Anne Bucher writes for the Brussels-Based Economic Think Tank (Bruegel) that health outcomes in the European Union are good by international standards, even compared to other developed economies, and improved continuously before COVID-19. This reflects the alignment of the objectives of improving health and wellbeing with the overall socio-economic objective of prosperity, and suggests that a radical overhaul of EU health policy is not needed. However, the EU could benefit from closer integration in some areas and be more effective in delivering a high level of health protection. The EU could take action in the following areas:
- Further the Health Union approach to address cross-border externalities and enhance health security.
- Put systems in place for the surveillance of non-communicable diseases and consolidation of scientific knowledge.
- Consider the ‘Health in all Policies’ principle to better organise, coordinate and consolidate the scientific knowledge that underpins health-protection measures in sectoral legislation, and should more systematically apply better regulation rules to the health impacts of EU policies.
- Support the digital transformation of health systems and set high targets for the European Health Data Space initiative, which is a critical infrastructure for the future of health research, regulation and policymaking. Several non-health EU policy objectives (cohesion policies, European Pillar of Social rights, economic governance) are linked to the performance of health systems. A common understanding on how to measure this performance would inform these policies in a consistent way.
- Monitoring of health inequalities, including those related to access to and quality of healthcare, should be improved as an initial step.
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