New health programme should not target growth alone
By Sophie Petitjean and Ophélie Spanneut | Monday 25 June 2012
The EU Council would like to see the health programme for 2014-2020 focus on promoting health, preventing disease and creating conditions that encourage healthy lifestyles. Meeting in Luxembourg, on 22 June, a qualified majority of member states supported the compromise drawn up by the Danish Presidency on the draft regulation. This partial general approach – which does not encompass the financial allocation – supports in large measure the provisions proposed by the European Commission, in November 2011. It nevertheless changes the programme name and the prioritisation of its specific objectives, and adds a reference to prevention with respect to drugs. These provisions were not particularly welcomed by Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner John Dalli, who expressed his “fundamental disagreement” with most of these changes.
The ministers agree with the European Commission on the economic potential of a population in good health. They nevertheless prefer to call the new programme ‘Health and growth’ rather than ‘Health for growth’ as proposed by the Commission. “Why change the programme’s name from ‘Health for growth’ to ‘Health and growth’,” asked Commissioner Dalli during the policy debate that preceded adoption of the compromise. “By entitling the proposal ‘Health for growth’ we wish to show the contribution health makes to creating jobs, stimulating innovation and research and increasing healthy life expectancy. Don’t you agree with this contribution?” he asked ministers.
Apart from this change of name, the Council also reprioritised the programme.
The ministers find that the programme’s priorities should be, in order: 1. promotion of health, prevention of diseases and creation of conditions promoting healthy lifestyles; 2. protection of citizens from serious cross-border health threats; 3. capacity-building in the field of health and promotion of innovative, effective and viable health systems (by facilitating, “on a voluntary basis,” the inclusion of innovation in health care); and 4. safer and better quality health care. The Commission proposed virtually the opposite order.
The partial general approach also changes the procedure for adoption of the work programme and implementing act. It includes actions for “reducing demand for drugs” on the basis of Article 168, which entails a change in the distribution of funds.
In the European Parliament, members of the Committee on the Environment and Public Health (ENVI) have also changed the programme’s name. Taking the view that health cannot be boiled down to a growth logic, while wishing to demonstrate that it is not synonymous with deficits either, they prefer to call it ‘Health and growth for citizens’.
With their vote, on 20 June, MEPs do not shift the programme’s order of priorities but fine-tune them by including ageing of the population to a larger extent and putting emphasis on related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. On prevention, they wish to combat the key factors of risk: tobacco, drugs, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, environmental factors, etc.
The report by Françoise Grossetête (EPP, France) states that the programmes should boost cooperation between member states “to lessen the impact of growing flows of illegal immigrants on public health systems”.
The three institutions - Parliament, Council and Commission - will now begin three-way negotiations. The question of funding will not be debated until the multiannual financial framework has been agreed.