When in early 2020 suddenly more or less all of Europe found itself on lockdown, a group of experts from the NPA programme area decided to work together to better understand what can be done in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The NPA COVID-19 response group is an informal group of experts who have participated in, or led an NPP or NPA e-health project.


The group was established by Dr. David Heaney, lead partner of several NPP and NPA healthcare projects, and quickly gathered a large group of interested health experts based in the Northern Periphery and Arctic programme area. The group currently gathers more then 50 experts from almost all NPA regions, Canada, the USA and New Zealand. (Update: 139 members in October 2020)

All members believe that working together is a valuable approach, much needed in this time of crisis.  

The following areas of expertise are covered:

  1. clinicians, including rural GPs, and public health specialists
  2. health service managers,
  3. experts in digital technology, mental health, and social science   

The aim of this group is to increase the understanding of the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on the NPA regions, share and analyse data and look at better or worse practices to learn from. They collaborate on the basis that although they may compete for the same funding at a later stage, at this moment, cooperation is more important.

The group looks at ways in which cooperation can effectively help addressing the multiple challenges posed by this crisis. Five themes are being explored, where joint efforts could be productive:  

Clinical aspects

Comparing the different response measures taken by the respective countries, map the rate of infections and observe differences in comparison to national and local COVID strategies; e.g. in rural vs urban areas

Health and well being

The impact of self-isolation on people and their mental health – elderly people and other vulnerable groups who already suffer isolation will be impacted even worse from this situation, but there is a wider effect on the entire population which shall be investigated

Technology solution

What e-health solutions already exist and what should be put in place?  How can technology be brought to those people who need it and/or don’t know how to use it? What are the technologies with the lowest threshold? How can we fast track innovation?

Citizen engagement/Community response

Small peripheral communities are more self-sufficient, what lessons can they share?

Economic impact

What will be the impact on the public health system now and next year? In what ways have our societies and economies been transformed already? And how will they be transformed in the medium and long term?


A good few of you will know Lee Heaney, who has worked on many NPP/NPA projects over the years. Sadly, her mum, Pat Dowie, died on 21st April 2020 from COVID-19.

On 16th July 2020, Dr David Heaney suddenly passed away. Our deepest condolences go out to Lee and the family. David has been a key figure for the NPA programme for many years. He showed a lot of vision and leadership setting up the NPA COVID-19 Response Group.

The work of this group is dedicated to the victims of Covid-19 and to the memory of Dr. David Heaney.


NPA COVID-19 response running projects

In spring 2020 the NPA Monitoring committee (MC) has agreed to support projects under a dedicated "Covid-19 Call for project applications" which run from 20th May to 30th September 2020.

The programme received 19 applications in total. Of these, 7 have been approved covering all themes identified by the response group, plus an "Emerging theme" for project ideas that fit in the rationale of the call, but do not fall within the themes outlined at the time the Call has been openedand. In addition, an overarching project "CoRE" has been funded, to coordinate the work of the thematic projects and collate the information and learnings produced by the projects.

Below is description of each funded project. Further news and relevant information are published on the CoRE website.

The NPA COVID-19 response CORE project will collate the information and learnings from all the thematic projects: Clinical aspects, Health and well being, Technology solutions, Citizen engagement, Economic impacts and any Emerging themes. 

The project will contribute to changes sought by the programme by working together at a transnational level to exchange knowledge which will assist in the responses to the virus at local and national levels.

Through a flexible and dynamic Management Team consortium this project will develop and utilise the NPA Covid-19 response group, support the thematic projects, bring together representation from all NPA partner countries, raise awareness of the thematic work being carried out and create a packaged output of new knowledge.  This document will detail all new knowledge obtained through the thematic projects, which will in turn inform our target groups,  and the future NPA projects and the new NPA programme.

Contact: Ms Frances Hines, NHS Highland

Partners: University of Eastern Finland

Associated partners: University of New England (Maine), USA

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), has had a very significant impact on the NPA region as a whole. However, this experience of the pandemic has been strikingly different in comparison to more densely populated regions and particularly urban settings. This is not apparent unless geographic specific breakdowns in terms of cases and deaths associated with COVID-19 are examined and interpreted from a public health and clinical perspective.

