New Community health strategy
This Communication sets out the Community's general strategy on health -- how it is working to achieve a coherent and effective approach to health issues across all the different policy areas. A key component of this is a new public health framework which will enable the Community to fulfil its obligations more effectively by setting out clear objectives and policy instruments.
Communication from the Commission of 16 May 2000 to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the health strategy of the European Community [COM(2000) 285 final -- Not published in the Official Journal].
European Union citizens rightly attach great importance to their health and expect to be protected from possible dangers. The Community has a crucial role to play and is obliged to guarantee a high level of protection for its citizens. Due to the emergence of new challenges and priorities in the field of health, such as enlargement, the emergence of new illnesses, pressures on health systems and increased Community obligations following the amendments to the Treaty (Articles 3 and 152), it is necessary to develop a new strategy.
This new strategy is the result of the debate launched in 1998 with the communication of the Commission on the development of public health policy. It takes account of the results of this debate as well as the experiences of previous action programmes.
Two main elements
The strategy consists of two main elements:
- a new framework for action in public health ("public health framework"), which includes the adoption of a Community action programme in the field of public health (2001-2006);
- the development of an integrated health strategy. As a result of the Treaty provision which stipulates that a high level of health protection must be ensured in the definition and implementation of Community policies, health protection concerns all key areas of Community activity. This new strategy contains specific measures to incorporate health protection into all Community policies.
The public health framework, which is the key element of the strategy, includes those measures which relate specifically to public health. A new action programme is part of this framework for which three main strands of intervention are identified:
- improving information on health for all levels of society;
- setting up a rapid reaction mechanism to respond to the major health threats;
- tackling health determinants, in particular harmful factors related to lifestyle.
By emphasising the areas where Member States cannot be effective individually -- and where coordination at Community level is therefore essential -- the Community intends to optimise its impact with a limited budget and bring Community added value. It is planned to extend the existing programmes before the launch of the new action programme until such time as this is established.
In addition to the public health programme, the public health framework contains other legislative measures in a range of sub-areas which will be developed within the framework. These include:
- the prevention and monitoring of communicable diseases, notably through thenetwork of epidemiological surveillanceand control of communicable diseases, set up in 1999;
- prevention of drug dependence: activities to supplement the Union's action plan to combat drugs 2000-2004 will be launched;
- combating nicotine addiction: activities will be undertaken to supplement initiatives already adopted (such as the proposal for a new directive on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products);
- the quality and safety of organs and substances of human origin: creation of a global strategy, which is already being developed, on drafting legislation on this subject;
- blood and blood derivatives: several measures are planned, such as a proposal for a directive establishing a framework for quality and safety standards, the creation of a Community haemovigilance network and the promotion of optimum use of blood and blood derivatives;
- veterinary and phytosanitary measures: the measures to be taken in this field will be closely linked to the policies developed within the new global strategy on food safety set out in the White Paper on Food Safety;
- the European Health Forum: it is planned to set up this new mechanism to allow all those involved in public health to play a part in drawing up health policy.
Preparation of an integrated strategy
To ensure that the Community's global health strategy is coherent, there has to be a close link between public health measures and health-related initiatives taken in other policy areas such as the single market, consumer protection, social protection, employment and the environment.
These links also have to be supported by new mechanisms and instruments guaranteeing the contribution of other Community policies to health protection:
- as of 2001, proposals relating to health will include a statement explaining how and why health issues have been taken into consideration, and describing the expected impact on health;
- a priority task of the public health programme will be to develop criteria and methods for assessing the policies proposed and the way in which they are implemented, with the possibility of carrying out an in-depth evaluation of the impact on certain measures or policies;
- the public health programme provides for the possibility of carrying out joint measures together with other Community programmes and agencies;
- within the Commission, mechanisms which guarantee the coordination of health-related activities will be strengthened.
This new strategy represents a major commitment on the part of the Community and shows the importance which the Commission attaches to public health in Community policies.