Less than one week is left before the European Elections, and the future of EU health policy is still at stake during the renewal of the Commission! It seems that calling for more health at EU level is not a monopoly of the public health NGOs anymore. There are various, so-called multi-stakeholder initiatives, including the corporate sector calling basically for the same. When oil and water, public and private interests meet, it is begging for the question: is there a common goal and if yes, is there a shared objective which can bring different organisations together?
It seems that the danger of health disappearing from the EU level is so real that it initiated several campaigns aiming for keeping it. Health is an area which is often confused with national healthcare systems and which is traditionally considered as a member state competence only. Well, the reality is much more complex than that. Actually, there is a common element in all initiatives: the vast majority of Europeans, about 70% of them want more EU action on health according to Eurobarometer surveys. People do not care about legal analyses, they just want action. People want safer toys, less chemicals in food and the environment, cleaner air, healthier food, affordable medicines, an accessible healthcare system at abroad as well as at home and the list can be continued as there are endless initiatives where the EU brings health improvements.
But what are those initiatives calling for more health at EU level exactly? There are at least four of them identified here.
Started as a reaction to the Future of Europe white paper presented in 2017 by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, which included, in the 5 outlined scenarios, the option to “do less” on some policy areas, the EU4health campaign aims to ensure that EU action on health remains strong after 2020.
EU4Health brings together organisations that share the vision of a Europe where all people are as healthy as they can be throughout their lives. The 7 key asks to the European Commission are outlined in a joint statement released in April 2019, still available for endorsement. Over 50 organisations have currently shown their support, and the numbers are rising.
All Policies for a Healthy Europe is an intersectoral initiative that aims to ensure that citizen’s health and well-being be a core priority for Europe and a strategic objective for the next Commission.
They see health and well-being as crucial contributors to a new and stronger economic model: one that encompasses more than just GDP and fiscal rules, and which targets inclusive growth and sustainable development.
They focus on the inextricable links between: healthy societies, a healthy environment, and healthy systems. And we embrace the potential of data and digital technologies that improve well-being. Those are cornerstones of the Healthy Europe Manifesto.
This initiative is made possible by sponsorship of Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft and by knowledge partnership of various organizations.
Knowledge Partners contribute to the strategic direction of the initiative, providing data and guidance on content, and input on political and communications activities. Knowledge Partners should align with initiative values, have a positive public perception and be active in the initiative’s focus areas (healthy society, healthy systems, healthy environment, and digital health).
3. “Patient Access Partnership” (PACT)
The Patient Access Partnership (PACT) is a patient-led multi-stakeholder network bringing together patients, the medical and public health community, industry and the European and member states policy makers and institutions, in order to develop and move forward on innovative solutions to reduce inequities in access to quality healthcare in the EU. The Patient Access Partnership is open to all stakeholders with an interest in health care in the EU.
PACT’s ‘Statement on the Future of Health in the European Union’ focuses on the need for EU policy to address all common health challenges, to ensure the provision of high-quality healthcare for all people across the Union and to embrace healthcare as a basic human and social right. It also calls for the appointment of a Vice-President for Health in the next College of Commissioners.
4. “EU Health Coalition” – Vision4Health
The EU Health Coalition has been initiated by the pharmaceutical industry. Citizens across Europe and our healthcare systems are facing unprecedented challenges from an ageing population, and increased prevalence of chronic disease driving rising demand on services. At the same time, rapidly advancing science is leading us into a new era of innovation from genomics to data analytics.
The EU Health Coalition is a multi-stakeholder initiative looking at how we map the future of healthcare in Europe, making the most of the innovation at our fingertips, what is the role of the European Union in addressing these challenges and critically, how can different sectors converge to deliver the best outcomes for patients in Europe?
They have co-created a set of principles that outline their vision for health in Europe and introduced them at the first ever EU Health Summit in November 2018. They are set out to work together beyond the event to introduce our vision to other key stakeholders and the incoming European Commission and Parliament and to keep the conversation going.
Read the press release here: Stronger together for a healthier Europe.
What am I standing for? – Transparency discaimer
Transparency is key! It is timely here for me to make a statement to clarify my role as it is not indifferent what is my involvement in the above mentioned initiatives. Well, I am one of the initiators and I must say, the main contributors to the EU4Health campaign. I am involved in a way of so-called ‘knowledge partnership’ through my organisation in the All Policies for Health campaign which means that I contribute actively to that campaign, too. Concerning PACT, my status is being observer through my organisation where I give a kind of external support. Guess what: I am not involved in the pharmaceutical industry initiated EU Health Vision project.
Vice-President for Health?
One of the common elements of all of the above listed initiatives is a call for a Vice-President for Health. There are differences here and there (the EU!Health NGO initiative is calling for both a dedicated health Commissioner and a Vice-President for sustainable well-being which includes several portfolios such as consumer protection, social policy, environment and health) but the message is clear: health must be a political priority. While you can argue and interpret what would be the mandate of such a Vice President for Health, it must include in my opinion a broader responsibility. We cannot ignore the legal facts and a Vice President on purely healthcare is just not possible. But health prevention and protection needs a cross sectoral approach which needs an overall responsibility. Let’s imagine it will happen! Then, it will be one of the most important positions. Therefore, we can assume that it will be appealing enough for a big member state to apply for it. And it will be a win-win situation both for the EU and the people.
One week to go to vote for health
Well, if health is so popular and important, what can we do about it? Certainly an awful lot of things depending on our personal network but there is one clear and concrete action all of us – being European citizens – can certainly do: we can dedicate time this week-end, go for the ballot polls and cast our vote in whichever country of the EU28 we are allowed to vote and put our vote for more health. And this is exactly what I am going to do: this time I’m voting for health.
Will you also vote for more health this week-end during the European elections?