Introducing... ATLANTES

2019; Volume 20, No 1, January
Principal researcher Dr. Carlos Centeno

Introducing... ATLANTES

A Research Program in Spain that Transcends Boundaries

ATLANTES is a palliative care research team developed under the assumption that it is possible to promote a positive attitude in society and in medicine regarding the attention to and care of patients with advanced and terminal illnesses. It pursues its research from the perspective of human dignity and professional care, including support and respect for the natural course of the illness, and attention to the spiritual and emotional aspects of patient care. ATLANTES an IAHPC Institutional Member since 2017.


ATLANTES: What’s in a name

Atlas, as the first cervical vertebra of the spine is known, integrates the head with the body. Atlas was also a mythological Titan who took the weight of the heavens upon his shoulders. ATLANTES has also undertaken a huge task, the search for an effective integration of medicine, the humanities, and social sciences.

ATLANTES was also chosen in recognition of its Atlas projects, a fundamental accomplishment by the group.


Based in Pamplona, Spain, ATLANTES is part of the Institute for Culture and Society (University of Navarra), a research center for the humanities and social sciences whose aim is to search for answers to some of the principal challenges of today's world through rigorous academic research.

When ATLANTES began in 2012, it comprised two part-time researchers and one research assistant. Today, its multidisciplinary team is: five principal researchers, five visiting fellows, 10 internal and 15 external collaborators, a program manager, two PhD students, and two research assistants. It is an international team from diverse backgrounds, in medicine, social work, sociology, geography and history.

‘We are committed to better understand and communicate the need for palliative care, as we see it as a crucial challenge of today's world,’ says principal researcher Dr. Carlos Centeno. ‘For this purpose, we have focused on three strategic research areas.’

Intangible Values

‘Firstly, we conduct studies on the intangible aspects of care, such as: the role that gratitude plays for those working in palliative care, the patient and their family’s experience of living with advanced disease, the wish to die when disease is advanced, the promotion of palliative care, and the historical roots of palliative care in Spain through the vision of its pioneers.’

Global Development

‘Secondly, we are studying the global development of palliative care by analyzing the development of specific services and the vitality of the palliative care discipline. Material results of these studies include production of the 2019 EAPC Atlas of Palliative Care in Europe (the Atlas’s third edition), collaborating on a new world map of palliative care based on 2017 statistics, and studying indicators of international palliative care development. This last work is being carried out in partnership with the World Health Organization and the IAHPC.’

The Message

‘Last but not least, a new phase of ethnographic observation with palliative care professionals is analyzing how to pass the message of palliative care’s essential values to society. At the same time, we are promoting the teaching of palliative care in university, through comparative studies on undergraduate palliative care teaching in Europe.’

Objectives are being reached

‘This past year, these three strategic areas of study have matured and matched their overall objectives,’ says Centeno. ATLANTES has accomplished initiatives on the intangible aspects of palliative care, is becoming a reference in international palliative care development with publication of the African Palliative Care Association Atlas of Palliative Care in Africa and the Atlas of Palliative Care in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, and is spreading both the message and education of palliative care.

‘We have promoted the education of palliative medicine particularly at the undergraduate level through a number of mapping studies, studying the experiences of students who have attended palliative care courses, as well as exploring and testing innovative teaching methods, always making the most of our previous experience of several years teaching in the University of Navarra Medical School.

‘Besides, we have consolidated ourselves as a research team with knowledge on qualitative methodologies, learning from expert collaborators, publishing in highly demanding journals, as well as organizing courses and seminars on qualitative methods.

‘All these successes have attracted the attention from different groups of palliative care professionals and researchers.’

The overall goal of improving care endures

‘Future goals include growing and improving as a research team and, especially, transferring the knowledge we generate to professionals, society, policymakers, and stakeholders involved in palliative care progress,’ he concludes. ‘We have a clear objective of engaging with the public, of improving how palliative care is seen and understood.’

Learn more about ATLANTES in the IAHPC Global Directory of Programs and Services.


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