Stronger health promotion and disease prevention measures are needed to make health systems sustainable and equitable in the long run

The Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion is launched today. In this context, EuroHealthNet will moderate a session on the rationale for health investment in the development of effective and viable social protection systems. EuroHealthNet will seek to highlight how more effective health promotion and disease prevention measures within and beyond the health sector can lead to modern, responsive and sustainable systems.

While improving health is the primary objective of health systems, two aspects need to be considered when pursuing this aim: Achieving the best attainable average of health ("effectiveness") as well as the smallest feasible differences among individuals and groups ("fairness"). The crucial contribution of health promoting approaches to sustainable health systems and Europe's social and economic capital is acknowledged; it is therefore urgent to re-orient health systems accordingly. Social innovation in health systems should push for investment in health and health equity, advocating health promotion approaches and incorporating these within the other element of the system.

EuroHealthNet contributes to documenting the strong links between health, poverty and social exclusion. Poor health and mental well-being may even be more prominent predictors of social exclusion than low income. Moreover, against the backdrop of an ageing European workforce, evidence shows that poor health reduces labour force participation. Investing in a healthy workforce by promoting health throughout the life-cycle is therefore essential to achieve the objectives of the EU2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.

Ensuring equitable access to health services is essential to minimise the disadvantage of vulnerable groups in morbidity and mortality. Yet, the budget cuts in social spending which are currently being programmed or implemented by EU Members States unfortunately prove to affect the availability of social and health support services, particularly to those in need. Besides, these budgetary constraints coincide with a greater demand for social protection services at a time when almost 120 million people of the EU population are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

The debate proposed by EuroHealthNet will be based on a working paper commissioned in the framework of its PROGRESS partnership agreement with the EC. The paper also aims to constructively contribute to the implementation of the EU 2020 strategy with lasting benefits for all.

EuroHealthNet's position paper "Re-orientating health systems: Towards modern, responsive and sustainable health promoting systems"is available here

For more information contact Stecy Yghemonos