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European Health Policy : further reframing and strengthening by the EU

With the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the European Union’s role in protecting and improving public health has been strengthened. Its action should enable the creation of a common public health framework despite the complexity of the matter.

The public health policy, governed by Article 168 TFEU, makes the distinction between shared competences (EU and Member States) and supporting competences.

The new financial framework partially gives back competences to the States by providing the next European Social Fund with a section dedicated to Health, while other programmes such as Horizon Europe or Digital Europe will continue to support collaborative European projects.

The European ambition

Through its political and financial instruments, the EU has developed a number of fields of intervention such as:
– Managing public health in the EU;
– Improving health systems;
– Promoting health;
Pharmaceutical products*;
– Taking action against diseases;
– Monitor and act: Risk assessment, endocrine disrupters, Biocides, air pollution, herbicides (glyphosate), etc.

* For example, the Union has been fighting against the falsification of medicines since the implementation of Directive 2011/62, known as the “Falsified Medicines” Directive. Drugs are subject to a traceability system managed by EMVO (European Medicine Verification Organisation). This regulation is a major step forward in public health.

Currently, several European programmes support and finance health projects. These include the 3rd Health Programme, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which dedicates funds to digitalisation in certain territories, and the Horizon 2020 framework programme, a flagship instrument of the 2014-2020 programming, whose “Societal Challenges” pillar targets Health.

The 3rd European Health Programme 2014-2020

With a budget of €449.4 million (€120 million more than in the previous programming), the Health Programme encourages cooperation between Member States and the pooling of resources.

Its objectives are as follows:
– Promoting health, preventing disease and promoting healthy lifestyles through the integration of health issues into all policies;
– Protect EU citizens from serious cross-border health threats;
– Contribute to innovative, efficient and sustainable health systems;
– Facilitate access by EU citizens to safe and high-quality health care.

On 21st May 2019, the CHAFEA Executive Agency published a call for proposals on two topics based on the reduction of unnecessary use of antibiotics and on the combat of antimicrobial resistance:
– Rare disease registries for European reference networks, with a budget of €3.8 million;
– Stakeholder actions to implement the EU guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials in human health, with a budget of €2 million.

Beneficiaries are invited to submit their applications by September 10, 2019. Participation is open to a wide range of organisations, including: public authorities, public bodies – research and health institutions, universities and higher education institutions, NGOs, etc.

European funding 2021-2027 for Health, what changes are expected?

The new multiannual financial framework will once again give great importance to health. In this area, the budget will dedicate a part of the future ESF fund to Health with a budget of €413 million (European Social Fund Plus 2021-2027).

This support to Member States will be necessary to reduce the remaining differences from one country to another. According to the European Index of Healthcare Consumers, the path from information to patient accessibility is very heterogeneous: the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, France and Austria score more than 800 points out of a total of 1000, while Bulgaria barely reaches 550 points and Romania only has a score of 439 points.

The Horizon Europe, Digital Europe and ERDF programmes will also support many projects. InvestEU (new investment plan resulting from the Juncker Plan) will also be invited to the table of major projects.

Fanny Robert and Lorraine De Bouchony – May 2019


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