On 11th and 12th October, the SPARKS Network gathered 42 network members from 15 different countries at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Several universities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and the International Labour Organization, were represented in the meeting.
Participants shared their research on how social protection can enhance health promotion and clinical care, as well as help mitigate the socioeconomic impact of diseases such as tuberculosis, COVID-19 and malaria in different regions of the world. The United Nations agencies presented the evolving global social protection policy landscape and emphasized the significant momentum for the field that has been created during the COVID-19 pandemic. They highlighted how the SPARKS Network has already contributed with important evidence for policy making and identified knowledge gaps that the network can help fill in the future.
One of the main outcomes of the meeting was the transition of the coordination function of the network to low- and middle-income countries. Partner institutions in Brazil, South Africa and Viet Nam will now jointly manage the secretariat of the network. Other partners, including KI, will act as network hubs with various focus. The meeting marked an important moment in the seven-year history of the SPARKS Network with the establishment of a new organizational structure and the further strengthening of research collaborations and partnership with UN agencies.