Environmental, health and social challenges demand intersectoral solutions

During EU Green Week,  EU policy makers gathered for the INHERIT policy roundtable to discuss research findings from INHERIT and BlueHealth, which offer solutions to address interconnected societal challenges. The roundtable brought together a range of Commission officials from across policy sectors – environment, health, transport, finance, energy,  and the Secretariat General – as well as representatives from the cabinets of Commissioners, and from the European Commission and Parliament think tanks.

There is growing recognition that the climate crisis and other health and social challenges (e.g., rising levels of obesity, chronic disease and inequities) are interlinked, and that the only way to tackle these challenges effectively is for more coherent and coordinated action across sectors.

Vertical policy coordination is also key to addressing our growing health, environmental, and societal challenges. While participants highlighted the fundamental role cities have played as pioneers of sustainable practices, they noted that they are also dependent on supportive regulation and policy being made at regional, national and European levels.

The discussion showcased that the European Commission is a global frontrunner when it comes to ‘better regulation’, but that much can still be done to improve existing approaches. For these approaches to healthier and more sustainable societies to succeed, it is essential that they enlist the whole of society to avoid widening social inequities and serving only ‘the elite’.

Good communication, the need to work with businesses, and new approaches to build sustainability into education, also emerged as central themes, underpinned by the importance of innovative financing to ensure  good ideas can spread and scale-up.

Looking to the future, Commission officials argued that bold leadership is needed for more systemic, faster change, and conveyed the hope that the new Commission will base its overarching policy priorities on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and integrate these into the European Semester processes. 

The outcomes of the debate will contribute to the INHERIT Policy Toolkit, which will be published at the end of the year to help inform the priorities of the new EU decision makers as they set out the agenda for the next 5 years.

Next month, a second roundtable will take place, bringing together leading EU business representatives and policymakers to discuss the importance of ensuring sustainable business in 2019 and beyond. For more information on INHERIT, please check out our website or follow us on Twitter.


INHERIT is about stimulating effective policies, practices and solutions that address key environmental stressors of health and the underlying causes of health inequity. This Horizon 2020 research project challenges the current linear ‘take, make, consume, dispose’ models of growth by formulating scenarios for a more sustainable future. INHERIT is a 4-year EU-funded project that consists of 18 partners from around Europe and is coordinated by EuroHealthNet. For more information, please visit: www.inherit.eu

EuroHealthNet is the leading Partnership for Health, Equity and Wellbeing in Europe, with key activities in policy, practice as well as research. Its unique focus is on reducing health inequalities through action on the social determinants of health, integrating sustainable development goals, and contributing to the transformation of health systems. Its main members are authorities and statutory bodies responsible for public health, health promotion and disease prevention at national, regional and local level.