Even the largest EU Member States are small in a global context. Only by pulling together as the EU do we stand a chance of having an influential role. We must combine our forces in the EU and put people first instead of countries.
- Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis -
On 9 February, Budapest played host to a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. He was joined on stage by the Minister of State for Healthcare, Ministry of Human Resources, Zoltán Ónodi-Szűcs. The discussions focused mainly on issues relating to health and healthcare, this currently being one of the hottest topics in Hungary. Questions ranged from prevention through innovation and research to the EU's coordination role and the new EU initiatives that are in the pipeline.
With regard to prevention, Commissioner Andriukaitis stressed that supporting citizens in maintaining a long and healthy life cannot just be achieved by good healthcare practices but also by reducing risk factors such as tobacco, salt, and sugar, etc. The Commissioner referred to the roles of excise duties, the food industry and the media. He underlined that prevention of disease and the reduction of the number of premature deaths has important economic implications through increased productivity and a lesser burden on the healthcare system. He encouraged citizens to participate in and actively shape public debate on health.
In this respect, some audience members asked why the EU did not determine how much Member States should dedicate to healthcare, including prevention, whilst also welcoming the EU's help in sharing best practices between Member States in the area of health.
The discussion touched upon the role social determinants play in health. Participants argued that people's level of education often impacts on their health and asked the Commissioner how the EU could help to promote health education from an early age.
From health education, the debate moved on to research and innovation. Several participants said that there was a need to establish closer links between researchers, health innovators and health professionals. Participants asked how the EU supports innovation in the area of health and whether there were any plans to set up an EU health research institute which would support national health systems and health professionals with data collection, research and innovation. Concerns were also raised about the financing of longer term research, the results of which are not immediate and stretch beyond election cycles. Participants asked whether the EU could support such long term research.
Some audience members mentioned transport as an example of an area where there are several successful EU initiatives in place across Europe, and asked whether there were any similar EU campaigns in the pipeline in the area of health.
Commissioner Andriukaitis explained that the Commission was indeed working on several initiatives. In particular, he referred to the fight against antimicrobial resistance with the launch of an action plan; the EU initiative to set legal limits on industrial trans fats in foods; and to the proposal relating to endocrine disruptors, all expected in 2017.
The event in Budapest was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.