At a major conference, held in Brussels on 11 and 12 July and organised in collaboration with Finland’s EU Presidency, the Patient Access Partnership (PACT) addressed the collective priorities and actions required to advance the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 in Europe and to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all.
As a new Parliament and Commission are about to take office, this timely event provided the occasion for stakeholders to come forward with their ideas, concerns and suggestions with respect to the new EU mandate, making the case for a stronger EU-level health policy engagement.
The event was the second in a series of high-level PACT events taking place during this year, all of which relate to the future of health in the EU. The first was the “EU collaboration in health for better access: Taking stock and looking to the future” at the European Parliament and organized in collaboration with the MEP Interest Group on Access Healthcare.
During interactive workshops, panel and audience debates, some 115 delegates representing patient organisations, healthcare professionals, policy institutions and governments, public health NGOs, public health experts and industry from 22 Member States addressed a broad range of issues, challenges and opportunities related to progressing EU-level health policy.
Discussions touched upon the need for multi-sectoral cooperation; ‘we need to build bridges rather than walls’, PACT Secretary General Stanimir Hasardzhiev said. ‘Unified and understandable advocacy messages can open the doors to other sectors impacting on health’.
Another recurrent theme related to the current EU-level health competency; while often perceived as weak, it remains highly relevant. Facilitating the sharing of experiences and mutual learning while assuring appropriate coordination and direction can and will be beneficial. Moreover, existing tools and instruments, such as the European Semester Process and Horizon Europe, can be put to better use to ensure a health dimension in other EU-level policies. However, in order to truly achieve a multi-sectoral approach to health, the priorities of other sectors will need to be identified as the health aspects of these priorities can provide useful entry points for cooperation. Participants also agreed on the need to appoint a Vice-President for Health in the next Commission, who would be responsible for assessing the impact of EU-level policy development on the health of citizens and propose pro-active health policy measures.
The conference was closely aligned with the overarching theme of the Finnish EU Presidency, i.e. “The Economy of Well-being’; this theme was widely welcomed as the start of a new way of thinking in relation to health policy. ‘Apart from being a treaty-enshrined human right, health should be seen as a precondition for a well-functioning Single Market. Economic growth improves people’s wellbeing, while wellbeing and health of the population enhance economic growth and stability’ said Dr. Päivi Sillanaukee, representing the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The conference also provided the occasion to introduce “The Health PACT”. This document contains a shared vision, shared responsibilities and the actions needed to improve access to health and to advance the Sustainable Development Agenda in Europe. The Health PACT will be open to comments and suggestions in the coming weeks before finalisation; stakeholders are invited to make active use of the document in their advocacy efforts to influence the upcoming mandate of the EU institutions.