The Covid-19 has spread across Europe, and disproportionately hit older and more fragile people, showing a clear social gradient in correlated deaths. Generally speaking, the pandemic showed that a lack of investment in health systems, while saving money in the short term, can have devastating effects on the economy and society in the long term. Moreover, it has highlighted that other health emergencies will occur in the future, especially concerning the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases which will require placing the patient at the centre of health policies and the uptake of new innovations in treatment. Consequently, health expenditure should be regarded as an investment for our societies, rather than a cost, avoiding health budgets being cut as a consequence of economic recession. The EU’s institutional response has been mainly (though not exclusively) led by the European Commission, and through European Council member meetings. The European Parliament and European Central Bank have also played important roles. A number of collaborative EU-level initiatives have helped alleviate supply constraints and support a more coordinated response across countries. However, the EU struggled to play a coordinating role, complementing national policies to help countries in facing common challenges.
Therefore, the European Commission declared its commitment to building a strong European Health Union, where all EU countries prepare and respond together to health crises, with available, affordable and innovative medical supplies, and where countries work together to improve prevention, treatment and aftercare for diseases such as cancer. The key initiatives to build a European Health Union include crisis preparedness and response measures, a Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe and the European Plan to Beat Cancer and this policy brief will present them with their strength and weaknesses.
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