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Interview with Ingrid Keller about the relevance of the Thematic Network Program

Ingrid Keller (Chronic Disease and Health Programme Unit at the European Commission) – European Commission, Belgium

Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) has been selected as one of three Thematic Networks on the EU Health Policy platform in 2018 which has been a major milestone achievement of the SIP platform since its start in 2009.

Ingrid Keller (Chronic Disease and Health Programme Unit at the European Commission) has intensively supported SIP within this Thematic Network program and provided guidance and advice how to prepare the Framing Paper and the Joint Statement.

After closing of the Thematic Network program 2018 we have asked Ingrid Keller to explain the SIP community what is  the relevance of this platform and how to follow-up on the released Joint Statement.

  1. What is the EU Health Policy Platform about? What are its main objectives?

The EU Health Policy Platform (HPP) is an interactive tool to boost discussions about EU public health concerns, share knowledge and good practices. The HPP invites public health stakeholders to exchange with others, pool expertise in joint statements and disseminate actions among a wide audience. It is a collaborative online tool to ease communication between the European Commission services and health-related interest groups.

The HPP has three pillars: the Web Platform, the EU Health Award and one physical meeting per year. The Web Platform hosts the “Agora network”, an open discussion area accessible to all registered stakeholders. Users can benefit from posting news, creating opinion polls, sharing upcoming events and storing documents, among other features. The Web Platforms also hosts other groups namely:

  • Thematic Networks: they are accessible to all registered users. These temporary networks facilitate the drafting of joint statements by stakeholders. The Societal Impact of Pain platform was one of the 2018 Thematic Networks.
  • Commission and Member State led networks: created in response to policy decisions, implementation of Commission’s initiatives such as health programmes, joint actions, expert groups, cooperation with International Organisations, etc.
  • Stakeholder Networks: they are networks approved by the Commission created in response to a direct request from stakeholders, on a specific key health policy area. The network’s aim is to help group members to interact and to provide them with a forum to continue their discussions between physical meetings. The Societal Impact of Pain platforms manages a stakeholder group on this issue.

Users receive a bi-weekly newsletter gathering all information shared on the Agora network, and a restricted section visible only to members of networks. Webinars on key EU initiatives are organised on a regular basis by the European Commission, Member States and stakeholders. Information on upcoming webinars is posted on the Agora network.

  1. What are Thematic Networks that draft “joint statements” as part of the Health Policy Platform activities?

Thematic networks are one form of user networks in the HPP. They are limited in time, usually one calendar year and their purpose is to provide a space in which stakeholders can draft a “joint statement”. The European Commission proposes each year’s topics for joint statements in line with ongoing priorities. The HPP community votes for them. There is also room for topic suggestions by stakeholders when the call for proposals is open. Joint statements will only be prepared for topics with the highest number of votes. In 2018 “societal impact of pain” received a high number of votes and therefore a Thematic Network on this issue was created. The Societal Impact of Pain platform developed drafts of the joint statement, which were then shared for comments through the HPP and webinars. All HPP members interested in the topic of the joint statement can comment. This allows for better networking, cross-fertilisation, and potential future collaboration between actors sharing common policy interests, who in some cases did not know each other beforehand. Hence, a thematic network is a good place to meet like-minded professionals and groups. Once the joint statement is finalized, it is published and widely disseminated. The Thematic Networks have the possibility to become Stakeholder Networks to continue the work. 

  1. How are joint statements followed-up?

Joint statements create a fruitful discussion on the policy topic in question, including long-term actions, which deal with Commission and Member States priorities.

The future collaboration among stakeholders who drafted a joint statement together takes place in the Stakeholder Networks. The European Commission supports stakeholder networks with advice and promotion e.g. through further webinars. However, the successful continuation of a joint statement largely depends on the ambition and motivation of the Stakeholder Network built-up around this paper.  For example, some of the activities called for in joint statements may be implemented by collaborating with joint actions i.e. large projects co-funded by the 3rd EU Health Programme. The joint statement is owned by the Thematic Network leader organisation and not binding for the European Commission or the endorsing organisations.

The HPP usually hosts a closure webinar between the Thematic Network leaders and the European Commission. This webinar takes place at the end of the Thematic Network cycle, after the publishing of the final and endorsed version, to share the lessons learned.

The SIP Partners appreciate the fantastic support by Ingrid Keller during this exciting year 2018 as a Thematic Network Group and want to thank her for the great collaboration.

More Information about the SIP Thematic Network 2018:

  • Video with John F. Ryan (Director Public Health, Country Knowledge and Crisis Management)
  • How to endorse the Joint Statement?
  • Closing Webinar of the Thematic Network
  • Register for the SIP Newsletter

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