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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis on the occasion of the launch of the "Health at a Glance: Europe 2016" report

Brussels, 23 November 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, good day, and warm welcome,

I am very glad to be here today with my friend Angel Gurria, the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and to present to you the new Health at a Glance: Europe - State of Health in the EU report.

This report represents the flagship of the partnership between our two organisations. It is a good example of cooperation. I hope to see more of it in the future.

As its title states, this report is addressing the state of health in the EU Member States. And this does not come out of the blue.

It is fully in line with President Juncker's desire to show that the European Union is a democratic Union, and that jobs and growth are not just random words.

For our citizens, jobs, education, access to health and social security issues are crucial. People need to know that they will have an income, that they will be able to provide for their children and that they will have access to healthcare if and when needed.

Back in 2014, President himself referred to the 29th State within the borders of the EU. The state populated by people that are excluded and affected by social determinants in health.

We can't let this 29th State grow bigger. If we want to have a dynamic and forward-looking EU, we need a dynamic and forward-looking workforce.

To achieve this, we need a strong social pillar, we need to invest in people's lives and human capital, in education and skill development - as well as health and healthcare. My choice of words is deliberate – we should not see these as unavoidable expenses, but as forward-looking and progressive investment, we need EFSI in this area more than ever.

This is why we need the State of Health in the EU. And this report clearly demonstrates it further.

We can't continue to prematurely lose half a million people of working age every year. We need EU action in public health, based on evidence and knowledge, as the following data makes clear:

o   Across the EU the share of the population over 65 has increased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and will be around 30% in 2060.

o   The increase of life years is not always matched by healthy life years: around 50 million people in the EU still suffer from several chronic diseases and - I stress this again - more than half a million people of working age die prematurely from them every year, representing a cost of some EUR 115 billion in lost productivity. Those deaths are avoidable.

o   Wouldn't it be better if we managed to keep people healthy as long as possible hence reducing the number of premature deaths? We could invest these 115 (one hundred fifteen) billion euros into EFSI, into the EU economy for the benefit of our people!

o   Unfortunately, inequalities in health and in access to healthcare persist. Poorer Europeans are 10 times more likely to have problems in gaining access to proper healthcare than the more affluent people.

- These Health at a Glance findings highlight the need to put health at the centre of our policy debates and demonstrate opportunities for future health policies in Europe. They show that we must:

o   Focus on policies that keep our people healthy as long as possible & invest much more in

  • protection of health and well-being
  • promotion of good health
  • Prevention of diseases by tackling the risk factors. The EU Member States spend only 3% of their health budgets on prevention. This is not enough. We can do better.

o   fight disparities in quality of care;

o   improve access to primary care;

o   better adapt our health systems to an ageing society and tight budgetary constraints.

- This report is an excellent product of a longstanding cooperation with OECD about which Angel will give you all the relevant elements. It will - from this year onwards - be shaped on the basis of our policy agenda on public health challenges and on effective, accessible and resilient health systems. I am delighted about this alignment of our work.

- It is also the first step in a longer-term collaboration, the so-called State of Health in the EU. This will provide within each two-year cycles a series of analytical products on country-specific and cross-country knowledge in the field of health, for which we also count on the cooperation with the European Observatory of Health Systems and Policies.

- Our partnership with OECD does not stop with State of Health. It will lead to the establishment of Patient-Reported Indicators Survey ("PaRIS"), which should extend and accelerate international collaboration in the standardisation, collection and analysis of patient-reported experience and outcome measures.

- Our partnership should also lead to an analysis of Europe's health workforce and how the skills of health professionals must develop to address the challenges our health systems are confronted with.

- Such challenges are the result of rapid changes in healthcare due to the impact of demography, new technologies and the increasingly interconnected world. Whether these challenges take the form of antibiotic resistance or obesity, we need to tackle them in a holistic manner and we need to do it together.

- I am confident that the product of our partnership with OECD will fulfil our objective to better support Member States in their policy making, notably also thanks to the European Semester, and I look forward to receiving their views and insights.

Before I close, let me thank also all the people who are behind this report, who worked very hard to bring this expertise to you.

This report – as I already said - is the fruit of extremely valuable partnership between the European Commission and OECD.

It is further formalised today with the signature of a new cooperation arrangement, and is therefore instrumental to helping develop knowledge on performance assessment of health systems; and to building up country-specific and cross-country knowledge that will help inform health policies at both national and European level.

I will end here and will leave the floor to Angel.

Thank you.

SPEECH/16/3894

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