The Policy Platform

Ensuring that policy initiatives at European and sub-national levels are joined up and reflect real needs on the ground.

Informing the policy processes, and advocating for health in all policies

EuroHealthNet provides information and evidence from health bodies to policy makers and informs them about policy developments and prospective changes. The aim is to make sure that policy developments respond to and meet needs on the ground, and health bodies can adapt to change. We advocate for evidenced based actions which improve health and wellbeing for all.

“EuroHealthNet gives Soste valuable information on the European Union and is an important channel to influence its policy. EuroHealthNet is also a tool to network with other health promotion and policy actors all over Europe"
Vertti Kiukas, Director of Soste, Finland (Executive Board Member)

Integrating health promotion with sustainability goals

EuroHealthNet is committed to making the links between health systems and wider sustainability goals. Indeed, two of the Sustainable Development Goals are directly connected to our work: SDG10 – reducing inequality, and SDG3 – better health and wellbeing and many others are connected. Health systems and the wider systems that influence health, such as education and social protection, are themselves large employers and make significant contributions to economies and prosperity. The sustainability transition must apply to those systems too.

In January 2019 the European Commission published a Reflection Paper ‘Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030’. We published a briefing on this Reflection Paper, with recommendations for future action.

The European Semester instruments for sustainable health and social equity

The European Semester is the European Union’s economic and social policy coordination mechanism. Until relatively recently it focused on analysing EU Member States’ economic and fiscal situation, monitoring progress, and providing country specific recommendations towards meeting the EU2020 strategic objectives and targets on economic growth and avoiding budgetary deficits. Since the 2017-2018 annual reviews, however, it increasingly also provides recommendations on social policy areas, in particular health, social inclusion and protection systems. These can have a substantial impact on health and health equity outcomes. We believe more could be done to improve health and sustainability through the Semester process, and it could be steered more towards better use of funding opportunities and priorities of the next EU funds – as the current plans already point to.

In November 2018 EuroHealthNet published an analysis of how three key social determinants of health are addressed in the European Semester process: (i) Access to and affordability of health care, for all population groups; (ii) Early childhood education and care; and (iii) Poverty and income inequalities. It also looks in detail at how these factors are addressed in reports and guidance for to a selection of countries: Slovakia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland. Analyses were made for all health-recommendation receiving countries, accompanied by suggestions on how the process could be improved.

To help build the links between our partners in the health field with wider European policy changes we have published

  • European Semester guide for members (August 2018)
  • An analysis of the EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework (September 2018)
  • An analysis of the European Semester from a health equity perspective (November 2018)
  • A briefing on the Semester ‘Autumn Package’ including the annual growth survey (January 2019)
  • A briefing on the Semester ‘Winter Package’ (March 2019)
  • A webinar on the European Semester and members’ engagement (April 2019)

Supporting the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights

The aim of the Pillar is to stimulate upward convergence towards better living and working conditions. After intensive work to develop the European Pillar of Social Rights and since its proclamation in November 2017, EuroHealthNet has been encouraging EU Institutions, as well as national and local level policy-makers, towards the Social Pillar’s implementation.

EuroHealthNet has worked with members, associates, and partners to establish how it can be further used as a tool to strengthen health and reduce health inequalities in their countries, and to ensure that policies are aligned. To this end, we have monitored and disseminated progress towards the European Commission’s new legislative initiatives: access to Social Protection for All Workers and the Self-Employed Regulation, and the Work-Life Balance Directive.

Publishing information on how to create healthy, sustainable, and inclusive food systems

Despite growing concern about sustainability, Europe’s food systems still put undue stress on our environment. By restraining access to decent and affordable nutrition, our food systems perpetuate and drive up health inequalities.

In April 2019, EuroHealthNet published a policy précis on why and how we need to transition to healthy, more sustainable and inclusive European food systems. In it, we look at how progress can be made at international and national levels.

We worked with the Austrian EU Presidency in the development of a conference on ‘People’s food - people’s health: Towards healthy and sustainable European Food Systems’ held in Vienna in October 2018 and contributed to presentations, panel sessions, workshops and conference outcomes. Moreover, we contributed to work by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) collaborating on recommendations for a ‘Common Food Policy Vision for the EU’.

Providing expert opinions to public and targeted stakeholder consultations

The European Commission and other stakeholders regularly organise and invite EuroHealthNet to take part and provide feedback on possible future policy and actions. EuroHealthNet collects opinions and practices on specific issues from members of the partnership, and compiles these into collective and coherent responses. In doing so, it strengthens their position at the policy-making environment at EU, national, and local levels. In the last year, EuroHealthNet responded to five consultations. The following highlights some of the main points raised.

Read a full list of responses and their content

On tobacco taxation and health equity

This consultation addressed matters related to fiscal measures applied to tobacco products linked to consumption. Additionally, it sought stakeholders’ opinion on extending of the fiscal measures onto novel nicotine-releasing devices (e-cigarettes). In its response, EuroHealthNet expressed strong support for the further increase of tobacco taxes and the EU-wide harmonisation of fiscal policy regarding e-cigarettes, an effective and comprehensive EU-level regulation, mitigation of the risk of e-cigarettes becoming a ‘gateway’ product to tobacco consumption, particularly those who are young and/or vulnerable. We advised a cautious endorsement for the use of e-cigarettes as one element of comprehensive smoking cessation programmes.

