International research collaboration opens up new perspectives

International cooperation is an important part of the SustAgeable project. We met for the purpose of Finnish-Dutch research cooperation in Utrecht at the Health Services Research Centre at NIVEL. The aim was to take our research forward together and to deepen cooperation between Finnish and Dutch researchers in social and health care expenditure.

Utrechtin maisema joen rannalta. Joenranta, jossa kävelytie. Taustalla on rakennuksia ja autoja.

In the SustAgeable project’s work package on “Ageing, expenditures, and cost-containment in health and long-term care”, we investigate whether and how ageing is associated with health and long-term care spending and propose ways to mitigate cost increases in an equitable manner to promote both economic and social sustainability. This work package is managed by the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in collaboration with the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL). The partners from UEF include professor Ismo Linnosmaa, senior lecturer Minna Kaarakainen, post doc researcher Olli Salmensuu, doctoral student Terhi Auvinen, researcher Lauri Kortelainen and professor Mieke Rijken, who is also affiliated with NIVEL, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research. From THL, researcher Tuukka Holster is also involved.

Why international collaboration is important?

In the SustAgeable project we work with international partners in various countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA. Most of our partners in these countries are members of the project’s scientific advisory board, ensuring that we have access to a wide range of expertise and experience from other countries with ageing populations.

For a small country like Finland, international research collaboration is crucial since it brings new knowledge and new perspectives on how Finland could further transform its health and social system to remain economically and socially ’sustageable’ in the coming decades, while facing the challenges posed by an ageing population within the overall context of a shrinking workforce.

NIVEL main building.
NIVEL, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, promotes the quality and efficiency of the Dutch healthcare system.

This is a national challenge, but also a challenge that many other countries face. Therefore, we believe the SustAgeable project could benefit from an international orientation and international research collaboration to increase the quality, effectiveness and innovativeness of the research.

Broadly speaking,, international research collaboration is expected to support national growth and development. Collaboration will strengthen knowledge and interaction. Moreover, it also helps to provide perspective to various phenomena and helps us to compare and understand different points of view.

Finnish-Dutch partnership in research

In SustAgeable, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen ties and promote innovative research between our Finnish and Dutch partners.  This would build upon the close research collaboration which already exists with the Netherlands through the contribution of Mieke Rijken to the project’s research activities and the site-visit of Minna Kaarakainen to NIVEL as well as those of other researchers to various relevant Dutch institutes and universities in April 2022.

The aim of this visit was to work together within the project and strengthen the collaboration between these organisations as well as with other Dutch research institutions. Especially after the lifting of most Covid-restrictions, it was such nice to meet and work with people in person!

Mieke Rijken and Minna Kaarakainen.
Mieke Rijken and Minna Kaarakainen met during a study visit to the Netherlands at NIVEL.

Even though this research is not primarily about comparing Finland and the Netherlands it is, nevertheless, good to generate some insights about these countries and their health systems, which are quite different as the Finnish system is based on tax funded public services while the Dutch system is funded through mandatory social insurance. Population ageing is however occurring in both countries, though differences in the service systems challenge public services in different ways.

Literature reviews

Collaboration is conducted especially in the work package’s third task which focuses on cost-containment policies and where we conduct a systemic review in order to identify those interventions that are most effective in containing the growth of health and long-term care costs in older populations without generating negative consequences on social sustainability.

Task 3 started with literature reviews in the winter of 2022 with joint forces with UEF and NIVEL following the conceptual framework of Cylus et al. (2019) on policy actions. In this task, we have chosen three types of policies: 1) policies to promote cost-effective health and long-term care interventions managing needs efficiently and the use of innovation and technology for efficiency gains, 2) integration of health and long-term care and other service delivery models and 3) policies to support acceptable, equitable and efficient funding and income transfers.

Upcoming interviews for decision makers

This task also includes interviews with those Finnish decision makers responsible for the funding and organisation of health and social care services for old people and their willingness to undertake effective cost-containment measures that maintain distributional equity across generations and regions. The final themes for the interviews will be decided upon once the literature reviews are completed. Even though the interviews will be undertaken in Finland, we will plan the content and analyse the results together with our international colleagues.

Read more information about the work package:

More information