This open letter addressed the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, and all Ministers and Commissioners taking part in the informal EPSCO meetings 15 – 16 March 2021
Dear Honourable Ministers and Commissioners,
12th March 2021
EuroHealthNet has noted with interest the published respective Agendas for the Informal Videoconference Meetings of the EPSCO configurations, for Employment and Social policy to be held on 15 March and for Health the following day. We welcome the considerable number of important recent initiatives being considered to which we are contributing, particularly:
- Time to Deliver: Implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan;
- Employment and social policies in the Semester in the context of Recovery and Resilience Plans;
- European Platform on Combating Homelessness;
- Green Paper on Ageing and Council Conclusions on Mainstreaming of Ageing;
- Strategy on the Rights of People with Disabilities;
- Debate on Equality, non-discrimination and diversity in the EU;
- Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
We note these developments in the context of the Agenda Items on Employment and Social Policies in the Semester in the context of RRPs, plus the Exchange of Views on COVID-19 – the way ahead, as well as the European Health Union Package. We reiterate our continuing contribution on Recovering from the Pandemic and Ensuring Health Equity on which we have communicated with you previously: Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring health equity – The role of the European Semester.
You will be aware that such Reports and other evidence are clear that all the above-noted Agenda items have significant impacts as key determinants of health and wellbeing – and vice versa, that improving health and equity are demonstrably vital factors for social and economic cohesion.
We therefore welcome the Presidency’s initiative for the Porto Social Summit in May and the publication by the European Commission of the Action Plan for implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights. However, we are disappointed that the Plan is not more extensive and well-defined with regard to public health aspects, particularly Principle 16: Everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality. We ask for your action to strengthen and address this.
We had hoped by this stage that greater definition, a more comprehensive roadmap and more far-reaching measures regarding implementation of those fundamental rights could have been brought forward, not least given the overwhelming public demand across the EU . The severity of COVID-19 could have been avoided through strong preventative action on underlying chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases, which also disproportionately affect disadvantaged population groups. A more detailed roadmap, with targets and indicators would offer such guidance at this crucial stage for the RRF and the Semester governance and help to ensure effective and efficient use of all available resources.
EuroHealthNet continues to stand ready to help in taking this forward. Our responsible public health agencies in Member States are sharing best practices and learning via, for example:
- A new online portal full of policy and practice links on initiatives addressing health inequalities;
- Analysis and ideas encompassed in our own Foresight Strategic exercise which identifies priorities around tackling inequalities, preventing chronic diseases and promoting psycho-social wellbeing;
- An innovative funding E-Guide stimulating new impactful approaches for maximising resources.
However, we do have to reiterate that the small – average below 3% – proportions of resources in all health systems allocated for preventing diseases and promoting health does urgently need to significantly improve to help achieve goals for the ‘Social Europe’ and the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope that the new EU4Health Programme, which establishes that 20% of its budget must fund measures for health promotion and disease prevention, also inspire national and regional system budgets evolve to similar proportions.
The EU Skills Agenda can help build effective capacities for preventative action in every community, as we concluded at our 2020 Annual Policy Seminar on Skills for Health.
We ask for your help and leadership to achieve that equitably and everywhere in Europe. We invite you to allow us a few brief minutes to watch our newly produced short videos on your Agenda issues:
We hope this will help your deliberations in the Council meetings, and that your decisions will help us to deliver our part to overcome the severe challenges you are addressing in your Agendas. Please do not hesitate to contact me – and our national Partners – for any further information or collaboration.
Caroline Costongs, Director, on behalf of the EuroHealthNet Partnership