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Improving Public Health: EU Measures Explained

European Parliament

The EU helps to improve public health though funding and legislation on a wide range of topics, such as food, diseases, clean air and more.

Why health policies are needed at EU level

National goverments are primarily responsible for organising and delivering healthcare and social security. The EU's role is to complement and support member states in improving the health of Europeans, reducing health inequalities and moving towards a more social Europe.

Labour market developments and the free movement of people and goods in the internal market necessitate the coordination of public health issues. EU public health policy has helped countries pool resources and tackle common challenges such as antimicrobial resistance, preventable chronic diseases and an aging population. 

The EU issues recommendations and has laws and standards to protect people, covering health products and services (such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, eHealth), and patients (rules on patients' rights in cross-border healthcare).


During the Covid-19 crisis, the EU has worked with member states to reinforce national healthcare systems and limit the spread of the virus, by ensuring the provision of personal protective equipment and medical supplies across Europe, mobilising resources, supporting research and innovation for effective treatments, coordinating requirements related to travel and scrutinizing vaccine roll-out.

Reinforced EU Health Programme

Health policies are funded through the EU Health programme, which encourages cooperation and promotes strategies for good health and healthcare.

The coronavirus outbreak has shown the need for EU countries to better cooperate and coordinate in times of crisis. In a resolution on the economic recovery plan, MEPs insisted on the creation of a new stand-alone European health programme.

In response to Parliament’s call, the Commission proposed a new EU health programme named EU4Health, which was adopted by Parliament in March 2021. The programme worth €5,1 billion aims to fill the gaps revealed by the pandemic and improve the EU’s crisis management capacity, as well as promoting innovation and investment in the healthcare sector.

The new EU4Health programme focuses on three priorities:

  • Protection of people from serious cross-border health threats
  • Making medicines and medical supplies available and affordable
  • Strengthening health systems and healthcare workforce 

Read more here

  Quelle: European Parliament, 9th November 2021
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Ärzte der WeltEuropean Public Health Association (EUPHA)Österreichische Gesellschaft für Public HealthOÖ Gebietskrankenkasse, Referat für Wissenschaftskooperation Swiss Tropical and Public Health InstitutenewTreeEuropean Health Forum GasteinÄrztekammer für Wien