The European Commission emphasises in several policy documents that investing in health from an early age can contribute to the creation of a healthy, productive population and support healthy ageing.
A significant number of Commission Communications and policy initiatives also deal with tackling obesity, diet and physical activity, as well as reducing harm from alcohol and tobacco. Furthermore, mental health appears to be a growing area of concern and visibility.
The challenge of health inequalities is mainly addressed in one specific communication Solidarity in Health, which has laid out a framework for subsequent EU-level actions focused specially on the issue. In 2013, the Commission issued a report on health inequalities to analyse the scale of the problem and what measures have been taken to reduce inequalities as a response to the Communication.
Health inequalities, though not specifically dealt with as an objective in the Third EU Health Programme (2014-2020), is described as an overarching and central concern. It is also worth noting is that fostering supportive environments for health, taking into account the ‘health in all policies’ principle is one of the four overarching objectives of the Programme.
The Commission’s Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion (SIP) and its accompanying staff working documents highlight the need to invest in people’s health. For example, Investing in Health recognises that health strongly influences labour market participation. Investing in Children highlights that children need to have universal access to affordable, accessible and quality primary healthcare services in order to be able to attain the best possible level of physical and mental health, and that investments in early childhood are likely to bring substantial benefits over the life course. Bearing in mind children’s vulnerabilities, especially at early ages, it is also important to invest in education and early intervention services that support and empower them and their families to make lifestyle choices that will improve their health outcomes.
There are various different stakeholders (including scientists, medical experts and health professionals) interested in public health issues. This opens doors for the creation of alliances for advocacy, and taking into account the harmful effects of poor diet, lack of physical exercise, tobacco, alcohol and other important factors impacting on the health of children in early years. A number of EU agencies in the field of health support EU policies, and the Commission works with external experts to further improve its understanding of how EU action impacts on health and health systems. There are several platforms for stakeholder engagement. The Social Protection Committee (SPC), which is an EU advisory policy committee where the Commission and member states co-operate and discuss key social issues such as social protection systems, long-term care and pensions, also deals with healthcare.
- European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE)
- The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO)
- European Parliament Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) /li>
- European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
- Committee of the Regions (CoR)
- Health Attachés
- Peer Reviews
- EU platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health
- Independent expert panel to provide advice on effective ways of investing in health
- Scientific Committees in the field of consumer safety, public health and the environment
- The EU Health Policy Forum
- Social Platform
- European Public Health Alliance
- Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform
- Third EU Health Programme (Regulation EU) No 282//2014
- European Commission Communication ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion’/06.12.2010, COM(2010) 758
- European Commission Communication on ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020’ / 20.2.2013, COM(2013) 83
- European Commission Staff Working Document on ‘Investing in Health’ /20.2.2013, SWD(2013) 43
- European Commission Recommendation ‘Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage’ /20.2.2013, C(2013) 778
- European Commission Communication ‘Solidarity in Health: Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU’ /20.10.2009, COM(2009) 567
- European Commission Green Paper ‘Promoting healthy diets and physical activity: a European dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases’ /8.12.2005, COM(2005) 637
- European Commission White Paper on ‘A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues’ /30.5.2007, COM(2007) 279
- European Commission Communication ‘Developing the European Dimension in Sport’ /18.1.2011, COM(2011) 12
- European Commission Communication ‘An EU strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm’ /24.10.2006, COM(2006) 625
- European Commission Green Paper ‘Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level’ /30.1.2007, COM(2007) 27
- European Commission Staff Working Document - Accompanying the proposal for a Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments /30.06.2009, SEC(2009) 895
- European Commission Green Paper on ‘Improving the mental health of the population. Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union’ /14.10.2005, COM(2005) 484
- European Commission Communication on ‘Promoting young people's full participation in education, employment and society’ /5.9.2007, COM(2007) 498
- European Commission Staff Working Document on ‘Long-term care in ageing societies - Challenges and policy options’ /20.2.2013, SWD(2013) 41
- European Commission Communication on ‘A European Environment and Health Strategy’ /11.6.2003, COM (2003) 338
- European pact for mental health and well-being