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EU Cohesion Policy invests in health, a key asset for regional development and competitiveness, in order to reduce economic and social disparities. Investment may address a number of different areas such as Europe’s ageing population, healthcare infrastructure and sustainable systems, e-health, affordable access to quality health services, health promotion programmes and cross-border cooperation.

Equal access to quality healthcare services supports social cohesion and reduces poverty risks. At the same time, access to long-term care facilities and services allows reducing the time spent on caring tasks for family members. Despite the near-universal coverage of health insurance or national health systems across Member States, there are still major health inequalities across countries, regions and socio-economic groups.

The key challenges in the area of healthcare, varying in nature and intensity across the Member States, are the high levels of unmet needs for medical care, the disparities in availability and quality of and access to healthcare, the shortages in healthcare workforce (both in numbers and in terms of skill gaps), as well as insufficient capacity in terms of facilities and equipment. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need to build more resilient healthcare systems that are better equipped to respond to crises, including through increased cooperation mechanisms and sharing resources, capacities and knowledge across national and regional borders. 

Health is eligible to receive support under several of the five policy objectives of Cohesion Policy, mainly under More competitive and smarter Europe through support to research and innovation and support to medical businesses, digitisation and e-health and More social Europe through support for healthcare and long-term care services.

An important principle of the Cohesion Policy Funds for 2021-2027 continuous to be the integrated approach to funding and programming. This serves not just to provide improved coordination, but also to achieve integrated development. In the health sector, integrated funding can help ensure the more effective interlinking of actions to address problems. The following key areas can by funded by the European Regional Development Fund (EDRF) and the European Social Fund (ESF+):

  • European Regional Development Fund –  support to equal access to health care and fostering resilience of health systems, including primary care, and promoting the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care, health infrastructure and equipment, integration of care between primary healthcare (e.g. facilities for general practitioners, nurses), secondary healthcare (e.g. facilities for specialists, outpatient clinic) and tertiary healthcare (e.g. acute and long-term care hospitals, emergencies services), e-health, mobile health, telehealth, public information systems and telemedicine, as well as transnational and cross-border activities to enhance resilience and effectiveness of healthcare service provision.
  • European Social Fund + : promotion of a healthy and well-adapted working environment addressing health risks, active and healthy ageing, health promotion and addressing health inequalities, support to the health workforce and strengthening public administration capacities (actions should focus on measures at the level of the workplace); actions improving accessibility, including for persons with disabilities, effectiveness and resilience of healthcare systems and long-term care services.