EPHA welcomes the Commission’s recognition that health workers are key actors on the road to economic recovery. However, EPHA believes the Commission should go further in promoting the notion that health is wealth. EPHA expects the Country Specific Recommendations to contain concrete guidelines to invest in health and improve efficiency, not only financial sustainability. “Health is more than just a mere instrument to achieving more growth. Health is a fundamental right and therefore should not be held hostage to economic imperatives,” said Monika Kosińska, EPHA’s Secretary General. The recommendation to modernise health systems should have clear links with better patient safety, higher quality care, and accessibility in line with EU values for health systems. (3) In order to maintain these values and increase effectiveness, increasing efficiency health promotion and disease prevention need to have greater emphasis in health systems.

“A clear message from the report Health at a Glance: Europe 2012 was that as governments are under pressure to contain costs, they should also provide quality care and achieve sustainability – so a more effective approach is needed,” said Ms Kosińska. The joint report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission pointed out the first fall in health spending across the continent for nearly 40 years (4). The report found that on average across EU countries, only 3% of health budgets were allocated to prevention and public health programmes in areas such as immunization, smoking, alcohol drinking, nutrition and physical activity. Spending on prevention now can be much more cost-effective than treating diseases in the future.

We know that 77% of disease burden is preventable by going beyond technical innovation and treatment; ring-fencing resources for prevention will decrease long term costs. In order to measure progress in achieving better health outcomes, better monitoring mechanisms need to be put in place,” argued Ms Kosińska. EPHA has long warned that the full impact of the deterioration of health, driven by the financial crisis, is yet to come. Better attention should be paid to socio-economic determinants of health, health promotion and prevention, especially during the early years of child development as part of the youth guarantee and investments in youth.

There needs to be an introduction of consumption taxes to tackle the underlying causes of widely-spread health issues in our society: Alarming rates of obesity and diabetes as well as the enormous health consequences of smoking and an abusive consumption of alcohol amongst millions of Europeans could be greatly diminished by adopting fiscal measures (so-called sin taxes) across the board.

EPHA encourages the Council of the EU and the European Commission to engage civil society and other health actors to ensure initiatives

-  Develop guidelines so that budget consolidation does not remove our ability to recover from the crisis by negatively impacting on social protection and health systems, and is consistent with social objectives, such as affordability and availability of quality services and educational achievement of disadvantaged groups;

- Create jobs in the health, social and care sector to put Europe on the right path to sustainable development;

- Improve accessibility and prioritise prevention in health system reform;

- Introduce measures that reduce poverty and social exclusion, and not only mitigate their effects;

- Take bolder action fighting against tax havens, corruption and tax fraud;

- Implement a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) in all EU countries who have agreed to move forward with this.

-End-

Notes to Editors

(1) The Annual Growth Survey 2013 presented on 28 November 2012.

(2) A new report, the Independent Annual Growth Survey commissioned by the S&D Group in the European Parliament and prepared by three major economic institutes: the OFCE (Paris); the IMK (Düsseldorf) and the ECLM (Copenhagen) argues that the official Commission annual growth survey relies too heavily on austerity policies and structural reforms.

(3) Council Conclusions on Common values and principles in European Union Health Systems.

(4) Health at a Glance: Europe 2012 This second edition of Health at a Glance: Europe presents a set of key indicators of health and health systems in 35 European countries, including the 27 European Union member states, 5 candidate countries and 3 EFTA countries. This publication is the result of collaboration between the OECD and the European Commission, with the help of national data correspondents from the 35 countries.

Contact information Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator, Tel.: +32 2 233 38 76 and j.delgado-rivera@epha.org

Last modified on December 11 2012.