Keynote Speakers

Thursday, 16th of September 2021

Social Security in a Globalised World - Experiences and Concepts in the Swiss Context

Thomas Gächter, Prof. Dr. iur. 
Institute of Law, University of Zurich, Zurich CH

Abstract: The globalisation of the economy poses a growing challenge to national social security systems. Particularly in connection with digitalisation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure the social protection of all those involved in the economic process. The social security of the future will look different and will have to set different priorities compared to the current systems. The lecture will shed light on the Swiss perspective on these issues. Which approaches can be expanded on in the future, which systems no longer fit into a globalised world?

TOWARDS INTEGRATED HEALTH AND WORK POLICIES. First results from the implementation of an OECD Recommendation.

Dr Christopher Prinz
Senior Labour Market Policy Analyst and Leader of OECD’s «Mental Health and Work» Reviews

Abstract: Mental ill-health is a key challenge for education, social and labour market policy. The challenge results from the high prevalence and early onset of mental health problems, and the fact that it has long been neglected because of widespread stigma and misconceptions. Recognising the high costs of this neglect for people, employers and society, in 2015 OECD governments have endorsed a number of policy principles to achieve better social and economic outcomes for people with mental health problems. These policy principles were laid down in the "OECD Recommendation of the Council on Integrated Mental Health, Skills and Work Policy" ( This presentation will look at the question if, five years later, countries have been successful in promoting a more integrated policy stance and especially a stronger integration between health and employment policies.

Mental Health and Work: Challenges and Solutions for Assessing and Improving Work Capacity

Niklas Baer, PhD, Psychologist
WorkMed, Psychiatrie Baselland, Liestal CH

Abstract: Working problems, sick leaves or disability benefits due to mental ill-health have steadily increased over in past decades in most European countries. Because the prevalence of mental disorders has not changed in the same period, there must be other drivers for this development, e.g. an increased awareness of mental health problems, an improved access to the psychiatric service system, a changed behaviour in sick employees, or a reduced tolerance at the workplace. The presentation highlights some major challengeges of the different actors – the people with a mental health problem, the employers, the doctors, and the insurance systems - and provides some possible solutions

Migration, mental disorders and insurance medicine

Professor Ellenor Mittendorfer-Rutz
Head of Division of Insurance Medicine, Acting Head of Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Many European countries have experienced dramatic demographic changes due to increasing global migration. A considerable proportion of these migrants, particularly refugees, have traumatic experiences, placing them at an elevated risk of developing mental disorders, which in turn may lead to long-term work disability. Despite these recent trends, consideration of transcultural aspects in research on work disability is sparse. The presentation will show recent findings on patterns of and pathways to work disability due to mental disorders in migrant populations resettling in European countries. The need for a research field dealing with transcultural insurance medicine will be highlighted. 

INDEPENDENT MEDICAL EXAMINATION at 6 months sick leave in Norway. A randomized controlled trial and qualitative evaluations of stakeholders experiences.

Silje Maeland
Associate professor, phd

Abstract: Independent medical examinations (IME) entail evaluation of a sick listed workers physical or psychological medical condition by a medical practitioner who are required to present an independent opinion, representing neither the compensation insurer nor the injured worker’s interests. Every day 330 workers reach six months continuous sickness absence in Norway. The effect of IMEs on return to work have never been evaluated. To develop a knowledgebase, the Norwegian government ordered an effect evaluation of IME in 2015 asking the following research question: What is the effect of IME on return to work for workers sick listed for six months by their general practitioner in Norway.

Social security disability assessments: how to directly assess work capacity, and the challenges that remain

Ben Baumberg Geiger
Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent, UK

Abstract: There is a strong argument that social security disability assessments should directly assess claimants’ work capacity, rather than relying on proxies such as on functioning. However, there is little academic discussion of how such assessments can occur. Based on case studies of eight countries, I argue that these assessments take three forms: (i) “demonstrated assessments” (using claimants’ experiences in the labour market), (ii) “structured assessments” (matching functional requirements to workplace demands), and (iii) “expert assessments” (the judgement of skilled professionals). However, we must still develop our knowledge – and accept the limitations – of each way of directly assessing capacity.

Friday, 17th of September 2021

Persistent symptoms after COVID-19: the post-COVID-19 syndrome?

Dr. Anouk W. Vaes
Department of Research and Development, Ciro, NM Horn, Netherlands

Abstract: Recovery from COVID-19 can take weeks up to months in previously hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients. Although a large proportion recover fully, part of the patients experience persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, dyspnoea, chest tightness, headache and muscle pain. These persistent symptoms are associated with an impaired quality of life and seriously limit patients’ daily life, as patients experience functional limitations and impaired work productivity, or are even unable to return to work. Many of these so-called `long haulers´ or `long COVID patients´ feel unheard, perceive insufficient support from clinicians, and lack clearly defined healthcare pathways. Therefore, action is needed to improve the management and healthcare of these patients.

