EU’s neighbours need to strengthen their health systems

Poor economic situation can only in part explain the bad health situation in the EU’s neighbour countries. Improving the efficiency of the health systems is the way forward, says the WHO.

The World Health Organisation’s recent publication entitled 
10 health questions about the new EU neighbours
gives an overview of the diverse health status of the EU’s 12 neighbouring countries (N12) and highlights the link between health systems (centralised/insurance) and health status of the population. The data reveals striking differences among the N12 and even more so, when compared to the EU-15 or EU-25. “Despite differences, due to varying political and socio-economic contexts, these countries face common challenges, such as transition and pre-accession,” explained Josep Figueras from the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

He also said that most of the EU’s neighbours have already adopted Social Health Insurance but face challenges in their ability to raise taxes, unemployment and informal economy. Furthermore, they are challenged by major implementation constraints such as lack of skills needed for managing complex information systems, restructuring of hospitals and changing the culture of public services from ‘control and command’ to pluralism of provision, privatisation and market competition. 

“Political reforms in the N12 have played a detrimental role for people’s health. Access to health and social services is constraint, there is a growing number of vulnerable groups and the life style patterns are not very healthy,” listed the deputy regional director of the WHO-Europe, Nata Menabde. “Life expectancy gaps are scary, especially among men” she continued, referring to the difference between the EU-15’s 79 years and the 12 neighbours’ 65 years. She also said that the burden of communicable diseases in the N12 is more than twice as high as it is in the EU-25.

The current candidates for EU-membership, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, still face problems with communicable diseases and cause headache to WHO due to poor maternal and child health.

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