What: This Strategic Research Program (SRP) addresses challenges around serious illness care, palliative care (PC) and the end of life through stringent research.
Why: Over the past decades, serious illness care and palliative care have received increasing attention from researchers and policy makers. However, the challenges remain substantial. Some numbers illustrate this. In a country like Belgium (11 million inhabitants) it is estimated that every year between 50,000 and 82,000 people will die with preceding palliative care needs, about 600,000 family caregivers provide care to a person with serious illness, and about 1million people will experience bereavement loss of a family member. Moreover, living and dying with serious illness also undergoes continuous changes, for instance due to more people reaching old age and becoming ill from dementia, multi-morbidity, and frailty, but also due to innovations in terms of medications and treatments that can offer new hopes for possible cures or life-prolongation.
Currently, some of the important questions for serious illness care and palliative care include:
1) how can we, in a context of scarce resources, ascertain that everyone in need will have access to appropriate care for serious illness or palliative care;
2) how can we integrate palliative care approaches earlier into the management of illness and how can we spread the specific approaches, skills and ideas of palliative care across the entire healthcare system;
3) and how can we broadly increase the capacity (e.g. knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors, self-efficacy) for patients, family caregivers and the community at large to address the challenges around serious illness, dying and grieving?
How: This SRP program aims to conduct high-quality research in Belgium, Europe and beyond that addresses these current and future challenges through three specific research programs: 1) Public health & palliative care, 2) Ageing & palliative care, 3) Palliative care for People with Cancer. It also pays attention to creating impact beyond the academic community so that those most concerned eventually (i.e. citizens, family carers, patients, healthcare professionals) will benefit from the research findings.
By whom: the SRP program is conducted within the multidisciplinary End-of-Life Care Research Group. The three programs are implemented by a staff of over 50 FTE researchers and led by top experts within the domain.