Helsinki Metropolitan Area cities and the new Max Planck Center cooperate in studying the root causes of inequality

The new Max Planck – University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health (MaxHel Center) focuses on health research from the perspective of social inequality. Founded in July, the center’s official opening will be held from 23 to 24 October. The activities are co-funded by the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation and the University of Helsinki.
The new Max Planck Center produces information to understand the root causes of inequality. Photo: Mikael Kuitunen.
The new Max Planck Center produces information to understand the root causes of inequality. Photo: Mikael Kuitunen.

The research center forms a cutting-edge demographic research cluster with scientific work that will have a societal impact. The Max Planck Center produces information on the mechanisms behind health inequality and how to combat it, thereby contributing to a more sustainable society.

“I am very happy that the University of Helsinki got a Max Planck Research Center. A better understanding of health inequalities is important for Helsinki to address the root causes early enough and target the city’s services to reduce negative development,” says Juhana Vartiainen, Mayor of Helsinki.

“Reducing wellbeing inequalities and preventing segregation is a strategically important goal for Vantaa. Wellbeing inequalities are also reflected in health inequalities, and it is important to study them. Though health and social services have been transferred to the wellbeing services counties, promoting wellbeing and health is still the responsibility of cities and municipalities. Therefore, the new research unit starts at an interesting turning point,” says Pekka Timonen, Mayor of Vantaa.

“Investing in health is an investment in the city’s future. Based on the research data, we can collaborate with the Western Uusimaa Wellbeing Services County to promote Espoo residents’ long-term wellbeing. From the perspective of social inequality, the data also helps us to develop the living environment and safety in Espoo,” says Jukka Mäkelä, Mayor of Espoo.

Health inequalities are growing globally

Socio-economic health inequalities are found in all countries, and they have increased over the last 30 years. The Max Planck Research Center assesses the causes of long-term changes in health inequalities and studies the impact of intergenerational effects on the continuity of health inequalities as well as the causal effects of social factors. The center also studies the combined effects of social factors and genetic predisposition on health and develops methods for health inequality research.

The Max Planck Foundation is an internationally renowned science funder with centres that support cutting-edge research in collaboration with the world’s top universities. The MaxHel Center in Helsinki is the first Max Planck Research Center at a Finnish university. The research center has been established for an initial period of five years, with funding of EUR 6 million. The Finnish funders of the center include the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, the Max Planck Foundation, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, and the University of Helsinki Faculty of Social Sciences.