- EPHA Open Letter "Preventing and Tackling Child Poverty and Social Exclusion, Promoting Children’s Well-being must include Strengthened Children’s Health dimension"

On 4th October 2012 at its meeting in Luxembourg, the EPSCO Council is to adopt the Council conclusions on Child Poverty. Seizing this opportunity, EPHA sent a letter to the Health and Social Affairs Ministers of the EU Member States, urging them to go beyond the approaches being currently taken for "improved access to healthcare services" to prevent and tackle child poverty.

Having analysed the draft Council conclusions (as of July 2012), and consistently advocating for stronger links between poverty and poor health outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable groups in our societies like children, Roma and the homeless, EPHA recommended broadening the current paradigm of preventing and tackling child poverty, and promoting children’s well-being by going beyond mere “improved access to healthcare services” and “providing employment opportunities for parents and income support". For this purpose, serious and urgent consideration has to be given to children’s physical, emotional and social development (in line with the World Health Organisation’s holistic definition of health), in particular during the crucial period of early childhood and even before (the antenatal period).

EPHA argues that from a public health perspective, a truly comprehensive and ambitious set of recommendations, fit for current social situations in the EU and able to prevent and tackle child poverty and promote children’s well being must include multi-dimensional, integrated health promotion, disease and injuries prevention by better investment in socio-economic determinants of children’s health. This should be achieved by a holistic approach and address healthy lifestyles; food and nutrition security; water and sanitation; safe and adequate housing; quality natural, built and social environments; and affordable energy supply inter alia.

As children grow up in families and communities, they also should be supported, empowered and made stronger to make them more resilient.

Only in such a way can the growing cycle of inter-generational poverty and health inequalities be reduced and eliminated. To this end, we urge you to read and sign EPHA European Charter for Health Equity.

These Council Conclusions should also be a tool to reach the Europe 2020 goals and targets. In this regard, EPHA encourages the outcomes to input into the Council of the European Union’s positions and contributions for the European Semester and Annual Growth Survey. Many civil society organisations worry that the poverty target will not be met by 2020. For this reason, EPHA suggests that adequate funding should be allocated to poverty reduction in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 with 25% of the Cohesion Policy’s budget for the European Social Fund (ESF), as proposed in the draft regulation by the European Commission (i.e. at least 25% of the Cohesion Policy’s budget for the ESF, and, at least 20% of the ESF, earmarked for social inclusion and poverty reduction). Furthermore, this should include a health dimension to funding for social cohesion and poverty reduction.

EPHA strongly welcomes the political commitment from the Council of the European Union to address child poverty. In our view, this is the first step to developing a Child Health and Well-being Strategy at the EU level. Such a strategy focusing on early intervention would give an overarching framework for measuring the impact of different policy processes children’s health at an EU level. It would also be a powerful tool for Member States to successfully take a “Health in All Polices” approach to child health and complement the already existing European Innovation Partnership on Healthy and Active Ageing with a lifecourse approach towards build-up of health capital and resilience of the European population.

As the governments of all Member States try to deal with a tremendous squeeze on budgets to health, social protection and services of general interest, families with children, single parents and pregnant women have to carry the growing burden of declining household incomes, paying for education, food and other everyday necessities. While the most attention in the current crisis debate is given to monetary growth, child poverty and children’s poor-health fail to be addressed properly.

EPHA related articles

- Draft Council conclusions on Child Poverty

- Social Protection Committee report on Child Poverty and Well-being

- EU Money for Poverty Reduction NOW! new campaign and petition

- Why healthy ageing starts with a childhood free of inequality

- article 4589

- EPHA Briefing on Children’s Health

- European Charter for Health Equity - open for signatures through 2012

Last modified on November 4 2012.