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Health economist Mierau on the ENLIGHT collaboration: ‘UG can become even bigger motor in the region’

30 June 2021
Jochen Mierau

As Professor of Public Health Economics and Scientific Director of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health (AJSPH), Jochen Mierau is no stranger to the UG. He is regularly featured in newspapers or on TV and deploys his knowledge in all sorts of diverging areas – one being the university-based collaborative ENLIGHT project, in which he is delving into ‘Health and Well-being’, one of the core topics. ‘International initiatives such as ENLIGHT make it possible for the UG to become an important motor in the region.’

How did you become involved in ENLIGHT?

‘I already knew of ENLIGHT for a while as I was also involved in its predecessor, U4Society. That was a university network that expanded, to encompass a number of universities, which then became ENLIGHT. In the autumn of 2019, I submitted a new request on behalf of this network and spoke to Cisca Wijmenga, among others. That’s how I became involved in the Health and Well-being topic.’

What role do you play, together with the AJSPH, within ENLIGHT?

‘On behalf of the UG, I am trying to give shape to the Health and Well-being topic within ENLIGHT and to develop educational activities, together with representatives of other universities. To this end, we have mapped out all of the interesting public health-related teaching programmes at the UG, as well as looking at our Summer Schools. In addition, we are looking to collaborate with partners and educational institutions in the region and are exploring the health challenges faced by different regions. These are activities that we were already engaging in at the AJSPH, but that we can now bring a step further together with other universities, thanks to ENLIGHT. For example, we would like to link a Summer School on data-driven health policy, which we were already setting up, to ENLIGHT.’

What could collaboration with other universities mean for the AJSPH, the UG and the region, in your opinion?

‘Before ENLIGHT was created, we already had international connections at the AJSPH, but we now have the opportunity to make contact with other universities abroad more easily. It is a great way to establish contact and ensures that we can strengthen our internationalization strategy. In addition, you can also apply for grants through the network. We have already received a grant together with the University of Göttingen. And ENLIGHT offers a good framework to work together with others within the region. When looking at the Northern Netherlands, I think that initiatives like ENLIGHT could help the UG to tackle regional challenges. Topics such as ageing or the availability of care also arise in the regions in which other universities are situated. ENLIGHT facilitates the exchange of knowledge between these regions, for example on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The virus is the same everywhere, but the approach differs per region. Regional partners can learn a lot from one another.’

What do you hope that ENLIGHT will make possible in the future?

‘I hope that next year, we will be able to organize the first real student exchanges, and that in five years, we will become a network of universities collaborating in all sorts of areas, such as teaching and societal problems. And also that by working internationally, we will have more regional impact. I hope that ENLIGHT can ensure a good balance to this end.’

Last modified:15 July 2021 5.03 p.m.
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