Structural funds

The health and employability of EU citizens goes hand in hand with economic growth and social protection. Investing in health is therefore crucial to ensuring the prosperity and well-being of EU citizens, and wider EU stability. 

The EU Cohesion Policy and health

The EU Cohesion Policy aims to reduce economic and social inequalities between regions in Europe – mainly through the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). Recognised as an important asset for regional development and competitiveness, the health sector receives ESIF for investments through:

  • European Regional Development Fund – financing health infrastructure and equipment, e-health, research and support to small and medium sized enterprises
  • European Social Fund – financing health activities linked to active and healthy ageing, health promotion, addressing health inequalities, support to the health workforce and strengthening public administration capacities.

Who manages ESIF?

While EU countries decide, define and implement health sector investments, the European Commission works with them to enhance their capacities in the management of structural funds in health, and encourages the sharing of best practices.

Funding modalities and thematic priorities are coordinated with individual EU countries, which are then responsible for implementation of the investments at national level. Beneficiaries include public bodies, private sector organisations (especially small businesses), universities, NGOs and associations.

How to apply for ESIF funding

  • Potential beneficiaries should consult calls for proposals published by the relevant national Managing Authority(ies) and apply to them directly.
  • The European Commission's guide provides information on relevant criteria and steps.
  • Check ESIF programmes in your country/region to see if your project idea matches the priority areas.

2014-2020 ESIF funding in health

Common success factors in the effective use of structural funds for health were defined as part of a reflection process on health systems in 2013.

The resulting mapping on the use of ESIF in health analyses planned funding for 2014-2020 and the operational programmes of individual EU countries. The Technical and Managerial Toolkit covers the instruments and mechanisms, appraisal of investment, calls for proposals, indicators, and new healthcare concepts and models.

ESIF projects have been contributing to different health policy goals, such as:

  • Improving access to healthcare
  • Support to reform processes towards effective and resilient health systems
  • Uptake of e-health/digital solutions, in particular related to the Digital Single Market and the interoperability of these solutions within and across EU countries
  • Research and innovation in health and life sciences
  • Active and healthy ageing, health and disease prevention
  • Health workforce (training, lifelong learning, workforce planning, retention)

Find examples of ESIF projects for health by Thematic Block.

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