EuroHealthNet welcomes Italian Presidency initiative to invest in health as a new priority for EU 2020, but urges investments in people before products

EuroHealthNet is urging EU health ministers to invest effectively in improving health for all people as a major contribution to the wellbeing of Europe, as they review the role of health systems in EU priorities for jobs and growth. The Italian Presidency has circulated a note to ministers asking them to state their views at their next EPSCO meeting on 1 December 2014.

EuroHealthNet welcomes the analysis by the Presidency that describes investing in health as ‘the missing dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy‘’. In its submission to the EU2020 review, the EuroHealthNet partnership calls for investment in wellbeing, equity and sustainability as the renewed priorities, and for integrated approaches to needs, goals and systems. This places the EU social investment package (SIP) approach at the heart of economic renewal through the EU Semester process.

Ministers are asked to consider five sets of key questions at the Council meeting, to which EuroHealthNet urges the following responses:

  1. How can investments contribute to EU 2020 objectives and should links between health and economic outcomes feature prominently? EuroHealthNet argues strongly for this ‘’missing dimension’’ to be incorporated. The reality is that economic, social and environmental wellbeing are inextricably linked, as the latest country specific recommendations and reports on long term care have shown. It was an error to marginalise health outcomes in the economic strategy. It is time to put that right – but to recognise that wellbeing for people is the driver for change which allows integrated and flexible approaches reflecting diversity of needs. It is already an EU Treaty and WHO Charter objective and is entirely compatible with modern approaches by better performing societies.
  2. Is more EU action needed to tackle inequalities between states and is a new approach needed for health system outcomes? Yes. Our mission has always been to help improve health and equity within and between states. It is time for health outcomes including equity and quality of life to be properly reflected in EU objectives and programmes. Evidence is overwhelming of the economic, social and other benefits. EuroHealthNet can point to indicators and solutions that are clearly available.
  3. Is budgeting in silos an obstacle to such transitions? Yes. It is time for states and EU institutions to recognise inflexible administrative boundaries are barriers to the changes needed to achieve objectives. As the Presidency paper shows, health systems are the largest employers, yet social partners and governments often fail to recognise the opportunity that offers for decent quality jobs and growth. We call for a new wave of cross sectoral investments in education, apprenticeships, training and skills for new technologies, markets and systems related to equitable health and wellbeing, including health literacy for all.
  4. Should cost effectiveness receive more attention? Yes, but as part of all relevant evidence. There is growing cost benefit and social audit evidence of the effectiveness of social investments for wellbeing of people throughout the life-course. Ministers in various EU councils, the UN and the World Health Assembly have called for transitions to tackle health determinants and wellbeing, yet the proportions of expenditures on disease prevention and health promotion have fallen to unsustainable levels. The time has come to use all resources effectively from across public and private budgets to implement change.
  5. Should performance assessment be linked to country specific recommendations for health in the EU Semester, and should health and social bodies work more closely at EU levels? Yes, but including broader indicators for wellbeing and equity. EuroHealthNet has long been part of approaches to develop evaluations, assessments and effective implementation of evidence based solutions, including for ‘’health for all policies’’ and ‘’social determinants of health and equity’’. Now is the time for the evidence to be applied in the EU Semester not only at state levels, but by engaging all stakeholders such as regions and municipalities, civil society and social partners. Business needs to be held to account as well as helped to stimulate innovations. EuroHealthNet and its partners are working on country-specific recommendations with the European Commission across sectors to improve health and tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality. Together, this can make a major contribution to tackling Europe’s priority problems and building better lives for all its citizens and children.

Today, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU2020 Review calling for more ambitious targets and more precise measurements for reducing inequality, poverty and social exclusion.

EuroHealthNet will continue to submit further specific evidence and recommendations to EU institutions and state bodies, including from its work on EU co-funded projects and key programmes such as the Employment and Social Investment programme (EaSI). It is a Partnership of authorities, agencies and experts responsible for developing equitable and inclusive health promotion across Europe.