On impact assessment evaluation and fitness check of the European Social Fund (2014-2020)

EuroHealthNet’s response assessed our partnerships’ experience of how the European Social Fund (ESF) promotes social inclusion and combats poverty and discrimination, the use of the fund’s prioritisation and implementation of structural reforms at national and local levels, as well as the visibility, usefulness, relevance, value for money and effectiveness of various ESF measures.

For EuroHealthNet, ESF represents a valuable instrument to reduce health inequalities between and within EU Member States and further boost investments in structural determinants of health, health promotion and disease prevention measures.

On the role of regions and cities in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

In our response to the Committee of the Regions and OECD consultation on the role of regions and cities in achieving the SDGs, we highlighted our work in a context of our EU-funded project, INHERIT. We specifically emphasised the importance of establishing conceptual frameworks around sustainability indicators that would embrace both health and socially equitable sustainability. We also highlighted the potential for transferability and scalability of actions they would measure. Our contribution included sharing examples of good practices happening around Europe and at multiple governance levels.

On the EU child guarantee for vulnerable children in the framework of the next ESF+

Over a quarter of all EU children are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. In 2015, to strengthen the implementation of the 2013 EU Recommendation on Investing in Children, the European Parliament called to “introduce a Child Guarantee so that every child in poverty can have access to free healthcare, free education, free childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition, as part of a European integrated plan to combat child poverty”.

EuroHealthNet, when asked for its opinion on the initiative, highlighted that better support should be provided to address child poverty and social exclusion if adverse health outcomes are to be avoided. Integrated services should efficiently combine prevention with investment in building resilience and skills of people from the early years.

Building alliances

EuroHealthNet participates in several platforms and alliances and on a range of public health initiatives.

Already during the short period of my co-opted membership in the Executive Board, I was able to experience the very pragmatic and competent support provided by EuroHealthNet. For the election of the EU Parliament we developed for instance guide for members.  It is now easier to identify where the social determinants of health for the citizens of the EU are best considered.
Dr. Frank Lehmann, Senior Advisor at the Federal Centre for Health Promotion and Health Education (BZgA), Germany  (Executive Board member)

The EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health

EuroHealthNet has been a long-standing member of the EU Platform for action on diet, physical activity, and health which is a forum for European stakeholders and organisations, including NGOs and food and advertising industries. We also contributed to the annual monitoring and evaluation of the EU Platform. EuroHealthNet’s input relates specifically to reviewing the methodology behind the European Commission’s monitoring framework and its indicators relating to WHO global NCD targets and providing EU added value.

EU Health Policy Platform

The EU Health Policy Forum is made up of health-related interest groups. Its purpose is to provide a framework and a forum for transparent dialogue and active collaboration with the European Commission and between the stakeholders on relevant public health issues and expertise. In 2018, EuroHealthNet contributed to development of a Joint Statement on Stimulating Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables, which was presented and published widely. Beyond raising issues of consumption and commercial determinants, it calls on for adequate actions also at the production side of the fruit and vegetable supply chain.

European Alliance for Investing in Children

The European Alliance for Investing in Children promotes effective, child-centred policies and practice to tackle child poverty and promote child wellbeing. As part of the Alliance, EuroHealthNet contributes to continuing efforts to identify and spread the best policy entry points for effective, sustainable and timely implementation of the provisions outlined in the EC’s Recommendation on Investing in Children. We published a joint statement on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2021-2027. We also co-organised a side event in a context of the Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth 2018, and a European Parliament seminar on Integrated child-centred services and potential for an EU Child Guarantee.

Chairing the European Alliance for Mental Health: Employment and Work

EuroHealthNet is part of this informal coalition of organisations working together to promote good mental health in the workplace, to advocate for equal access to employment for people experiencing mental ill-health, and to stimulate appropriate policy actions at EU level. In 2018 EuroHealthNet chaired the Alliance, ensuring its effective and timely operation and implementation of its annual workplan. Highlights of the year for the Alliance were analysis of the European Semester’s Country Specific Recommendations in relation to mental health in an (un)employment context, a joint statement for the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, and production of a podcast on the impact of the ‘gig economy’ and the future of work on mental health of young people.

EU Health Policy PlatformEU alliance for investing in childrenEuropean Alliance for Mental health

Collaborating with the WHO

EuroHealthNet has a long history of engagement and collaboration with WHO in Europe. The EuroHealthNet office in Brussels has been involved in various activities co-organised with WHO offices in Copenhagen (on European Healthy Cities Network, NCDs, Migrants Health Network, and gender health), Bonn (on environment, circular economy and climate change), and Venice (on health equity and determinants of health). Over the year, we have strengthened our cooperation with WHO Europe, culminating in being recognised as a non-state actor for collaboration with the organisation. We have also continued working together with the WHO Coalition of Partners, as well as on WHO Health Information initiative and WHO Observatory on Health Systems and Policies initiative on Civil Society and Health. The EuroHealthNet Director presented two statements to the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Rome, September 2018. The statements responded to items concerning ‘Can people afford to pay for health care? New evidence on financial protection in Europe’ and on reports on the WHO meetings on Health Systems held in Sitges and Tallinn. In April 2019 we provided consultation responses on the WHO Global strategy on digital health 2020-2024 and WHO European roadmap for implementation of health literacy initiatives through the life course.

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