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Public Health (20-02-2013)

Investment in Health set as a priority in the Social Investment Package

Social Investment Package

Today, the European Commission adopted its Social Investment Package for growth and cohesion. The initiative aims to help Member States to use their social and health budgets more efficiently and effectively, by promoting best practices and providing guidance. Investing in Health is a key component of the Package. It follows on from the 2013 Annual Growth Survey PDF, which recognizes the contribution of health for a job-rich recovery.

Health is a value in itself. It is also a precondition for economic prosperity . Health spending is 'growth friendly' expenditure. The Investing in Health paper establishes the role of health as integral to the Europe 2020 strategy. It strengthens the link between EU health policies and national health system reforms and presents the case for:

  • Smart investments for sustainable health systems: According to the OECD, reforms in healthcare could lead to savings of, on average, 2% of GDP by 2017. Getting more value for money through reforms and investments is crucial. EU countries are responsible for the organization and delivery of their own health services and care. They should spend smarter - not necessarily more, to make their healthcare systems more efficient. Efficiency gains can be made by, for example, reducing unnecessary hospitalization and use of specialists, strengthening primary care, encouraging the use of less expensive equivalent (generic) drugs, and using health technology assessment to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of health technologies as a basis for decision making. The Commission will continue to foster the cooperation among the Member States and efforts to improve the knowledge and evidence at EU level.
  • Investing in people's health: A person's health status influences how much they can participate in social and work life and how productive they are in the workplace. On a larger scale, it influences the financial impact on national healthcare systems. Investments in health can support economic growth by enabling people to remain in good health and be active in the workplace for longer. Investing in health promotion for children and young people, for instance, supports their physical and social development and ultimately equips them to play a full role in society. Another avenue is to invest in the health workforce, as the Commission suggested in an Action Plan of 2012.
  • Investing in reducing inequalities in health: Average levels of health have been improving across the EU for many years, but this hides major health inequalities that still exist both between and within Member States. Differences in life expectancy at age 30 between people with higher education and those with basic secondary education or less exceed 10 years in many Member States. Avoidable diseases and deaths attributable to inequalities in health are a waste of human capital and must be reduced. Universal access to safe, high quality, efficient healthcare services and better cooperation between social and healthcare services, and effective action on risk factors can all help break the vicious circle of poor health/poverty/exclusion. The Commission will produce a report in 2013 on the implementation of its 2009 Communication on inequalities in health.

The EU Health Program, the Cohesion and Structural Funds, as well as the Research and Innovation Funds (Horizon 2020) can support investment in health all across the European Union.

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