Ensuring an inclusive recovery for all: Renewing support for EU-level collaboration to tackle the social determinants of health

A tool being developed by the Indicators Sub-Group of the Social Protection Committee (ISG-SPC) to monitor health systems has to include suitable social indicators if member states are to reduce health inequalities, and policies can be implemented at European, national and sub-national levels to improve health equity. Those are the key messages EuroHealthNet will convey to member states today when presenting the findings of the DRIVERS project to the ISG-SPC in Brussels (1) and the Expert Group on Social Determinants and Health Inequalities in Luxembourg. (2)

DRIVERS sought to provide recommendations for policy and practice to improve health equity in the fields of early child development, employment & working conditions, and income & social protection. (3)  The project made use of the very latest pan-European data and involved leading centres of scientific research, including University College of London’s Institute of Health Equity headed by Sir Michael Marmot. DRIVERS put forward four principles by which policy makers can ensure that policies are good for health and help reduce health inequalities: 1) the need for policies and programmes to be universal, 2) the need for them to respond to disadvantage, 3) the need to respect the rights of the people concerned and the importance of adapting interventions and policies to context, and 4) the need to use evidence to inform the design of policies.

The benefits of the economic recovery are not being shared equally, and many across Europe, especially those from lower socio-economic groups, remain long-term unemployed and at risk of poverty. The health impacts will last a lifetime, and will increase future strains on social and health systems, further threatening their sustainability. Youth unemployment, in particular, is increasingly being seen as an emerging public health emergency by experts. Evidence from DRIVERS and other pan-European projects can and should play a part in promoting evidence-based solutions to tackling these issues and improving health across the social gradient.

The invitations to make these presentations are timely. Last week, Commissioner Thyssen suggested developing EU minimum standards or benchmarks concerning ‘the duration and level of unemployment benefits, minimum income, and access to child care and basic health care’ (4). We look forward to providing her colleagues in DG Employment and Social Affairs with technical expertise so that the benefits of modernised social and employment legislation reach all income groups and help to reduce health inequalities”, said Caroline Costongs, Managing Director of EuroHealthNet.


Notes to the editors

1. The Indicators' Sub-Group (ISG) of the Social Protection Committee (SPC) was set up in 2001 to develop analytical frameworks to support policy reviews conducted by the SPC, contribute to the improvement of social statistics at EU level. The ISG is composed of national experts in the fields of social inclusion, pensions and health and long term care from each EU country.The 2013 ISG group started a review of the indicators related to health and exploring the feasibility of developing a health policy area within the Joint Assessment Framework (JAF). The objective of such a framework is to strengthen the use of the evidence-base by SPC in its activities related to health policy, within the European Semester but also in relation to in-depth thematic reviews and any other relevant tasks in the context of the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC). The JAF is currently being piloted.

2. The Expert Group on Social Determinants and Health Inequalities provide a forum for the exchange of information and good practice between member states on social determinants of health and health inequalities, to provide an interface between relevant policies, projects and activities at EU level and within countries and to provide guidance and advice on the need for further action and joint work and research in this area, including reporting and development of approaches for analysing and reviewing policies at member state level.

3. More information is available here

4. The full speech is available here


For more information, contact EuroHealthNet’s Managing Director Caroline Costongs