The European Commission emphasises in several policy documents that investing in health from an early age can contribute to the creation of a healthy, productive population and support healthy ageing.
A significant number of Commission Communications and policy initiatives also deal with tackling obesity, diet and physical activity, as well as reducing harm from alcohol and tobacco. Furthermore, mental health appears to be a growing area of concern and visibility.
The challenge of health inequalities is mainly addressed in one specific Communication Solidarity in Health, which has laid out a framework for subsequent EU-level actions focused specially on the issue. In 2013, the Commission issued a report on health inequalities to analyse the scale of the problem and what measures have been taken to reduce inequalities as a response to the Communication.
Health inequalities, though not specifically dealt with as an objective in the Third EU Health Programme (2014-2020), is described as an overarching and central. However, worth noting is that fostering supportive environments for health, taking into account the ‘health in all policies’ principle is one of the four overarching objectives of the Programme.
The Commission’s Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion (SIP) and its accompanying staff working documents highlight the need to invest in people’s health. For example, Investing in Health recognises that health strongly influences labour market participation. Investing in Children highlights that children need to have universal access to affordable, accessible and quality primary healthcare services in order to be able to attain the best possible level of physical and mental health, and that investments in early childhood are likely to bring substantial benefits over the life course. Bearing in mind children’s vulnerabilities, especially at early ages, it is also important to invest in education and early intervention services that support and empower them and their families to make lifestyle choices that will improve their health outcomes.
There are various different stakeholders (including scientists, medical experts and health professionals) interested in public health issues. This opens doors for the creation of alliances for advocacy, and taking into account the harmful effects of poor diet, lack of physical exercise, tobacco, alcohol and other important factors impacting on the health of children in early years. A number of EU agencies in the field of health support EU policies, and the Commission works with external experts to further improve its understanding of how EU action impacts on health and health systems. There are several platforms for stakeholder engagement. The Social Protection Committee (SPC), which is an EU advisory policy committee where the Commission and member states co-operate and discuss key social issues such as social protection systems, long-term care and pensions, also deals with healthcare.
- The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO)
- European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
- Committee of the Regions (CoR)
- Health Attachés
- Peer Reviews
- European Innovative Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing
- Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform
- Independent expert panel to provide advice on effective ways of investing in health
- The EU Health Policy Forum
- Social Platform
- European Public Health Alliance
- European Commission Communication ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion’ /06.12.2010, COM(2010) 758
- European Commission Communication on ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020’ / 20.2.2013, COM(2013) 83
- European Commission Recommendation ‘Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage’ /20.2.2013, C(2013) 778
- European Commission Communication ‘Solidarity in Health: Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU’ /20.10.2009, COM(2009) 567
- European Commission Staff Working Document on ‘Long-term care in ageing societies - Challenges and policy options’ /20.2.2013, SWD(2013) 41