Commissioner Byrne launches ‘Europe of Health’ debate

The Public Health Commissioner has launched a reflection process on
the future of EU health policy.

In a speech launching the reflection process on 15 July, Byrne
argued that good health should be regarded as an economic priority.
“Without long-term investment in good health, healthcare and social
costs will continue to rise and economies will inevitably suffer,”
Byrne explained.

“The Commission has committed itself to integrating health into
the Lisbon agenda as a driver of competitiveness,” Byrne said
underlining the importance of enabling more research in the EU. “We
need to ensure that Europe regains its reputation as the world’s
health research and technology centre. […] So that anyone,
anywhere in the EU can benfit from the most innovative and
efficient therapies,” he said.

Byrne warned that the definition of ‘good health’ must move away
from the prevention of illness to mean life-long physical and
mental well-being. “The time has come for Europe to shift the
emphasis from the essentially defensive approach of mainly
addressing ill health towards a more confident and forward-looking
approach based more on the active promotion of good health,” Byrne
said.

The future health strategy should tackle inequalities by
ensuring access to good health for each citizen across the EU. The
Commissioner underlined the complexities in achieving good health,
which range from better housing, healthier work conditions, a
cleaner environment, etc. Therefore, a health strategy should make
sure that all EU policies (including agriculture, environment,
trade, etc) are good for health.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will be
responsible for EU-wide co-operation on epidemiological
surveillance and the control of communicable diseases and outbreaks
of diseases of unknown origin. Byrne explained that the new agency
will be up and running in 2005.

Byrne warned that the funds available under the EU’s Public
Health Programme are insufficient, that further resources would be
needed and that this should be taken into consideration in the
ongoing discussions on the new financial framework.

In line with the objectives of the eHealth action plan, Byrne
underlined the importance of information and communication
technologies for the health sector. A European health card with
people’s medical CV is designed to facilitate quicker access to
treatment.

 

Towards the end of his term as the first Public Health and
Consumer Protection Commissioner, David Byrne has set out his
vision on the future of health in Europe and invited stakeholder
comments.

 

Public bodies, interest groups and citizens are invited to
contribute to the debate by 15 October 2004.

 

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