Article published in Cafebabel
Will European health systems see some progress in the future? Alex Proimos © Flickr
In a European Union counting over 500.000 inhabitants, we should ask ourselves, what does the Union mean for health and health systems?
In fact, the actions taken by the EU affect the health of the European population and, naturally, the performance of the health systems. It is vital to understand the role of health within the European Union, especially in a time of change, when health systems have to deal with new challenges driven by the threat posed by the financial crisis and the surge of euroscepticism in politics.
The Commission, as the executive body of the EU, is responsible for proposing legislation and implementing decisions, among several other executive functions. If we focus on Health policy, the Commission opens doors to a complex world that influences our daily lives. The European Health sector embraces a huge variety of services ranging from steering EU Public Health; ensuring health security; improving healthcare; risk assessment; taking action against diseases; health in society; fostering good health; indicators and data; pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Health Projects to 2014-2020
With the recent establishment of the new Commission comes along a Health programme 2014-2020 which main purpose is to fund health initiatives. Therefore, the EC Health has a budget of €449.4 million to support cooperation projects at EU level, actions in cooperation with Member State health authorities, the functioning of non-governmental bodies and cooperation with international organizations. Additionally, and of extreme importance, the access’ facilitation to a better and safer healthcare for Union citizens, is one of the top priorities of the Commission for the framework 2014-2020.
If we look at the demographic context in constant expansion, we find ourselves confronted with a big threat to the sustainability of health systems. The fragile economy within the Union is also a factor to take in account as it limits the availability of resources to invest in healthcare. In the same way, it is crucial to tackle the rising of health inequalities between and within Member States as well as the prevalence of chronic diseases. “Responding to the wide disparities observable across the member states in pathologies, treatments and outcomes, healthcare strategists are starting to examine more systematically how existing instruments could be used to level up the performance of each country’s healthcare system – to get better value for every euro spent,” wrote Peter O’Donnell in the European Voice.
In addition to this, one of the Health policies’ objectives entails health promotion, diseases prevention and fostering supportive environments for healthy lifestyles. According to Professor Grégory Ninot, from the University of Montpellier, in France, the important goal to achieve is to discover how to change unhealthy behavior and maintain healthy behavior in patients with chronic diseases. “The question is how to conceive a new healthy system dedicated to chronic disease care and how to improve the quality of life of these patients,” said Ninot regarding the French healthcare system.
A "new deal" for Health promotion
As to operational objectives, the Commission proposes to identify, disseminate and promote the adhesion of evidence-based and good practices for cost-effective prevention and health promotion activities as well as implement better preparedness and coordination in health emergencies. Similarly to the famous New Deal, a range of domestic programs enacted in the United States between 1933 and 1936 to tackle the crisis, Caroline Costongs, Managing Director from EuroHealthNet, has suggested it is time for a “new deal” regarding health promotion to accompany institutional renewal in the EU. “To tackle the root causes of these [health] inequalities, investment in early childhood and education is needed as well as better employment conditions, safe housing, and universal social protection systems,” she said.
To conclude, the Commission has undergone the biggest institutional reform for the last 30 years and the potential benefits for healthcare are enormous. The appointment of a new college brings a new structure and way of working. Only time and a deeper commitment from all the new Commissioners will show if this new measures and strategies will lead to a successfully path.