At the European Public Health Alliance's (EPHA) annual congress in Brussels on Wednesday (4 September), Borg said that in recent years, the economic and financial crisis had sparked a debate on the sustainability of European healthcare systems and their budgetary constraints.
However, health is a value in itself and a crucial driver of greater prosperity, the commissioner said.
Smart spending on health is growth-friendly, he added.
"We must recognise that improving people’s health can also boost economic growth by enabling people to remain active longer," Borg said in a European Commission video.
"Too often health is primarily seen as a cost, a drain, a burden and not as an investment for the future which can pay great dividends. The future of EU health policy should build on the value that EU legislation and cooperation can help to improve health outcomes,“ he added.
Borg's views were supported by Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, minister of health for Lithuania, the Baltic country which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Andriukaitis said that member states should focus on the reorganisation of their healthcare services instead of a reduction in their volume.
It’s essential to improve the effectiveness of healthcare systems to strike a balance of innovation and the principle of solidarity.
"Health is a value in itself," Andriukaitis repeated.
"It’s also a precondition for economic prosperity. People’s health influences economic outcomes in terms of productivity, labour supply and human capital. Investing in health boosts innovation, creates new skills and jobs," the minister said.
In many EU member states, problems regarding the affordability and the long-term sustainability of public spending on medicines precede the crisis.
In Greece, the entire public healthcare system is under enormous pressure due to austerity measures. In Spain, the government has legally restricted access to care for undocumented migrants.
Groups that were already vulnerable before the crisis, such as undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, drug users, sex workers, destitute European citizens and homeless people, have seen a reduction in social safety nets which provide them with basic help.
Yves Leterme, the deputy secretary general of the Organisation for Econonomic Co-operation and Development, said that even if growth - including in the euro area - followed a sustainable path in the future, unemployment and inequality would remain at extremely high, posing a continued challenge to the European welfare states.
"The main message today is that we have to adapt our policies and adapt what is happening in our health systems to a new reality," Leterme said.
"Until now, this has not happened despite all the health cuts in many countries. We still have today in most member states health systems that are often strikingly inefficient and ineffective," he added.