groups, and implementing targeted interventions.
During the remaining 25 minutes of the session, an interactive discussion unfolded, involving both the audience and the panelists. The lively exchange with the audience emerged as the highlight, transforming the session into a dynamic discussion and underscoring the significance and interest surrounding this topic.