Our clinical team, in collaboration with international colleagues, has been publishing daily comparative data across EU and NPA countries since the beginning of the outbreak on #COVIDWATCHIRL (averaging 30,000 impressions daily since March) and the web In “COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA”, through a collaboration with clinical teams across the NPA region, we will provide regularly updated comparative data with clinical interpretation between those NPA and non-NPA regions on a country by country basis: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT.

Check  for regular updates

We will also retrospectively map the public health responses and interventions used by different NPA regions and countries in the first wave of the COVID-19 and explore how these measures have influenced the individual pandemic curves of these countries: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE. The first objective of any response to this pandemic must be to protect lives, but past that point the ultimate objective must be keep COVID-19 virus activity in society as low as possible and find a way for countries and regions to return safely to economic and social functioning. This is vital in order to minimise further collateral damage from COVID-19 for individuals and populations.

The collaborative transnational data collection infrastructure COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA will deliver, has the potential to be vitally important to inform countries and regions as they try to navigate their way through the lifting of restrictions in the next phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact: Mr Liam Glynn, Univeristy of Limerick

Partners: University of Tromsø The Arctic University of Norway, Akureyri Hospital (Iceland), Lakehead University, Northern Ontario School of Medicine (Canada).

Associated Partners: University of Eastern Finland, Ulster University, NHS Highland, University of New England (USA)

The indirect consequences of Covid-19 on the mental health of the general population will be considerable.

First, anxiety, depression, alcohol misuse and suicidality are likely to increase in the general population. Grief, loneliness and isolation will play a role in all of these. Children and older people may be particularly at risk. Second, such impacts will be amplified for already vulnerable groups who rely on other people and organisations for care and support.  However, the voluntary and community sectors have been devastated by the loss of finances and staff, and the dismantling of infrastructure.

Most governments will have moved quickly to anticipate the wide range of mental health impacts and to identify potentially mitigating solutions. Thus, while covid response committees and working groups have been established across the NPA and other regions, collecting information and formulating plans, little is known about their content and the strategic priorities.  

The public health initiatives across the NPA, evidence of good practice and respective monitoring systems will be systematically identified and collected by Re-MIND. Some will be generic, others will be tailored to local needs and/or will have innovative aspects that can be applied elsewhere. There will be considerable  benefits for countries and regions in sharing these strategic plans across the NPA.  

The thematic areas are interrelated, requiring interdisciplinary solutions and input from academia, health and technology. Re-MIND will undertake (1) a rapid literature review (2) collate strategic plans and policy documents from national and regional public health departments; (3) network with and interview key stakeholder groups and experts across the NPA; and (4) compile a report on our findings. 

Contact: Prof. Gerry Leavey, Ulster University

Partners: Skellefteå Municipality (Sweden), Norwegian Institute of Public Health, University of Eastern Finland, Limerick City and County Council, Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, NHS Western Isles (Scotland)

Associated Partners: Institute of Public Health in Ireland, University of Moncton (Canada), Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland)

There has been an upsurge in use of technology solutions across the NPA, solutions that have been attempting to reduce effects of COVID-19.  These include attempting to reduce demand for other services, protection of vulnerable people (apps for wellbeing), using technology for test/trace of cases and technology to enable social distancing. 

In TechSolns we will report on usage (what exists) and its effectiveness across the NPA; sharing good practice.

TechSolns will gather information, make recommendations and assess how e-health/technology solutions have been put in place during lockdown; also how they have been brought to population groups who need it/may not know how to use it.  

Technology best practice will be studied; technology innovation with low threshold which could be (or has been) fast tracked for future waves/pandemics. This will help form coherent responses to COVID-19, ensure NPA is prepared and provide lessons for the next NPA programme.

Contact: Prof. Joan Condell, Ulster University

Partners: Nemlia (Faroe Islands), University of Oulu (Finland), Centre for Rural Medicine – Region Västerbotten (Sweden)

Associated Partners: Medicines Optimisation Innovation Centre (Northern Ireland), University of Limerick (Ireland), Healthcare Analytics Limited (Northern Ireland), INTERACTIVE HEALTH LTD (Scotland), Kraydel Ltd (Northern Ireland), Centria Univesity of Applied Sciences (Finland), Norwegian Centre for Rural Medicine, NHS Highland (Scotland), Akureyri Hospital (Iceland), Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Wyld Networks Ltd (Northern Ireland)

The CRR-COVID19 project addresses Theme “D” of the NPA COVID 19 response call - "Citizens engagement - Community response".

