EHFG demands to establish health as a basic right for European citizens

Bad Hofgastein 23 March 2000The right to health for all must be embodied into the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, according to a demand of Dr. Günther Leiner, president of the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG), based on the Gastein Health Declaration, the outcome of a meeting between more than 300 health experts from all over Europe during the 1999 EHFG. Dr. Leiner presented this demand to the chairman of the convention, Mr. Roman Herzog and the convention, responsible for the preparation of a draft Charter of Fundamental Human Rights of the citizens of the European Union.


Dr. Leiner underscored the demand of the experts for a stronger commitment by the European Union in the field of health care. The health status of European Union citizens at present is better than it has ever been before. However, there is still room and need for improvement, especially considering the large differences between and within member states.

This abstract demand could prove to have a very concrete impact. It would grant the fundamental right to health also to those people who, because of their rare diseases, have very little chance of seeing funds being devoted to research in treatment. Dr. Leiner, the president of the EHFG, is convinced that a fundamental right to health would in any case oblige the member states and European institutions to provide more support to those patients than it is currently the case.

Public Health, defined by the European Health Forum Gastein as the "organised attempt by society to prevent illness, lengthen life and promote health on the basis of scientific evidence" has a key role in meeting this challenge. Health promotion is an important delivery mechanism for public health activities. It should not be regarded as a cost, but rather as an investment for society, making society more conducive for health and leading to health gains.

The experts at the European Health Forum Gastein '99 suggested that there is a need to generate public pressure and increase awareness so that public health issues receive higher priority in Europe, both in the European Union and within individual countries.

In order to be effective, public health actions must promote change at all levels, and the right to health must become an integral part of the European declaration on citizens' rights. This concrete demand was put forward by the NGOs' representative Mary McPhail on behalf of the Forum on Public Health, and was unanimously supported by all experts at the EHFG. Read more on the Gastein Health Declaration in the VMW February 2000 article First Gastein Health Declaration to refocus attention on the patient.

Leslie Versweyveld

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