EuroHealthNet shows how health systems have a bigger potential role to play in meeting EU Semester Objectives

EuroHealthNet is calling on governments and the European Union Institutions to strengthen a two way dialogue on development and implementation of the EU Semester process relevant to health systems. At its recent Annual meeting in Berlin, the EuroHealthNet partnership considered analysis of the latest Country Specific Recommendations proposed by the European Commission for European Council decisions this month.

Health and Social Investment Manager Stecy Yghemonos reported that all EU states now include some aspect of health systems in their annual national reform programmes (NRPs), with 20 seeking to act in some way on identified public health measures, determinants and inequities. The number of country recommendations on health systems reforms has risen to 18, with 10 mentioning aspects of public health and determinants. EuroHealthNet’s analysis shows that in every state, policy and practice changes are underway that will impact on health, care and the social, economic and environmental factors that determine health. Yet, despite the responsible positions of EuroHealthNet partner agencies, they report that in most states most decisions are being taken for economic reasons that fail to include health impacts, and health experts are being excluded from decisions, including on where EU structural and investment funds may be best used.

Meanwhile partners report continuing pressures on capacities for promotion of health and prevention of diseases in the majority of states. There is a continuing decline in proportions of spending on such measures despite ministerial commitments, and worrying trends in health status and inequalities within and between EU states and regions, as public budgets remain under severe pressures despite some private sector gains in European economies.

Policy Director Clive Needle outlined how important it is that bodies in health systems understand and contribute to whole of society, whole of government approaches that are necessary for the successful implementation of the EU Semester process and the sustainability of health systems.

All the growing evidence shows how cost effective prevention of disease and promotion of health throughout the life course can benefit societies and their economies. So we welcome careful, gradual change away from austerity towards the social investment approaches packaged by the EC, which very much include health as a priority. But that requires country by country assessment and implementation by people in health systems working ever more closely with colleagues in all other sectors – to help, not demand.

  • Firstly, health has a clear value in itself. Healthier societies perform better. Therefore putting effective promotion and prevention methods and investments high on reform agendas makes human, social and environmental sense as well as economic. EuroHealthNet is working on initiatives outlined in the recent EC Communication on sustainable health systems plus several EU Joint Actions for health to contribute to this process.
  • But we also recognise that health systems are part of societies who have wider needs. So EuroHealthNet considers that health systems have a pivotal role to play in tackling unemployment as they are collectively among the largest employers in every state. They can work to improve professional standards and conditions, quality of life at work and in communities, health and safety, and measures to improve health ageing and retirement preparations.
  • Thirdly EuroHealthNet argues that health systems can and should contribute more to the EU objectives to tackle poverty and exclusion, which is much broader than creating employment. We are seeking to support in growing partnerships as part of the EU Alliance for Investing in Children, the European Innovation partnership for Active & health Ageing, and most of all the EU Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion.
  • Fourthly, by smartly using all available instruments, EU added value can be contributed to local and national needs, as was demonstrated at our Annual Meeting by country examples including new partnership work on the EU Semester in Slovenia and elsewhere.

Therefore EuroHealthNet is calling on EU Institutions, Ministers and Heads of State in Council considering the EU Semester situation this month, to consider more carefully the benefits of ensuring stakeholders within health systems are empowered to contribute better towards wider objectives. We ask them to recognise in practical measures and policies that investments in health, social equity and wellbeing are viewed as smart, cost effective contributions that benefit state aims rather than being burdens, as is too often presented in the current NRPs and CSRs.

EuroHealthNet, its Executive Board and Partnership via its Business Plan agreed at its Annual Meeting, will work on detailed engagement with these processes and stakeholders in all willing EU states and communities through 2014-15.

Background information

EuroHealthNet receives Framework partnership funding from the EU Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI).  Its partners renewed their commitments to work to build equitable health promoting health systems as a contribution to meet local, national and European economic and social objectives. It has already begun working with states, regions and authorities to:

  • Analyse the key reforms where health systems are concerned and inform that process from a health equity perspective;
  • Roll out national pilots of multi stakeholder partnerships tackling common needs related to health and wellbeing;
  • Offer guidance on cost effective uses of EU instruments to support progress;
  • Build capacities of partners to develop equitable health promoting health systems;
  • Inform policy makers locally, nationally and in Brussels on evidence and impacts;
  • Grow innovative partnerships with fellow stakeholders and experts, for example for children, older people, in primary and social care settings, and for healthier environments.

For further comment, please contact Stecy Yghemonos or Caroline Costongs by email or by phone +32 2 235 0320