The project aims to examine the impact, resilience, and responses to COVID19 in the NPA area on a community level. The CRR -COVID19 project is structured into 4 community groups (CG):

  • Citizens' responses including human rights considerations.
  • Families and schooling, their readiness for tele-solutions.
  • Health-care providers and user readiness for tele-solutions and practical arrangement to secure safe healthcare.
  • Regional - county authorities assessing the impact of COVID19 and policy responses aiming at sustainable recovery.

The four community groups will explore through tailored community questionnaires leading to insights, best practices utilised during the Covid-19 pandemic in the NPA area and make recommendations for future NPA.

Contact: Ninetta Chaniotou Regional Council of Kainuu

University of Oulu, Finland
Rural Area Partnership, Northern Ireland
NHS Western Isles, Scotland
Leitrim County Council, Ireland
British Red Cross, Shetland, Scotland
Baltic Sea Cluster Development Centre, Denmark.

Associated Partners:
Derry City & Strabane District Council, Northern Ireland
Faroese Agricultural Agency, Faroe Islands

The COVID & Economics project addresses Theme "E"  of the NPA COVID 19 response call - "Economic Impact".

This project examines the economic impacts of and responses to Covid. It captures innovations and transformations that have taken place as a result and sets out a roadmap and recommendations for positive action and policy to create more sustainable and resilient regional/local communities/economies that deliver greater health & wellbeing, and also social, cutural and economic benefits for peoples across the NPA.

The project will analyse the economics of health service delivery and give special attention to peripheral areas and to young people and entreprenerus (up to age 40), to gain their unique perspectives and innovations on Covid and sustainable development. It will also add a human rights perspective on the inequities of health systems/economies, including for indigenous communities within the NPA.

This diversity will ensure the project integrates many different perspectives on economic impacts and responses to Covid (fitting for the complex challenges Covid has caused), including comparative transnational analysis, while remaining rooted in realities on the ground. In this way the project recommendations for redesigning regional/local communities/economies will be both holistic and practical.

Contact: Thomas Fisher, Community Development Lens, Scotland

Partners: Community Development Lens, Scotland; Nordregio, Sweden;University of Eastern Finland; Department of Social Sciences, Finland; Baltic Sea Cluster Development Centre, Denmark; University of Prince Edward Island, Institute of Islands Studies, Canada

Associated Partners: Ulster University, Northern Ireland; University of Limerick, Ireland; Mid Sweden University, Sweden

The AET project addresses Theme “F ” of the NPA COVID 19 response call – Emerging Themes.

The project full title is:  "Analysing emerging themes in the ‘new’ environment of living with COVID-19, through the twin lenses of care homes and university campuses".

This surge of the spread of COVID-19 primarily amoung young people in recent weeks all over Europe has become a worrying emerging theme. Others include: unemployment, digital and broadband "poverty" as well as a trend to inreased alcohol consumption, larger unsafe social gatherings and a fear of using public transport.

The AET project will examine and describe these and other emerging themes through the twin lenses of the experiences of care home staff, university staff and students and how that may be generalised to society as a whole through an analysis of the NPA Covid-19 themes of clinical aspects, health and wellbeing, technology solutions, citizen engagement/community response and economic impacts.

Contact: Lee Heaney, NHS Highland, Scotland

Partners: NHS Highland, Research Development and Innovation department, Scotland; University of Ulster, Faculty of Computing, Northern Ireland; Tampere University, The Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care, Finland; Northlands University, Sweden; Highland Health Ventures Ltd, Scotland

Associated Partners: Interactive Health Ltd, Scotland; University of New England, USA; Wyld Networks, Scotland; Castle hill Care Home, Scotland; University of Limerick, School of Medicine, Ireland; Nemlia LLC, Faroe Islands; Akureyri Hospital, Iceland; The Arctic University of Norway, Norway; University of Oulu, Finland; University of Greenland, Ilisimatusarfik , Greenland