##107397##Since the late 1990s, the Ministry of Health and Care Services has annually handed out around 15 million Norwegian kroner for health and social collaboration in Northwest Russia. The grants fund wide-ranging project collaboration with the Russian health care service, government and NGOs. From 2009 to 2011, Norway financed 60 projects in Northwest Russia. An independent evaluation of ten of these projects concludes that the cooperation was successful.
“While strengthening professional relationships with Russian colleagues, the Norwegian authorities received important information about the health and social situation in Northwest Russia, for example about the spread of infectious diseases,” the report states.
In return, Russian authorities, physicians, nurses, teachers, social workers, other professionals and NGO activists gained information, experiences and new international approaches to be used in the development of policies and practices for more efficient health promotion, disease prevention, health and social services and work with vulnerable groups.
Room for improvement
Thanks to the long term nature of the collaboration, most projects fulfilled their objectives.
“The continuous, long term collaboration has considerably strengthened institutional links, which is usually not possible during short term projects. The communication, joint planning and implementation become efficient when the same partners work together for many years. The importance of concrete experience of new approaches and methods cannot be overestimated. Inevitably, to reach the results every project requires highly competent professionals and friendly oriented professional relationships.”
However, the authors of the report believe there is room for improvement and recommend a transition to an open tendering process with a set of predefined selection criteria to make the application process more transparent. In addition, they believe that the most important projects should be evaluated more frequently and that the reports should focus on results rather than on activities.
Public health collaboration
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has received around 2- 2.5 million kroner annually from the funds distributed by the Ministry of Health and Care Services for health and social collaboration in Northwest Russia. The Institute's projects focused on network building activities (meetings, conferences, publications) disease surveillance activities, for example on mortality and morbidity, injury registry, prevalence of hospital acquired infections, monitoring of drug abuse, etc.
One of the main projects during the evaluation period was EpiNorth - a joint project of infectious disease control between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and sister institutes in Russia and Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania , Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. This project, which was funded by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, received praise in the evaluation report. The authors of the report believe that the joint endeavours for establishing “epidemic intelligence”-collaboration, collection of surveillance data and organization of annual network conferences provided opportunities for Norwegian and Russian experts to understand each other better, which is necessary when fighting infectious diseases across borders.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health also organized several courses in research methods for medical scientists in Northwest Russia and contributed to the establishment and operation of the International School of Public Health in Arkhangelsk (ISPHA ) in collaboration with the University of Tromsø and five other universities.
Substance abuse and traffic
In 2013 the Institute was awarded 2.87 million kroner in project grants for nine projects.
"Besides our efforts in infection control, this year our cooperation will focus on several other areas, says senior adviser Elena Torgersen at the Department of International Public Health. Torgersen adds that collaborative efforts on drugs and traffic, environmental medicine, prevention of stillbirths and development of an alert system for early detection of morbidity and mortality has been initiated, with several departments of The Norwegian Institute of Public Health participating."
- Evaluation of the Grant Scheme for Norwegian - Russian Collaboration Projects in Health and Related Social Issues from 2009 to 2011 - Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services.