In its opinion adopted during the plenary session, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) agrees on the need to improve the integration, cooperation and performance of health systems in the Union. European citizens live longer and healthier lives than before. While a healthy population contributes to the prosperity, the well-being and the economic development of the society, large health disparities continue to exist between and within Member States and regions. The current health systems in the EU are affected by population ageing, costs of innovative medicine and new technologies, chronic diseases and inequalities in healthcare access.

The CoR calls for more integration between European health systems to bridge the health gap in Europe and to improve health outcomes by guaranteeing equal access to quality healthcare everywhere in the EU. Bringing healthcare systems closer together would also facilitate cooperation between Members States on procurement, pricing and access to medicines, as well as in the field of cost-intensive and highly specialised medical equipment and sharing good practices. An Erasmus+ programme for healthcare professionals would be a step in the right direction to stimulate knowledge sharing and expose healthcare staff to new experiences, techniques and procedures.

Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP), member of Dalarna County Council and rapporteur of the adopted opinion, also highlights the pressing need to better deal with chronic diseases: “The European healthcare systems have to adapt to a new disease profile in which chronic diseases represent a very large proportion of healthcare costs. Greater emphasis should be placed on preventive action and health promotion, and the primary care systems need to be strengthened“. She asks for mental health “to be given the same priority as physical health” as well. Local and regional leaders are increasingly looking into policy and practice examples breaking down the silos between health and social care while they implement measures to guarantee continuity of patient-centred care.

The CoR reminds the Member States of their commitment to establish a national action plan against antimicrobial persistence by mid-2017 and asks health ministries to involve local and regional authorities in the development and implementation of these plans. The CoR also requests an observer seat within the Expert Group on Health Systems Performance Assessment (HSPA), established by the Commission and the Member States, upon the invitation from the Council, confident that local and regional expertise could add value to discussions of this panel.

Local and regional leaders also emphasise that improving health and reducing health inequalities cannot be seen as a budgetary burden but should be considered as an investment in the wellbeing of the population. Arguing convincingly that “health is wealth”, they urge the EU to be more consistent in applying the principle of “health in all policies”.

 

Source: European Committee of the Regions

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