Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

A new proposal to analyse and combat disease in Europe

A new European strategy on public health is under debate following the European Commission's launch of a new proposal to analyse and combat disease in Europe. At its core is an incentive programme with a proposed budget of 300 million euro over six years.

The first step in th...
A new European strategy on public health is under debate following the European Commission's launch of a new proposal to analyse and combat disease in Europe. At its core is an incentive programme with a proposed budget of 300 million euro over six years.

The first step in the strategy aims to put in place a comprehensive data system on the major determinants of health in the European Union, together with methods to evaluate this data. The second seeks to ensure that the Community is in a position to counter threats to health, which cannot be tackled by Member States on their own. A third will put in place strategies to identify the most effective policy for combating disease and promoting health.

The proposal also outlines the legislative initiatives in relation to public health that are now under consideration and reiterates that a high level of health protection shall be ensured in all Community policies and initiatives.

'The potential for improved health through Community action is hugely under-exploited' said David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer protection, as he announced the plans for a new strategy.

The Commission believes that increased cooperation and constructive peer review of Member States' individual health systems could help identify strengths and weaknesses, leading to better systems all round and helping Europe to meet the challenge of its ageing population.

The comprehensive data system proposed by in the Commission's new strategy is intended to allow such a critical review of individual health care systems in the EU. 'Citizens in each Member State should have available a wide range of information on what impacts on their health and how public health systems cater to their needs,' says the Commission. 'People should know how their systems perform and what are their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow scarce resources to be utilised to best effect while also ensuring that a vital public interest - a high level off human health - is ensured.'

Commenting on this aspect of the strategy, Mr Byrne said: 'It is not the Commission's intention to run Member States' healthcare systems. Instead, we want to help introduce light and transparency into public health systems.'

The new strategy also puts a major focus on threats to health arising from increased integration at both the EU and world level. 'It is dangerous to pretend that any individual Member State can protect its citizens' health through its own efforts alone. Certain threats and risks, notably communicable diseases, know no borders,' said the Commissioner. The new strategy includes proposals for strengthening existing mechanisms for the early detection, monitoring and control of such risks. It also proposes legislative initiatives in areas such as the safety of blood and blood products.

Also included are proposals aimed to coordinate national efforts for health promotion and disease prevention. 'One fifth of European citizens die prematurely, before the age of 65, very often from preventable diseases,' said Mr Byrne. 'If we can succeed in reducing the incidence of premature death, for example through effective strategies on smoking prevention and early detection of cancer, we could very considerably improve the health of Europe's citizens.'

Mr Byrne also stressed that no single institution can claim ownership of public health at the Community level:

'We must focus our efforts where they can have best effect. This programme will not build hospitals or finance cuts in waiting lists. Instead, it will aim to provide a meaningful Community contribution to Member States' own huge efforts and expenditure aimed at protecting the health of our citizens. This can best be done by encouraging open and transparent cooperation in identifying where and how Member States are effectively addressing health concerns. In turn, the Community must ensure that increased integration, at EU or international level, is accompanied by reinforced efforts to deal with the increased health risks from such integration.'

The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and the Council for consideration under the co-decision procedure.
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top