EU in the world

Global health

Diseases and their causes do not respect national borders, and global health issues cannot be dealt with effectively by a European acting alone. The financial and workforce‑related pressures on health systems to deliver quality care to ageing populations are also universal, and can only be addressed with better international collaboration.

More information – The EU in Global Health – summary

The EU in global health governance

The EU and multilateral cooperation on health issues

The EU supports the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the leading authority on global health in the United Nations system.It speaks with one voice in the WHO’s governing bodies. The Commission and national governments establish a joint EU position to be presented to the WHO. The Commission cooperates with the WHO Secretariat on health security, research and development, non-communicable diseases, health inequalities, health systems and health information.

The EU also supports other multilateral initiatives relevant to health, including:

EU and global governance for health

EU trade policy and health

Globalised markets in health products, devices and services – in which the EU is a world leader - bring both opportunities and challenges in terms of quality and safety standards. This is why the EU:

  • promotes its standards and rules at global level through cooperation on regulatory matters
  • integrates health concerns in multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and refuses to compromise on safety
  • is committed to keeping essential medicines accessible and affordable, in line with the Doha Declaration.

EU development policy and health

EU development aid to third countries is designed to reduce health inequalities and improve social cohesion. It does this by broadening access to quality health services and stepping up protection against excessive health spending.

  • The EU helps beneficiary countries develop national health policies and strengthen their health systems by providing more qualified health workers, safe, effective and affordable medicines, and financing
  • With €50 bn per year, the EU is by far the world's biggest donor, providing 56% of global public aid.
  • Over the last 7 years, some €3.2 bn have been spent in bilateral aid to help strengthen health systems and improve access to quality basic health services for all.
  • In the Communication ‘An Agenda for Change’ on EU development policy, the EU commits itself to allocating at least 20% of the 2014-2020 aid budget to human development, including health.
  • The EU supports both individual countries and global health initiatives, e.g. the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI).

The EU and global health security

Global travel on a large scale increases the following risks:

  • spread of new pathogens and diseases
  • spread of drug-resistant pathogens
  • bioterrorism and accidental release of pathogens.

To ensure we are prepared to respond to such global health threats, the EU works with the World Health Organisation and the G7 countries within the Global Health Security Initiative. The Commission and EU governments work together in the EU Health Security Committee to coordinate their approach to the main health threats.

EU governance for global health

The EU global health policy, defined in 2010 (Commission Communication on Global Health COM(2010)128 Brussels, 31 March 2010 and Council conclusions on the EU role in Global Health 3011th FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting Brussels, 10 May 2010), identifies the main challenges and sets out guiding principles for a stronger EU vision, voice, and action: leadership, universal coverage, consistent policy within the EU, and knowledge.

Further to this, the Commission has established the Global Health Policy Forum. Its main objective is to ensure an open dialogue between the Commission Services and key stakeholders. This should help to strengthen the EU's voice in global health by ensuring coherence between its internal and external health policies in attaining global health goals.

The EU aims to ensure its internal and external policies are consistent with each other. A comprehensive global health policy involves policy areas including trade, financing, development aid, migration, security and climate change action. It also implies working in partnership with all the other relevant organisations and interest groups.

The EU advocates equitable, universal and high-quality healthcare coverage. It plays a central role in advancing progress on global health challenges, including the health Millenium Development Goals and non-communicable diseases.

The EU and its member countries promote effective and fair financing of research that benefits the health of all. It is working to ensure that innovative products are safe, effective, accessible and affordable.