National Institute for Health and Welfare (Finland)
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The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL, in Finnish: Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos) is a Finnish research and development institute operating under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. THL was formed on 1 January 2009, with the merger of the National Public Health Institute of Finland (KTL) and the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES). It is the biggest expert organisation under the ministry and its most important source of consultation regarding scientific knowledge.
Scope of THL
THL’s scope of activity includes both public health and social welfare. The Institute aims at identifying synergy opportunities not only in the collaboration between social welfare and health care, but also in applying research and the knowledge generated with this research.
- promoting the welfare and health of the population
- preventing diseases and social problems
- developing social and health care activities and services
THL’s main office is located in Helsinki. The Institute also has satellite offices in Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere, Turku and Vaasa. THL has a total staff of about 1300. THL’s annual budget is about 100 million euros, of which about one third comes through funding sources other than the State budget. In addition, the following State institutions are subordinate to THL: state mental hospitals (in Kuopio and Vaasa), and state residential schools.
Professor Juhani Eskola is the Director General of THL. The Assistant Directors General, heading the four divisions are: Marina Erhola (Health and Social Services), Terhi Kilpi (Health Protection), Marja Vaarama (Welfare and Health Policies), and Erkki Vartiainen (Welfare and Health Promotion).
THL functions as a governmental research and development institute which has official functions based in law. Research and development are usually intertwined. Own research generates new knowledge, but also makes it easier to absorb innovations from international science networks, and the institute then applies it for new development. On the other hand, it monitors the welfare and health of the population, as well as factors causing problems, and develops and promotes measures to improve the situation. This work often leads to new research demands. Thus the aim is high-quality research maintaining close contacts to international research networks, but keeping in mind the practical applications.
THL comprises 14 departments belonging to four divisions. Most of the expenses are covered by the Government through state budget, but about a third of activities are paid from other sources, mainly competed research funding. Important sources are the Academy of Finland, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Framework Programs of the European Union, National Institutes of Health (USA), and ministries through their own budgets. Total budget for 2010 was about €94 million, 68% from the State budget, 27% from outside funding sources, and 5% from chargeable services.
The predecessors of THL have been responsible for vaccinations in Finland for almost a century (see National Public Health Institute of Finland). THL is active in research on vaccines, and also gives recommendations to the ministry to acquire vaccines for the public vaccination programs, monitors adverse events of vaccines, maintains certain statistics and so on. THL also does contract work for pharmaceutical and food industries. A partial source of income is clinical vaccine trials, including funds from the vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. The legality of THL's close ties with vaccine manufactures was questioned by some parents and NGOs after unexpected side effects of H1N1 "swine flue" vaccines in 2009 and 2010. The case was investigated by the Justice Chancellor of Finland, and no wrongdoings were found. Moreover, the Government and funding agencies have encouraged increased collaboration with companies.
THL is international, and engages in extensive international co-operation. There is expert collaboration and national participation e.g. in the United Nations and UN authorities (World Health Organisation), European Union (DG SANCO, ECDC), and many international associations (e.g. IANPHI). The researchers of the institute are active in many scientific organisations, there are global activities in health and welfare, European and Nordic collaboration, and co-operation with neighbouring areas.
THL home page http://www.thl.fi/en
- Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
- Act on the National Institute for Health and Welfare 668/2008
- THL home page
- YLE News 17 November 2010: Ties Between Big Pharma and THL Draw Complaints
- Helsingin Sanomat, August 15, 2011
- Working group appointed by the Academy of Finland, 2005: Long-term and dynamic partnerships. Research co-operation and researcher training between universities, research institutes and business companies.