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Androulla Vassiliou

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Health

Europe for Patients

Launch for the ''Europe for Patients'' Campaign
Brussels, 30 September 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you to the launch of the Europe for Patients campaign.

I know that this is a very busy time of year for all of you working in EU health policy – so I am particularly pleased that so many of you have found the time to be here today.

I would also like to thank Mr Richez, representing the French Council Presidency, Mrs Marian Harkin, member of the European Parliament and Mr Anders Olauson, president of the European Patients' Forum for their participation in this event.

The Europe for Patients' campaign is something I have had in mind since I took office as Commissioner for Health.

During my preparations for the Parliamentary hearing back in April, I was truly impressed by the breadth of health policies and actions with which my services were involved. At the same time, I was also shocked and disappointed to see that most people in Europe were quite unaware of the positive impacts that EU health policies have on their everyday lives.

Yet, we know from many surveys that all across Europe, people are very interested in health and crave more information on health issues. Many of the health policies within the Europe for patients campaign, that I am launching today, address this quest for knowledge.

We need to provide clear information, free of Euro- jargon with real examples that relate to people's lives.

We need to clarify and simplify our message. I feel we need to group the various health care related initiatives into a single package. This is the starting point of the Europe for Patients Campaign.

This is much more than a communication campaign – I call it a campaign driven by policy.

The aim is to provide a coherent and tangible communication framework for the many different healthcare policies that we plan to adopt and undertake.

The central theme that binds the different policies together is the focus on improving healthcare for all in Europe.

This is the headline but the real work and action remains in the different health policy initiatives themselves.

For example, the proposed Directive on Cross Border Healthcare, adopted by the Commission in July of this year, is the first initiative to be adopted that falls under the Europe for Patients Campaign.

The aim of this proposal is to help citizens access the care they need and to optimise the use of health resources in the EU.

It will provide patients with opportunities to receive safe and high quality healthcare that they need, expect and demand.

We therefore need to work together with health organisations at European, national and regional levels to pass this message on to the people it is intended to benefit – patients and citizens in Europe.

However, the same people who are interested in cross border healthcare may also be interested in other health issues such as flu vaccination or cancer screening. They may also want to know about treating rare diseases in Europe.

This is why I hope and expect that the Europe for Patients campaign will be a success. It provides a simple entry point to the often complex world of EU healthcare policies and actions. It will better explain what we are doing at European Level and how it can benefit our citizens in the field of public health.

This is an ambitious agenda – or "roadmap" as some people like to call it.

At present we have 10 initiatives that we hope to adopt in the coming 6 to 9 months.

These initiatives address crucial issues including cancer screening, patient safety, rare diseases and the health workforce.

We also intend to adopt important quality and safety measures on organ donation and transplantation accompanied by an action plan to address the organ shortage in Europe and strengthen coordination mechanisms.

Clearly, we have a busy road ahead.

This campaign is about clarity and transparency. It also gives our partners, many of whom are here today, a clear and coherent message about our vision and priorities on healthcare related policies.

We are not only being ambitious but we are also challenging ourselves. This is a new way of working for all of us.

This campaign will contribute towards achieving one of the key values promoted in the EU health strategy, that of citizens' empowerment.

How are we achieving this?

Today, we launch the website "Europe for Patients" which will be available on the EU health portal in 22 languages.

The aim of this website is to become a centre of information.

We will provide regular updates on the Europe for Patients healthcare initiatives.

At the same time we invite interested national and regional health organisations to post their health stories and events related to the different Europe for Patients' initiatives.

We want to encourage information flow in many different directions at different levels and between different partners.

I want to involve citizens in our health policymaking by bringing initiatives closer to the public.

In addition, I am considering launching a health journalism prize and am looking at the best means of doing this to reach the broadest possible audience. .

I see today's launch as a first step in redefining how we in the Commission communicate about our healthcare initiatives.

More importantly, however, this launch has brought together many of the people that shape these actions.

I hope you will take full advantage of the broad mix of people present today – representing patients associations, health professionals, national and regional representatives, members of the European Parliament, industry, insurers, and many other organisations – to discuss how we can improve healthcare for all in Europe.

I look forward to our continued collaboration and welcome your involvement in the Europe for Patients Campaign.

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