Yesterday, Thursday 23rd January, the Equity Action Final Conference provided European leaders an opportunity to showcase and debate actions to tackle health inequalities. In the framework of this event, EuroHealthNet highlighted the importance of applying EU Structural Funds to address health inequalities.
Public health decision makers should recognize the potential of Structural and Investment Funds (2014-2020) to help reorient health and social systems to deliver sustainable services that contribute to health equity, and adopt a strategic approach to exploit this potential.
A report "Health Equity and Regional Development in the EU: Applying EU Structural Funds" makes the case for why health equity is integral to societies' economic and social development and investigates what is needed to address health inequalities at the subnational level. It also provides practical tips and recommendations on how public health actors can use this important EU funding mechanism to improve health and ensure a better distribution of health across society.
"Although health (equity) is not explicitly mentioned in the Structural and Investment Fund headline objectives and has not been allocated a specific budget, health is included in priorities relating to, for example, employment, social inclusion and enhancing institutional capacity. Public health actors must therefore look into all thematic areas to identify funding opportunities", says EuroHealthNet's Ingrid Stegeman, author of the report.
Exploiting the potential opportunities in EU Structural and Investment Funds to reduce health inequalities is one of the measures included in a forward looking Manifesto "Building on EQUITY ACTION - what can health ministries do to reduce health inequalities?" that has been published at the end-point of the Equity Action. The Manifesto encourages ministries to commit senior-level staff to embed the lessons of the Equity Action. It also encourages them to assess impact and demonstrate the value of relevant actions, to engage with others and to build support to use and apply the evidence of 'what works' to reduce health inequalities.
EuroHealthNet will continue to build on the outcomes of the Equity Action regional work-strand and help build capacity amongst the public health sector to ensure that EU Structural and Investment Funds contribute to the reduction of health inequalities. EuroHealthNet will also continue to develop www.fundsforhealth.eu, an on-line tool providing information and examples on this theme. Please contact Caroline Costongs, EuroHealthNet Managing Director, if you wish to become involved in this exchange.
Almost 500 delegates from across the EU attended the Equity Action Final Conference. Speakers included Prof Sir Michael Marmot (Institute of Health Equity) and Ministers of Health and/or Social Affairs from Greece, Ireland, the UK and Lithuania. Commissioner Tonio Borg (DG SANCO, European Commission) and Zsuzsanna Jakab (WHO Regional Office for Europe) took part via video messages.
The Joint Action on Health Inequalities (Equity Action) is a three year (Feb 2011 - Feb 2014) collaboration between the European Commission and EU Member States to take forward a number of actions identified in the EC Communication "Solidarity in Health: Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU". It is jointly funded by the EU Health Programme, 15 EU Member States and Norway, and involves 25 partner organisations, 30 regions and numerous stakeholders. The Equity Action programme is built around four core work strands, one of which, coordinated by EuroHealthNet, focuses on subnational action to tackle health inequalities.
The Equity Action report on subnational action to tackle health inequalities and the use of EU Structural Funds for health equity can be downloaded from the Equity Action website. Should you wish to receive hardcopies, please contact Ingrid Stegeman.