ISS - Istituto Superiore di Sanità

Istituto Superiore dilogo ISS170 Sanità

The Istituto Superiore di Sanità is the leading technical and scientific body of the Italian National Health Service. Its activities include research, clinical trials, control and training in public health; it also serves as a major national clearing-house for technical and scientific information on public health issues.

Research and trial
The Institute conducts scientific research in a wide variety of fields, from cutting-edge molecular and genetic research to population-based studies of risk factors for disease and disability. Research priorities are based on those set forth in the National Health Plan. The Institute is also involved in several major clinical trials, which are frequently conducted in cooperation with the Scientific Institutes for Research and Care (IRCCS) network and Hospitals.

Inspection, Monitoring and Certification
An important activity of the Institute, which is mandated by the Minister of Health or the Regions, is certification of the chemical and biological purity of drugs and vaccines, as well as inspection and quality control of medical and diagnostic devices and equipment, food products and packaging. It monitors trends in disease, mortality and other health factors and provides technical support for health-related environmental surveys and for investigations of epidemics and other public health problems at national, regional and local level. It also supervises the laboratories engaged in the testing of prohibited substances in sport and the national veterinary institutes. Finally, it has an important role in monitoring and coordinating blood transfusion services and plasma production in Italy.

Documentation, Information and Publications
The Institute serves as a major source of information relating to public health and biomedicine in Italy through online connections to national and international scientific databases and data banks. It also serves as the national reference centre for MEDLARS (MEDical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System), a comprehensive international data bank coordinated by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). The Institute produces numerous publications, including a quarterly peer-reviewed journal, technical reports, a monthly newsletter describing the Institute's major research activities, and a national epidemiological bulletin.

Training and Scientific Meetings
The Institute plans, implements and evaluates training activities in a wide variety of areas, with courses designed to address the needs of the National Health Service. It develops and tests innovative training methods, including web-based distance learning. Training is provided for various categories of professionals; methods range from short courses and hands-on workshops to more structured and formal courses at national and international level. The topics addressed include health service management and evaluation, epidemiology and biostatistics, training methods, laboratory techniques, diseases control and priority public health issues, and health promotion. The Institute also organises congresses, conferences, workshops and seminars for national and international participants on fundamental public health issues linked to its institutional activities and research. These events are often organised in cooperation with international organisations such as the European Union, specialised UN Agencies and non-governmental organisations with which the Institute maintains close relations.

International Activities
The Institute plans, implements and evaluates international health projects, ranging from cooperative research and development projects to humanitarian assistance. It actively promotes cooperation at three different levels of involvement: scientific partnerships with industrialised countries (USA, European partners, Japan); scientific and development projects in partnership with economies in transition (including China, South Africa, the Central Asian Republics and countries in Latin America, the Balkans and the Middle East); development partnerships in Africa and countries in turmoil, where humanitarian and technical assistance is provided in close collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, various UN Agencies and the World Bank, as well as the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Several members of the Institute serve on panels of experts for the Fund as well as on other international committees and commissions. Current projects include research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and poverty-related diseases, capacity-building for central health administrations, technology transfer in health management and technical support for national public health authorities, usually within the context of health care reform. There is growing interest and cooperation in the application of telematics to health issues, in keeping with the priorities recently established by the G8 and the Italian government.