European Commission adopts new health strategy

Brussels 25 October 2007Fostering good health in an ageing population, protecting citizens from health threats and supporting dynamic health systems and new technologies are the objectives of the new health strategy adopted by the European Commission on 23 October 2007. The White Paper, entitled "Together for Health - A Strategic Approach for the EU, 2008-2013", sets out a framework to respond to a wide range of health challenges in a comprehensive and coherent way.

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"The European Union is facing new challenges. Its population is ageing fast and recent enlargements widened the health gaps between Member States", stated European Union Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. "Migration, the mobility of health professionals and patients, the risks posed by pandemics and bioterrorism, all represent additional challenges. So do globalisation and climate change. The time has come for the European Union to develop a strong and comprehensive strategy on health."

The European Commission underlines the importance of research to the strategy, noting that "health policy must be based on the best scientific evidence derived form sound data and information, and relevant research".

Research has an important role to play in achieving the three key objectives of the strategy. For example, our ageing population means that the development of geriatric medicine needs to be actively promoted, and we need to improve our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Meanwhile, protecting the citizen from emerging health threats will require the strengthening of mechanisms for surveillance and response to health threats, the strategy states.

Finally, the third objective concerns the promotion of dynamic health systems. "New technologies have the potential to revolutionise health care and health systems and to contribute to their future sustainability", the strategy reads. "E-health, genomics and biotechnologies can improve prevention of illness, delivery of treatment, and support a shift from hospital care to prevention and primary care." However, the European Commission warns that new technologies must be evaluated properly and the ethical issues relating to them need to be addressed.

On funding, the European Commission notes that health research is due to be financed through its own priority in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and via the new Joint Technology Initiative on Innovative Medicines. The Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and regional funds are also cited as potential resources for research funding.

The strategy sets out 18 concrete priority actions for the next two years for both the Commission and the Member States, and further actions will be proposed throughout the strategy's lifespan. " The new strategy will enable us to help Member States meet a wide range of common challenges based on shared principles and values, while keeping in mind our global commitments", stated Commissioner Kyprianou. "Ultimately, the prosperity of the European Union largely depends on the health status of its citizens."

For more information on the White Paper, you can visit the European Commision's website.


Leslie Versweyveld

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