Significant inequalities exist in public health status between countries of the EU and between population groups within these countries. Social determinants play an important role in contributing to these, impacting on life expectancy and overall health. They include issues such as employment, income, education and ethnicity.
In an attempt to address health inequalities, the EU promotes policies and assists national authorities and interested parties to take measures to reduce them. The European Commission's 2009 Communication Solidarity in Health - Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU, set out an initial strategy for the area which included:
- An assessment of the impact of EU policies on health inequalities
- Updating data on health inequalities and on successful strategies to reduce these
- Information on EU funding to help national authorities and other bodies to address inequalities.
Report on health inequalities in the EU
In 2013, the Commission followed up with a Staff Working Document Report on health inequalities in the European Union. It provides:
- Updated facts and figures on health inequalities in the EU
- An assessment of progress in implementing the 2009 strategy.
It concludes that while some progress has been made, that more action is needed at local, national and EU levels. EU policies provide opportunities that EU countries and interest groups need to fully embrace to achieve better health, and greater cohesion in health.
Investing in reducing health inequalities
Investing in reducing health inequalities further contributes to social cohesion and breaks the vicious spiral of poor health that both contributes to and results from poverty and exclusion.
The Commission implements pilot projects related to specific aspects of reducing health inequalities with funding from the European Parliament.
A Joint Action on Health Inequalities under the EU Health Programme is also being prepared and will be launched in 2018. It will form the basis for collaboration between EU countries on increasing health equality.