There continue to be big differences in health outcomes between groups of people and between countries in the European Union. To address these inequalities and to improve health for all, we need a new narrative on economic and fiscal policy. A process-focused, holistic approach is now needed, one which incorporates social sustainability and health equity. The European Council Conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing1, set for adoption this week, are a crucial development. The European Semester is an important tool for implementation.
Today, EuroHealthNet publishes its assessment of the 2019 European Semester, the EU’s annual cycle of economic and social policy coordination, from a health equity perspective.
Investing in health protection and promotion, social sustainability, and reducing inequalities also makes economic sense. A 50% reduction in gaps in life expectancy between social groups would provide monetised benefits to EU states ranging from 0.3–4.3% of GDP2. Recognising the interconnected nature of policy for social and economic progress can bring many advantages.
The national, regional, and local health bodies that make up the EuroHealthNet partnership are working to address health inequalities and their root causes. They need structural support and investments through ambitious changes at the European Union level to make real impacts. We recommend the development of a reformed European Semester that implements the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the European Pillar of Social Rights.
EuroHealthNet's analysis of the semester is accompanied by an infographic on health inequalities in Europe, and what we can do to overcome them.
Reducing social and health inequalities is possible, represents a good investment, and has strong public support. The EU and its Member States have the tools to act. Improvements are achievable.
2 WHO EURO Health Equity Status Report (2019)