'A tentative first step but not the whole path' EuroHealthNet Responds to EU Sustainable Development Goals Plans

EuroHealthNet has called for a more fundamental integration of universal United Nations goals into all policies, practices and programmes of the EU, following the publication of the EC Communication on ‘Next steps for  a sustainable Future” – EU action for Sustainability (SWD 2016 390)” and associated texts. 

In its initial reaction to the outline plans [i], EuroHealthNet contends that the attention to health and wellbeing is insufficient to be effective. The plans do not fully take into account the influence the EU can have in supporting Member States on the social, economic and environmental factors which affect health and diseases. EuroHealthNet has reinforced its call for new integrated actions on wellbeing, equality, and social sustainability, an approach being increasingly taken up by states and cities, to be included in a potential new EU Pillar of Social Rights and priority Economic Semester and programme goals. [ii] EuroHealthNet also calls for integration and mainstreaming of SDG goals as a priority in the EU inter-institutional planning programme for 2017 when it is finally released.

To face the challenge of implementing the UN Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development targets across all 17 flagship goals, a call for a “Rejuvenation of 21st century health promotion approaches” [iii] was launched by EuroHealthNet managing director Caroline Costongs at the Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai this month. In addition, the landmark report “Sustainability Now!” from EC Special Advisor Karl Falkenberg, who presented this year at the EuroHealthNet annual conference linking health and sustainability, could offer a blueprint for more expansive actions. [iv]

Now EuroHealthNet is seeking a meeting with EC Vice President Timmermans and expects to contribute to the ‘all stakeholder platform” proposed by the EC, to discuss how strengthening key elements of the EC plan could bring multiple benefits, for example:

  • Improving mental wellbeing and tackling psycho-social factors is crucial for sustainable jobs and communities, particularly as the so-called “4th Industrial Revolution” of new technologies becomes reality; it complements the welcomed aim to meet UN non-communicable disease targets.
  • Ways of living, moving and consuming that better protect environments and promote health and health equity for people should be developed. EuroHealthNet is leading a major Horizon 2020 consortium, INHERIT [V], which is bringing forward recommendations on this issue.  
  • Health and social inequalities impact heavily on sustainability and tackling them offers ways forward to meet goals by 2030. EuroHealthNet is working with the EU Employment & Social Innovation Programme (EaSI) and the EU Health Action Programme to help tackle these topics.
  • Questioning and updating life expectancy and other wellbeing indicators highlighted in the EC proposals, which are no longer best available guides to set, monitor and meet targets. This could lead to better aligned and more accountable measures.   

EuroHealthNet policy director Clive Needle said that EuroHealthNet has been keenly anticipating the response of the EC since the UN goals were set:
"To cope with the global realities of rapidly changing scenarios, on the ground in communities where European citizens are born, grow, work, live, age, and die, we need smart thinking and transformative shifts of approach right across the policy, funding and programme landscape. We recognise political realities in states and appreciate limits of capacity and competences at EU levels – but we can do this much better if we work together. This can be seen as a tentative first step, but not the whole path to the goals. We want to see an inclusive, accountable plan to move from the current EU 2020 targets to real achievement of SDGs by 2030. If the Commission will listen we will contribute evidence and ideas.”
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Notes
[i] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-3886_en.htm
ii] http://eurohealthnet.eu/media/%E2%80%9Cthere-can-be-no-eu-without-social...
[iii] http://eurohealthnet.eu/media/promoting-health-and-wellbeing-towards-203...
[iv] https://ec.europa.eu/epsc/publications/strategic-notes/sustainability-no...
[v] http://www.inherit.eu/