EU health policy seeks to give all people living in the EU access to high-quality healthcare. In particular, it aims 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, in close cooperation with international partners such as the World Health Organisation.
EU action is based on its Health Strategy , which aims at:
The EU Health Programme complements and supports national action in:
The Programme is managed by the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers, based in Luxembourg.
The EU promotes healthier eating.
The EU supports disease prevention activities, such as:
The EU and its member countries are working to build preparedness and response capacity (including early warning systems) to counter public health 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 in the shops, the safety of medicines is monitored throughout their lifespan. If a medicine turns out to be dangerous, the EU's system of pharmaco-vigilance helps to ensure that quick action is taken, such as suspending or withdrawing the marketing permit.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 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. 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.
The rights of EU citizens to be treated in another EU country are clarified in an EU law on patients' rights in cross-border healthcare, which will also:
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.
The EU Commission works closely with strategic partners like the World Health Organisation to pursue a global health policy with six main challenges:
Other key themes include:
Published in May 2013
This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series