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European Law Monitor newsEU Health Strategy: consultation shows support for increased EU cooperation to improve and protect health

There is general support for a new overarching European Health Strategy and a desire for more cooperation between the European Commission and EU Member States to further improve and protect health in Europe, the results of a public consultation process reveal. The Commission published today a report on the consultation on the forthcoming EU Health Strategy that sums up more than 150 responses received during the process, which closed in February. The strategy, an attempt to rise to the challenges Europe will face in the coming years, will set broad objectives for health during the next decade. It will also aim to promote health across all policies and to tackle global health issues.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "There is widespread support in the health community for a strong and visionary European strategy on health. The EU is facing many new challenges which need to be tackled in a cooperative and coordinated way. This positive response recognises the EU's ability to support improvements in health across the EU and the recognition of Europe as a key player in health on the global stage."

The Commission will adopt a new Health Strategy later this year. The consultation was launched at the end of 2006 to clarify Member States' and other stakeholders´ wishes and expectations relating to the strategy. The Commission proposals to set overall objectives, and take a new approach to health in all policies and global health were welcomed. Many contributors stressed the importance of establishing an active partnership between the Commission and Member States and of open dialogue between the actors involved at all levels.

EU Health priorities

Setting objectives for core issues to protect and improve health across the EU was generally welcomed. Respondents highlighted key issues to be addressed including combating health threats, tackling inequalities including gender aspects, informing and empowering citizens, working on quality and safety in healthcare in relation to cross border issues, and addressing key lifestyle-related factors affecting health, such as nutrition and physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking and mental health.

Respondents also stressed the need for the further development of a European information system on health to support the strategy.

Contributors also welcomed a new approach to inter-sectoral work on health and called for enhanced coordination at EU and national levels and better coherence in policy making. The importance of health-related research and e-health was highlighted.

Many proposed more use of Health Impact Assessment to evaluate new policy initiatives.

Global Health Issues

Respondents supported the inclusion of an international dimension in the strategy, covering broad aspects of health. They stressed the importance of interaction between the EU and other international organisations, such as WHO, in order to develop international regulatory frameworks as well as new initiatives.

Implementing the Strategy

Many contributors called for the creation of a new mechanism of structured cooperation employing the tools of the Open Method of Coordination, which is used in Lisbon strategy implementation, to promote cooperation among the Member States in the health field.

Respondents also highlighted the importance of stakeholders being involved in the Health Strategy and other policy initiatives in the health field. In this context respondents called for more clarity on the structures and objectives of current health stakeholder groups working with the Commission.


Following the introduction of specific public health provisions into the EU Treaty, in the 1990s the EU worked on several ´sectoral´ health programmes, on issues such as cancer, communicable diseases and health promotion. In 2000, the Commission adopted a first health strategy which led to the Public Health Programme (2003-2008), setting out a framework for action on health determinants, health threats, information and monitoring.

A first consultation was launched in 2004 with the title "Enabling Good Health for All • A Reflection Process for a new EU Health Strategy." It showed that stakeholders want a comprehensive approach that mainstreams health concerns into all Community policies. They also saw a need to bridge health inequalities across the EU.

On 11 December 2006, a second consultation was launched on "Health in Europe: A Strategic Approach - Discussion Document for a Health Strategy". This ended on 12 February 2007. The Commission received 153 responses from citizens, non-governmental organisations, universities, healthcare professionals, private sector, international bodies and 16 Member States.

The responses and the summary report of the Consultation are published at:

2004 consultation 'Enabling Good Health For All' consultation is available at:

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