Investing in health promotion and disease prevention to increase cost-effectiveness of health systems

14 October 2016

Investing in health promotion and disease prevention to increase cost-effectiveness of health systems

14 October 2016

On October 7, DG ECFIN and the Economic Policy Committee (Ageing Working Group, consisting of Member State representatives) released a Joint Report on Health Care and Long-Term Care Systems & Fiscal Sustainability that sets out challenges and policy options for healthcare and long-term care towards fiscally sustainable access to good quality services for all.

The demographic changes, technological advances and increased debt in most countries are putting strong and growing fiscal pressures on curative healthcare and long-term care services and systems in all EU Member States.  The Joint Report states that ‘with healthcare spending still centred around curative care sustainability is threatened, especially with an ageing population’ and  acknowledges healthcare as ‘only one contributor to good health, next to wider socio-economic determinants of health, such as education, income and environmental factors’.

The Joint Report raises a call highly supported by EuroHealthNet, namely that more emphasis is needed on health promotion and disease prevention to delay the onset of non-communicable diseases (with life-long consequences) and of age-related conditions. It recognises that more investment in health promotion and disease prevention will ‘maximise the system’s potential to deliver better health outcomes and improve population health status while promoting efficiency and cost containment’.

Currently, the level of spending on prevention and public health services continues to be very low compared with expenditures on curative care. The level of spending on prevention and public health services in 2013 accounted for 2.8% of total public expenditure and for 0.2% as a percentage of GDP, after a period of decline from 2009 until 2012.

Important challenges addressed in the Joint Report are the current health and social inequalities within and between EU Member States, including existing barriers to access and quality of care which ‘include affordability, waiting times and travelling distance, as well as socio-economic and cultural factors’.

The Joint Report recommends improved governance, including ‘strengthening the cooperation between fiscal and health policy government authorities’...and ‘the need to improve health through health promotion and disease prevention policies and policies outside the health care sectors’. EuroHealthNet has more than two decades of knowledge in working across policy and practice sectors. We advocate for the application of a more holistic ‘Health in All Policies’ approach and we know that improved health and equity for all can be achieved only by empowering communities and involving people.

The Joint Report of the DG ECFIN and the Economic Policy Committee provides an overview of current challenges and fiscally sustainable policy options based on strong evidence and data. It adds the fiscal sustainability evidence to the public health knowledge and strengthens approaches highly relevant for health promotion and public health communities. It brings closer financial and public health professionals with the main goal: to improve health and well-being for all. The question remains if the EU countries and systems will pick up on the challenge. 

While keeping in mind that ‘more focus on health promotion does not need to come with higher costs’, read more on the Joint Report on Health Care and Long-Term Care Systems & Fiscal Sustainability here.