Consortium of National Institutes for Health and Wellbeing (SOTERKO) was formed to improve the quality and efficiency of reseach and development among three institutes under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland. The activities include expert networking, joint research and development programs. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority participate in the consortium. In a recent resolution on comprehensive reform of research institutes and research funding, deeper, network-based collaboration was required, crossing the boundaries of government agencies and public bodies. The activities begun under, e.g., SOTERKO will be developed and expanded in order to improve the quality, productivity and impact of research and consultancy.
SOTERKO organized its first research seminar day on 23rd of September, 2013. The event was opened by Pekka Puska (Director General of the National Institute for Health and Welfare) and Tapani Hellstén (Deputy CEO of KEVA). The seminar takes place in KEVA, former Local Government Pensions Institution.
Raine Hermans, Ph.D., is the director of strategic intelligence at Tekes, focused on impact analysis, innovation research funding, and knowledge management. He has co-authored a book on "Medical Innovation and Government Intervention". Hermans gave a talk on Finnish innovation system in general and discussed issues related to health and wellbeing services. He discussed in detail a model on innovation cluster on health care applications, referring to Hermans, Kulvik and Löffler (2009). The model includes unique factors of production, a learn-and-let-go strategy, supporting industries and a domestic market laboratory.
The results of different SOTERKO consortium projects were described in a number of presentations. Eira Viikari-Juntura (Research Professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) presented a research program on chronic diseases and working life. Marianna Virtanen (Research Professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) provided additional details. Päivi Kurttio (Head of Laboratory, Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK) a program on risk management. Research on risks includes, for instance, research on indoor air, risks of mining, and risk communication.
Markku Sainio (Adjunct professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) discussed in detail issues related to idiopathic environmental intolerance. A central problem is that there is a large number of potential risk factors as well as symptoms related to the sensitivity. Sainio's focus was in the adaptive processes that may explain why in some cases the fear of the risk creates even a greater problem than the risk itself. In the emotional response, amygdalae have a central role. If a perceived risk is automatically associated with an adverse reaction, dealing with the situation becomes complicated. Future research is needed to help in creating interventions that cover both careful analysis of environmental risk factors as well as deal with adaptive emotional processes that may become the primary concern, for example, because of potentially unnecessary avoidance behaviors. In the first task, modern data analysis and mining methods are importance whereas in the second task cognitive modeling techniques can be useful.
Timo Honkela (aalto University) presented comments on the report and gave some optimistic insights on the use of modern and emerging computing technologies in the area of health and wellbeing.
The introductions to SOTERKO programs continued by presentations by coordinators Päivi Hämäläinen (National Institute for Health and Welfare) on digital resources, Päivi Husman (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) on young adults and and Sakari Karvonen (National Institute for Health and Welfare) on inequality. Research professor Jukka Vuori (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) also discussed this area in detail including studies on how to prevent exclusion among young people.