EuroHealthNet urges Europe to tell the truth and heed learning of evidence on inequalities

EuroHealthNet, the partnership for European authorities working to improve health and equity, has welcomed the publication of the latest European evidence on the worsening state of social and health inequities across the EU in the context of economic crises. But it has urged EU leaders to pay heed to its lessons or risk wide ranging social, economic, health and cohesion consequences.

EuroHealthNet has been part of the consortium commissioned by the European Commission to report the facts of the situation and trends on how health inequalities impact on the social, economic, environmental and political determinants of health in the EU. This is a partner study to the report by Professor Sir Michael Marmot and experts on the need for action across wider Europe.

Speaking in Brussels, EuroHealthNet director Clive Needle said:The specific study is an important review of the evidence about what is happening and what has been done since EU Presidencies and the EC recognised health inequalities as a fundamental problem ten years ago. We are proud that our office and members have made a major contribution to it. We congratulate the EC for having the commitment to commission and publish the facts. Now they and all of us must act.

The report shows that there is a major problem in every country, every region, every town, every street. That recognition is a huge step forward to continuing the process of change in a generation that has been shown to be essential if we are to achieve the goals of the EU 2020 and WHO 2020 objectives and UN 2025 goals for tackling chronic diseases. The most important lesson is to always tell the truth: to gather the accurate data, to analyse it, report it fairly so decision makers can play their part in democratic policy making and, most crucially, to use it to implement change from words to actions. The evidence shows that health inequalities continue to kill and disable people unfairly in Europe on a huge scale. Policy makers at all levels have known that for decades. It does not have to be so: it is a direct result of political and economic choices. It can be changed.

So now there is a serious challenge: will those decision makers, from EU Presidents and Commissioners to Prime Ministers to Parliamentarians to Mayors and community leaders, really act to implement change? Or will they just accept the status quo and put reports like this on a shelf because it is difficult, even though the evidence and imperative for action is now overwhelming?

And will the public, suffering from preventable diseases, disabilities and early deaths because of political inactions so far, just accept their unfair fates according to social gradients? Or will they demand in European elections in 2014 actions to implement the notional right to fair health for all?

EuroHealthNet will highlight and act on these challenges in 2014:

  • We urge EU States and the EC to fully implement the recommendations of the EU Study on health inequalities, the EC Communication on Solidarity in Health, the WHO Europe Report on Social Determinants of Health and successive EU co-funded project recommendations;
  • We announce the launch of a new European Platform for Health and Social Equity in the context of the new EU Social Investment Package and the new EASI Programme, the EU Health Strategy, EU 2020 and the Platform against Poverty;
  • We call on all candidates for election to the European Parliament to stand up for health and social equity and scrutinise rigorously what is being done to tackle inequalities;
  • We call on states and stakeholders to implement outcomes of the EU Joint Action on Health Inequalities and recommendations from the EU Expert Group on Health & Social Determinants.
  • We call on stakeholders to commit to action at the EU Conference on Health Inequalities on 23rd January 2014 in Brussels: www.equity-action.eu
  • The EU-funded report "Health Inequalities in the EU", is available here
  • Visit the website on the Equity Action project here
  • To know more about EuroHealthNet 2014-2020 strategy, visit EuroHealthNet portaland website
  • For more information, contact EuroHealthnet Director Clive Needleor EuroHealthNet Deputy Director Caroline Costongs