Most competence for action in the field of health is held by Member States, but the EU has the responsibility, set out in the Treaty, to undertake certain actions which complement the work done by Member States, for example in relation to cross border health threats, patient mobility, and reducing health inequalities.
On 23 October 2007 the European Commission adopted a new Health Strategy, 'Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013'. Building on current work, this Strategy aims to provide, for the first time, an overarching strategic framework spanning core issues in health as well as health in all policies and global health issues. The Strategy aims to set clear objectives to guide future work on health at the European level, and to put in place an implementation mechanism to achieve those objectives, working in partnership with Member States.
The Strategy focuses on four principles and three strategic themes for improving health in the EU. The principles include taking a value-driven approach, recognising the links between health and economic prosperity, integrating health in all policies, and strengthening the EU's voice in global health. The strategic themes include Fostering Good Health in an Ageing Europe, Protecting Citizens from Health Threats, and Dynamic Health Systems and New Technologies.
A discussion document on operational aspects of the Health Strategy was available for comment until 12 February 2007. The contributions received have been analysed and are available together with a summary report.
The Health Strategy has been in development over the past years. In May 2000 a Communication on health strategy at EU level was adopted. This Communication called for concentrating resources where the Community can provide real added value, without duplicating work which can be better done by the Member States or international organisations . Supported by the public health programme, it led to the development of public health activities and to strengthening links to other health-related policies .
General health policy lines were set out in the concept of a Europe of Health in 2002. Work was undertaken on addressing health threats, including the creation of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), developing cross-border co-operation between health systems and tackling health determinants. The Community's health information system provides a key mechanism underpinning the development of health policy.
In 2004, in order to review the May 2000 Health Strategy and consider whether and how it needed to be revised in the light of developments, the Commission launched a reflection process on enabling good health for all. The results of this reflection process contributed to the development of the new Health Strategy.
The EU Health Forum, which brings together organisations active in health to advise the European Commission on health policy, is also a key element of the EU Health policy. The Forum enables the health community to participate in health policy making from the start. EU health policy increasingly involves co-operation with and between the Member States, in particular on cross-border issues such as patient mobility .