Using neuroscience to enhance personnel wellbeing and productivity

Professor Minna Huotilainen
Professor of educational sciences, neuroscientists, University of Helsinki, FI

Abstract: This talk discusses neuroscientific findings relevant to worklife. Research related to sleep, nutrition, or physical activity helps employers support the wellbeing of their personnel in long term. In contrast, even during one working day, research shows the benefits of short physical activity to cognitive functions. In addition, research on multitasking and task switching gives important understanding for the development of work strategies. Brain research on cognitive ergonomy covers areas of tools, programs, work arrangements as well as work spaces. Finally, the talk also discusses recent research on empathy skills, highly relevant for workplace wellbeing and leadership.

COVID-19 and rehabilitation: current evidence, and impact on services form a European and Italian perspective

Professor Stefano Negrini
Full professor, Department of Biomedical, Surgical and Dental Sciences, University "La Statale", Milan, Italy
Director Laboratory of Evidence Based Rehabilitation, IRCCS Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi, Milan, Italy

Abstract: The presentation will be two-fold: current rehabilitation evidence and impact on services of COVID-19. Cochrane Rehabilitation has launched the REH-COVER (REHabilitation COVID-19 Evidence-based Response) Action ( since March 2020 to systematically collect and make available to all the stakeholders the current evidence on the topic. Research questions have been developed with the World Health Organization Rehabilitation Programme and are at the base of the literature mapping updated monthly ( These services are available for free to the whole community. Since the start of the pandemic, the impact on rehabilitation services has been huge. We calculated (an published) that in the first lockdown up to 2.2 million people did not recive the rehabilitation services they needed. Now the situation has partly revocered, but the impact is still huge.

Socioeconomic outcomes in multiple sclerosis – consequence or tell-tale?

Jan Hillert
MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Abstract: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is chronic disease of the brain and spinal cord that, if untreated, often leads to devastating consequences for the individual, physically, psychologically and socially. 25 years after the introduction of costly disease modifying MS therapies we are starting to see a positive change at the population level with less disability and decreasing costs of illness. To optimize interventions, such as treatments, outcomes are needed that are patient centered, objective and data dense. Here, socioeconomic outcomes, as high level proxies for a biological event, a progressing brain disease, may help not only to direct resources but also to optimize their use.

Total Worker Health: a framework for achieving well-being

Paul A. Schulte
Ph.D., Division Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Abstract: Well-being is an overarching construct to address the impact on workers of the changing nature of work, the workforce, and the workplace. Total Worker Health® merges health protection and health promotion and treats the wholeness of workers. The future of work requires that enhanced perspective. An expanded focus for the occupational safety and health professions will help achieve Total Worker Health.

Multimorbidity as a Challenge of the 21st century and its Impact for Rehabilitation

Professor Wolfgang Seger
Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board, Federal Rehabilitation Council in Frankfurt, Wennigsen GE

Abstract: Multimorbidity is a highly prevalent phenomenon of growing public health impact in the 21st century. Multimorbidity is more than an addition of different diseases. It comprises a complex net of mutually influencing factors like physical functioning, mental well-being, social relationships and environmental factors. People with multimorbidity are more sensitive for contextual factors and need multimodal and multidisciplinary support with attention to the patient`s resources. Due to the increasing proportion of multimorbid people in acute medicine the established rehabilitation system is also coming into focus. Manifold action fields are proposed as being crucial for the future of rehabilitation.

What are the „real“ challenges of future medicine and health insurance?

Professor Dr Joachim Breuer
President of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and Prof. Insurance Medicine, Univ. Luebeck GE

Abstract: Future medicine and health insurance are facing undisputedly dramatic changes. It is thus no surprise that conferences are focussing on issues like digitalization, artificial intelligence, electronic health records or new technical options for treatments. But is this not just a view from the „inside“, too much concentrated of what medicine and doctors could and health insurance should do? Are there no (other) factors and (e.g. political) developments „outside of medicine“, which have a comparable or even higher impact on the future? The presentation seeks to give a different perspective of what is driving the future of medicine and the health insurance area.

Work disability prevention through interdisciplinary collaboration

Kari-Pekka Martimo
Director, Foresight and Research in WDP, at Ilmarinen Pension Insurance Company, Helsinki FI

Abstract: Work disability (WD) is a complex problem. Its prevention calls for multiple disciplinary approaches focusing on risks at population level (primary), on incipient work disability (secondary), and on return to work (tertiary prevention). In addition to the individual and workplace issues,risks related to health care and social security systems can delay return to work and even induce WD. In collaboration between various actors, the concept of WD should be clarified, as divergent emphases might hamper successful prevention. Solutions to service coordination, work modification and health-focused practices will be discussed togehter with proposals for improvement.