Citizens' health and safety is a core EU priority. EU health policy gives everyone the right to the same high standards of healthcare and access to quality healthcare.
EU health policies aim to:
While the organisation and delivery of healthcare is the responsibility of EU countries, the EU adds value to their work by bringing countries together to address common challenges such as ageing populations and associated health problems.
As health problems are not limited to individual countries, we work in close cooperation with international partners such as the World Health Organisation.
EU action is based on its Health Strategy , which sets out three ambitious objectives to help people to live not only longer, but also healthier:
The EU Health Programme helps to reach the objectives of the strategy to complement, support and add value to the policies and actions of EU countries, particularly in:
The Programme is managed by the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers, based in Luxembourg.
The EU promotes healthier eating.
We can do a lot to protect our own health and prevent disease, for example:
Threats to public health are a permanent cause of concern for health authorities all over the world. The EU and its member countries work to build preparedness and response capacity (including early warning systems) to counter these threats – as in the case of the H1N1 ('swine flu') pandemic of 2009.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm assesses emerging health threats, enabling the EU to respond quickly to public health emergencies.
It pools and shares knowledge on current and emerging health threats, and works with its national counterparts to develop Europe-wide disease surveillance.
Public health policy ensures cosmetics are safe to use.
All new medicines have to be authorised before they can be placed on the EU market.
Once authorised and placed on the market, the safety of medicines is monitored throughout their lifespan. The EU's system of pharmaco-vigilance helps to ensure that quick action is taken, such as suspending or withdrawing the marketing permit, if a medicine causes any unacceptable adverse reactions.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), London coordinates the scientific evaluation of the quality, safety and efficacy of medicinal products.
The EU will spend €6bn on health research between 2007-13 under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). The emphasis is on:
People generally prefer to receive healthcare close to where they live, but sometimes it is easier or necessary to go to another EU country, for example where the nearest healthcare facility is just across the border in another country, or where specialist treatment is only available abroad.
An EU law (to be implemented by EU countries by 2013) on patients' rights in cross-border healthcare will clarify the right for Europeans to be treated in another EU country and be reimbursed. It will also:
Another initiative already in place - the European health insurance card makes it easier for holidaymakers and business travellers to claim their right to healthcare if they fall ill in another EU or European country.
Global health refers to health issues which transcend national boundaries and governments which can be influenced only at the level of the global determining factors. These can include trade, migration, security, food security and climate change.
The EU Commission works closely with strategic partners such as the WHO within a global health policy framework which identifies six main challenges:
Other key themes include: