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EU Health Organisations Call for Action on Health Equity

1 February, 2017

Noting the high levels of health inequalities in many EU countries, 21 EU health organisations call on European Institutions and Member State governments to recognise the central role that health and health equity play in building strong and sustainable social market economies.  They do so in a joint Statement today, to coincide with the European Commission’s conference on the potential EU Pillar of Social Rights, which aims to improve EU welfare systems and labour markets and make them fairer. 

Health inequalities represent a huge cost to society in terms of individual well-being, reductions in people’s economic contributions and increases in social and care expenditures. Inequalities exits both between countries, with differences in life expectancy of around ten years between some Member States, and between socioeconomic groups within Member States.

While health-care systems are an important determinant of health, health is also shaped by a range of other factors, many linked to social and employment policies. Since most measures in the potential Social Pillar can impact on health, and affect people from different socio-economic groups in different ways, the Statement calls for health to be a central cross cutting consideration in the design and implementation of the Pillar.

The Joint Statement sets out more ways in which EU Institutions and EU Member States can ensure that good health is not simply the prerogative of people who are better off,  but of everyone. They can for example adopt health equity as a strategic objective and strengthen and facilitate cooperation across sectors to deliver greater social protection and sustainable development. They can also encourage the use of EU funding mechanisms like the European Structural and Investment Funds to improve the capacity of health systems to address health inequalities.

EuroHealthNet Programme Manager Ingrid Stegeman said: “Trends in people’s health status, compared across socio-economic groups, provide a good indication of whether our social and economic models are actually serving or undermining us, as individuals and as societies.”

Caroline Costongs, EuroHealthNet Managing Director stressed that: “Health inequality is intertwined with increasing income inequalities in the EU. Member States and EU Institutions need to clarify, take responsibility, and act on all elements of the Social Pillar for it to have a strong impact on health equity.”

The Joint Statement was developed by EuroHealthNet in collaboration with a number of organisations that are part of the EU Health Policy Platform and which have endorsed the Statement. Its purpose is to send a strong message from health organisations across the EU of the urgent need for action on health equity, taken within and beyond health systems, to ensure the well-being of all EU citizens.

For more on health inequalities, visit EuroHealthNet’s Health Inequalities Portal.

The Joint Statement and its accompanying background paper are also available on the Health Policy Platform. The Statement is open for endorsements until 27 January, 2017 by stakeholders in the field who have joined the Platform.  To add an endorsement, contact

The Joint Statement has been endorsed by:

  • Associazione Italiana Chiropractici (AIC)
  • European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN)
  • European Critical Care Foundation (ECCF)
  • European Federation for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (EFCAM)
  • European Heart Network (EHN)
  • European Kidney Health Alliance (EKHA)
  • Hellenic Cancer Federation (ELLOK)
  • European Patients Forum (EPF)
  • European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)
  • European Public Health Association (EUPHA)
  • European Regional and Local Health Authorities (EUREGHA)
  • European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare)
  • European Association Working for Carers (EUROCARERS)
  • European Community of Consumer Cooperatives (Euro Coop)
  • European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness (EUFAMI)
  • EuroHealthNet
  • Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS)
  • International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IFSBH)
  • Mental Health Europe (MHE)
  • National Institute of Health of Italy Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS)
  • Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe
  • Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  • European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA Europe)

Press contact: Alexandra Latham, Communication Coordinator

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