The European Semester is the EU’s economic policy coordination mechanism of the Europe 2020 Strategy. It undertakes a detailed analysis of EU Member States' reforms plans and provides them with Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) following extensive consultation with stakeholders at European and national levels. The publication of the CSRs entails a potential political programme for each member state for the coming semester period.
EuroHealthNet’s interest in the EU semester is reinforced by the fact that CSRs also address questions related to the priorities and investments of member states in the field of social affairs and health. As such, CSRs represent an opportunity to ascertain the extent to which they may – or may not – contribute to health equity.
This document brings together two areas amenable to policy actions that can improve health and reduce health inequalities: children and families; and health systems from a health promotion perspective. For children and families, the analysis aims to ascertain the scope and inclusiveness of CSRs related to children and families and to find out whether the suggested measures are a step towards improving health and reducing health inequalities. For health systems we try to examine whether the 2016 CSRs are likely to stimulate reforms that reduce health inequalities and support investment in health promotion and disease prevention.
These topics were selected based on EuroHealthNet’s previous work on health systems, child development and health promotion. This document aims to compare findings of 2016 with those of 2015 analysis and responds to the announcement of the Annual Growth Survey 2017 in November 2016, which marks the beginning of a new EU semester process.
This year analysis found that:
- There is an increased awareness of the need for policies related to children and families, especially in the light of labour market and social inclusion.
- The need for fiscally sustainable health care systems is recognised among most CSRs relating to health, yet the call for strengthening primary care, disease prevention and health promotion or looking at health in an integrated way is limited.
- Access to health is increasingly raised in CSRs related to health in comparison to the analysis of CSRs in 2015. However, vulnerable people, children or migrants are not directly mentioned.
- Children, vulnerable people and migrants are mentioned in connection with social inclusion and labour market integration.
Several steps have been identified as promoters of greater health equity:
- Ensure that children and families are on the agenda of all CSRs.
- More focus should be put on coverage and access to quality of health care.
- Improve health system governance and support inter-sectoral work and cooperation.
- A stronger focus and consideration should be given to the impacts of the economic crisis in terms of resources; investing in health promotion and disease prevention should be one of the measures to support health systems fiscal sustainability.