Time for a ‘new deal’ for health promotion to accompany institutional renewal in the EU

EuroHealthNet published the article below in the European Voice - 30 october 2014 - Special report on healthcare - p. 4

How cost-effective disease prevention and health promotion can benefit societies and their economies.

All the growing evidence shows how cost-effective disease prevention and health promotion throughout the life course can benefit societies and their economies. This message has even been advanced by actors who are not the ‘usual suspects’ in the health policy debate, such as by the OECD (the Economics of Prevention, 2007) and by DG ECFIN and the Economic Policy Committee (in their Joint Report on Health Systems, 2010).

Through our work on health equity and social investment, EuroHealthNet will continue to provide evidence on the effectiveness of health promotion and make links to relevant EU policies. There are still significant improvements that can be made by reducing tobacco and alcohol consumption, better nutrition, and greater uptake of physical activity – this has been noted in the Commission’s “Investing in health” paper and the recent Communication “On effective, accessible and resilient health systems”. The Commission’s future work on health system performance is an opportunity to better measure potential benefits and take into account the impacts on health equity.

EuroHealthNet’s analysis shows 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 inequalities. Our partners have noted, however, 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.

There is also huge potential for efficiency gains through addressing health inequalities. Studies suggest that inequality-related losses to health amount to €980 billion per year or 9.4% of GDP. To tackle the root causes of these inequalities, investment in early childhood and education is needed as well as better employment conditions, safe housing, and universal social protection systems. As the EU economic policy debate moves from fiscal consolidation towards growth-enhancing measures, there should be more room for manoeuvre for Member States to take a social investment approach and building human capital.

For these reasons, EuroHealthNet and its European Platform for Action on Health and Social Equity (PHASE) will actively contribute to the debates and implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Caroline Costongs
Managing Director
EuroHealthNet

Leonardo Palumbo
Health and Social Investment
Senior Coordinator
EuroHealthNet