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The EU Role in Global Health

The European Union (EU) commits to reinforce its action to protect health outside its borders, in particular in developing countries. The Commission has identified several areas in which European and international action could be more effective: world governance, universal health coverage, health policy coherence, research, access to new knowledge and new treatment.


ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – The EU Role in Global Health [COM(2010) 128 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The Commission presents principles to improve action undertaken by the European Union (EU) as regards protecting world health.

Health protection in non-Member States of the EU aims mainly at preventing health risks and reducing inequality of access to care. In addition, action in this area must take into account a number of social, economic and environmental factors.

Improving global governance

The Commission recommends better coordination of the different action undertaken by States or groups of States, at:

  • global level, in order to defend a single position within the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN);
  • regional level, to develop exchange and networks between neighbouring States;
  • national level, to support public policies and the control of public funding, as well as interaction with other areas (such as education, youth empowerment, the family, etc.).

Developing universal health coverage

Universal coverage of health services should be established in the poorest countries. In this regard, the EU should increase its public development aid (PDA), but also reinforce its effectiveness and predictability. The Commission also recommends:

  • concentrating aid to serve the most fragile populations and countries;
  • strengthening the effectiveness and equity of health systems, as well as their functioning in terms of workforce, access to medicines, infrastructure, logistics and decentralised management;
  • having recourse to global initiatives and existing international financial institutions, but also to innovative funding.

Increasing policy coherence

Key issues in health policy should be taken into account in other areas, such as:

  • trade, in particular with regard to intellectual property rights, access to essential medicines, opening up generic medicine competition and combating counterfeiting;
  • managing migration, which should not undermine the availability of health professionals in developing countries;
  • defence and security, in order to better address fragile contexts and to provide an early response to international health risks;
  • food safety, food aid and nutrition, through public policies and the monitoring of nutritional status in the population;
  • climate change – the objective of health protection should be taken into account when allocating new funding.

Particular attention should also be paid to the fields of education and youth.

Research and innovation

Access to health services, medical technologies and medicines should benefit all. Research and innovation strategies should therefore be directed towards:

  • strengthening the research process overall – innovation, implementation, access, monitoring and evaluation;
  • collecting comparable data and statistics at global level, by collaborating with national and international organisations working on world health (WHO, OECD, etc.);
  • improving the dissemination of factual information, including risks, and the safety of food, feed, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Optimising skills

The EU must put in place mechanisms to optimise:

  • European action in EU countries and external countries, particularly within a platform to exchange information and through the development of common positions between EU countries and the Commission;
  • monitoring of European aid and implementation of the EU Code of Conduct on Division of Labour in the area of health;
  • dialogue between the key global players, in partnership with UN agencies and international financial institutions.

Context

The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 has led to progress being made with regard to reducing global poverty. However, progress in developing countries is still uneven and often insufficient.

The international community has therefore enhanced its efforts regarding the three MDGs relating to health (reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating disease – in particular HIV/AIDS and malaria).

Last updated: 11.05.2010
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