EuroHealthNet encourages governments to act now on conclusions from the European Semester Winter Package

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EuroHealthNet, a leading European partnership of national and regional agencies for improving health equity and wellbeing, has advised ministers meeting on 15 March in the EU Employment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) to act on important evidence in the annual country reports of the European Semester ‘Winter Package’.

In a statement published today, EuroHealthNet highlights:

  • The European Semester Winter Package for 2019 has welcome elements for health, social equity, cohesion, and wellbeing. It also sets out significant risks that should be addressed urgently and in strategic planning by EU institutions and Member States.
  • If the European Semester is to succeed for all people it needs to be better understood by and connected to local realities, needs, and communities. EuroHealthNet is working with European Commission services and on the ground in Member States to help achieve that, but needs wider and deeper support from governments and stakeholders.
  • More effective investments in public health and social equity offer significant gains towards achievement of European Semester and global Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for democratic and institutional sustainability. Having good health is considered the most essential factor for getting ahead in life.[i]

In its work as part of the EU Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI), EuroHealthNet continually analyses developments within the European Semester process to work as a bridge between EU Institutions and services and stakeholders in health and social systems on the ground in Member States and regions. 

For 2019, this analysis has noted that improvements have been observed regarding health system reforms in terms of better effectiveness, accessibility, and resilience. Many member states are pursuing efforts to re-focus health systems towards preventive care, whilst bolstering primary care and better coordination across care settings.

However, the Country Reports for many countries still highlight persisting inequalities in health opportunities and outcomes. As multiple sources of data show, life expectancy gains have slowed down, progress on healthy life expectancy has not caught up, unmet need for medical care remains up to five times higher for people living below the poverty line (this includes children) as well as the ability to pay for such treatment.

Meanwhile the share of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is still unacceptably high, particularly among important, vulnerable population groups, with in-work poverty of growing concern. The Europe2020 Strategy’s poverty reduction target remains the only one unlikely to be met.

EuroHealthNet Director Caroline Costongs said:

The Winter Package contains clear evidence for action on prevention, inequalities, and on the social and economic factors which lead to poor health. Ministers should not simply note this process and continue as before, but work towards sustainable wellbeing as well as economic efficiency while actively involving key stakeholders.”

EuroHealthNet is taking forward its European Semester work in three main ways during 2019:

  • By informing and engaging members of its Partnership in building knowledge and effective interventions to help meet targets in states, regions, and communities;
  • By working with EC Support Services to build capacities and share innovative approaches.
  • By focusing particularly to children and young people in most need.

The full EuroHealthNet statement sent to the EPSCO Council and EU Institutions is here.


[i] European Commission, Special Eurobarometer “Fairness, inequality and intergenerational solidarity” 2018.