Organisation and governance of the Centre for Health Crises
The Centre for Health Crises is created to enhance and improve the ability to face health threats and to assist in crises. We gather and connect skill and expertise both within Karolinska Institutet and between us and the rest of society. Our day-to-day work is managed by a tight-knit team lead by our director, and an extended group of expert coordinators in relevant subject areas. Our steering group guides our work to make sure it remains in line with our mission and vision.
The Centre for Health Crises is set up to help strengthen capacities across the board in any health crises, which encompasses prevention, preparedness, response, and resilience. Our activities are not limited to one single department at the university. They span across all of KI and are often conducted in collaboration with other actors. The Centre also assist KI’s management with advice and expert support in case of a health crisis, and therefore the Director of the Centre reports directly to the President of KI.
The Centre’s day-to-day operations are organised around a small, tightly-knit team, led and managed by the Director and Strategic Process Leader. They are supported by an Administrative Coordinator, a Coordinator University Collaboration, and a Communications Officer. In addition, a group of expert coordinators with specific expertise in certain health crisis areas execute much of our operational activities and collaborations. These experts work part of their time at the Centre, with their remaining time in their core clinical and research expertise position.
The expert coordinators ensure that there is a broad interdisciplinary skillset at the Centre, provide avenues through which to collaborate with external partners, and devise activities. The unique nature of each expert area means that the work itself will be structured differently depending on the subject matter, but also the phase and focus of each activity. To ensure we maintain a holistic outlook on health crises and thus continue to further improve the understanding of crises interconnectedness, the group of expert coordinators gather regularly and often collaborate on activities and projects.
The Centre’s steering group, which consists of representatives from several KI departments, as well as external representatives, assures that the development and work of the Centre are conducted in accordance with its mission. It also contributes with advice and support for the Centre’s future advancement.
Finance administration is managed at the department of KI where the Director is employed (currently the Department of Global Public Health). To ensure transparency in the Centre’s operations vis-à-vis the hosting department, the Head of Administration at the Director’s department is appointed to the Centre’s steering group.
For the period 2022-04-06 to 2024-12-31, the members of the steering group are:
Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren, Department of Medicine, Huddinge (chairperson)
Lars I Eriksson, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
Anna Mia Ekström, Department of Global Public Health
Lars Engstrand, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology
Maria Eriksdotter, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society
Birgitta Henriques Normark, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology
Stefan Swartling Peterson, Department of Global Public Health
Ulrika Widegren, Professional Services
Background to establishing the Centre
KI formally initiated the Centre for Health Crises in the summer of 2021. The intention was to find a means to coordinate and further advance the research, educational efforts, and capabilities that were developed at KI during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centre was created to be able to act flexibly and quickly in the event of future health crises, as well as help to coordinate responses at KI in case of such crises. Just weeks after the Centre had become operational in February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the Centre had to quickly adapt and activate to face a potential health crisis of a very different kind.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for the creation of the Centre, the need for coordination when it comes to health crisis management is not new. Previous health crises, such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, shone a spotlight on the need for stronger and better – more resilient – health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that this is also essential in high-income countries, where health systems were exceptionally strained trying to maintain access to essential services while managing a surge of COVID-19 patients and vaccinating the population. Doubtlessly, transformative change is needed in order to better handle future pandemics and other health crises, be they sudden events such as extreme weather, conflicts or more slowly emerging hazards like antimicrobial resistance.