Gearing towards the launch of the next annual cycle of EU economic and social policy coordination, known as the European Semester, EuroHealthNet is presenting today its newest assessment report ‘Recovery and Resilience Plans: drivers to promote health and well-being in the European Union?‘.
Perhaps the most important lesson from the COVID-19 syndemic, is a profound appreciation of the fundamental value of health and its inequitable distribution within our societies.1 This is confirmed by mounting evidence, not least by the recent OECD ‘Health at a Glance 2021’ report2.
Our publication explores whether the EU and its members states are seizing the opportunity to apply the available recovery-oriented funds to ‘build back’, in ways that systematically, structurally, and sustainably strengthen health, equity and well-being. For policymakers, the report lays out ways to implement the Council Conclusions on the Future of the European Semester in the context of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, adopted in November 2021.3
As we set out to rebuild, we need to do so in ways that are as inclusive as possible, to scale up measures to improve the social conditions and strengthen the fabric of society in ways that deliver health and wellbeing for all. This is the only way to ensure resilience.
Dr Mojca Gabrijelčič-Blenkuš, President of EuroHealthNet
Recommendations for using Recovery and Resilience funds for a healthy and socially-just recovery
Cross-country analyses highlighted a range of interrelated areas where the Recovery and Resilience Funds could be, and in some cases will be invested. These included:
- Creating more enabling environments for healthy lifestyles and encouraging the uptake of policies and action with co-benefits for health, green and sustainable environments.
- Investing in primary and community care, including public health
- Investing in measures to promote mental health
- Improving monitoring and surveillance systems with an equity focus
- Strengthening the health and social workforce
- Investing in digital inclusion and skills, and digital health literacy.
- Supporting families and young people
Several experts, however, expressed concern at the insufficient guidance on, and consideration for, how the measures outlined in their national Plans will contribute to ‘levelling-up’ socio-economic and health gradients4, and thereby to social inclusion and greater resilience. Many experts also felt that relevant authorities working at sub-national levels, that have a keen understanding on realities ‘on the ground’, were not adequately consulted, due to the speed at which the Plans had to be developed.
The European Semester has significant health and social impacts. It is crucial for health stakeholders to be aware of this process, in particular as its importance has now increased with the integration of the governance of the associated EU funds.
Vertti Kiukas, Vice-President of EuroHealthNet
Going beyond recovery to investing in resilience
It is not only the ‘Recovery’ part of the RRF that is of importance. Investments in ‘Resilience’ are vital to ensure our societies and all people have the strength, capacities and opportunities to respond to, withstand, and overcome the challenges of COVID-19 or other pandemics, as well as the climate crisis that we face.
The EuroHealthNet Partnership will continue to closely monitor and analyse the implementation of national Recovery and Resilience Plans and their contribution to health, well-being, social equity, resilience, and sustainable economic development for all. To make this happen, we will also continue to facilitate the international exchange of good practice and experience in this area, to generate learning and build the capacities and competencies of relevant policymakers, investors, and professionals.
The European Semester from a health equity perspective – EuroHealthNet analyses
The European Semester is the EU’s annual cycle of economic and social policy coordination. The Semester affects health care, early childhood education, unemployment, as well as social transfer and pension systems.
Similarly, the Semester is also a tool and a mechanism that can assist health agencies in their work to improve public health and act of the determinants of health. Therefore, it is essential they understand what it is and how to work with it.
For every Semester cycle, EuroHealthNet analyses the Semester from a health perspective and provides support to organisations affected by it. Find our previous analyses here.
- Bambra, Clare & Smith, Katherine. (2021). The Syndemic Pandemic: COVID-19 and Social Inequality. 10.1007/978-3-030-70179-6_19.
- OECD (2021). Health at a Glance 2021.
- Council of the European Union. The future of the European Semester in the context of the Recovery and Resilience Facility – Council conclusions, November 2021.
- European Commission, Knowledge for Policy (2020). Social gradient in health: “Evidence shows that in general, within countries, the lower an individual’s socioeconomic position the worse their health. There is a social gradient in health that runs from top to bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum. This is a global phenomenon, seen in low, middle and high income countries. The social gradient in health means that health inequities affect everyone.”