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Public Health (11-12-2013)

Health inequalities in the EU

Today, the EU-funded report "Health Inequalities in the EU", produced by a consortium led by Sir Michael Marmot ( University College, London), is published. The main findings have been included in the Commission’s progress report on the implementation of the 2009 Communication, ‘Solidarity in Health: Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU” published on 9 September 2013. See news item. Findings not previously published include:

Inequalities in life expectancy : no evidence of an overall decline between EU regions. For life expectancy at age 50 for males, the gap increased. Male and female life expectancy at birth and at 50 and 65 years increased in Belgium, France and Hungary and decreased the most in Spain, the Netherlands and Romania.

Inequalities in infant mortality : the gap between Member States narrowed by 12% between the period 2002-04 and 2007-09. Regional inequalities increased in Belgium, France and Hungary and decreased the most in Spain, the Netherlands and Romania. Absolute levels of infant mortality were the lowest in Finland and Sweden.

The report warns that the current financial, economic and social crisis is threatening to undermine existing policies, and may negatively affect health inequalities. It urges that tackling health inequalities remain a priority and be mainstreamed into the health sector’s core policies, and addressed also by other sectors. The report puts forward five key recommendations for the Commission, EU Member States and Regions, as follows:

  1. Lead on clear and comprehensive strategies to redress the current patterns and magnitude of health inequalities.
  2. Ensure the coherence and effectiveness of action to reduce health inequalities at all levels of government and across all sectors and stakeholders.
  3. Ensure that capacities exist for coherent and effective implementation of action on health inequalities.
  4. Improve the availability and use of data for identifying priorities, planning action, monitoring trends and evaluating which actions are the most effective.
  5. Leadership and action at European Commission-level, to stimulate action and build capacity to tackle health inequalities.