New Report Highlights Public Call for EU Action on Health Determinants

New Report Highlights Public Call for EU Action on Health Determinants

The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies recently released a report following a seven-month public debate on the future of EU health policy. The findings highlight a strong collective call for the European Union to play a more significant role in addressing various health determinants. This initiative, in agreement with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), gathered diverse opinions to inform the European Commission’s upcoming mandate and prioritise health in European politics.

Key Findings from the Public Debate

The Observatory engaged stakeholders through a series of events leading up to the 2024 European elections. The major long-term challenges identified include population aging, climate change, and the impact of various health determinants such as social, political, commercial, and structural factors.

Addressing the Determinants of Health

  • Health in All Policies (HiAP): The report emphasises integrating health considerations across all policy areas, acknowledging that health outcomes are influenced by environmental conditions, commercial practices, education, and urban planning.
  • Commercial Determinants of Health: The report calls for stricter regulations to mitigate the negative impact of commercial interests, such as tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy food products, on public health.
  • Environmental Health: Policies aimed at reducing environmental risks, such as air pollution, climate change, and exposure to harmful chemicals, are crucial for improving public health.

ECDA’s Recommendations

On behalf of the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA), we welcome the Observatory’s report and share our views on necessary actions:

  • Tackling common modifiable risk factors: Urgent regulatory measures are required to address these risk factors and broader socio-economic determinants of health, especially among children.
  • Renewed EU-level impetus: We call for stronger regulatory measures to replace self-regulation, which has proven insufficient.
  • Implementation of WHO ‘Best Buys’: EU member states should urgently implement WHO’s evidence-based interventions to address NCD risk factors, offering significant health, social, and economic benefits.
  • New EU Tobacco Control Framework:
    • Aim for less than 5% of the EU population using tobacco by 2040.
    • Strengthen measures to regulate marketing and extend standardised packaging and health warnings to all tobacco products.
    • Ban cross-border sales of tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
    • Strengthen taxation rules for all tobacco products.
    • Ensure full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
    • Enhance protection from second-hand smoke and support public space smoking bans.
  • EU Strategy on alcohol consumption: A new strategy is needed to prevent and control alcohol consumption.
  • Nutrition labelling and alcohol: Introduce a mandatory, front-of-pack energy labelling on alcohol; a mandatory list of nutritional contents and ingredients for all types of alcohol products.
  • Marketing of alcohol and ultra-processed foods: Implement an EU-level ban on marketing targeting children and young people and set nutrient profiles to restrict high-fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) foods.
  • Green transition and air pollution: Greater action is needed to address air pollution and protect vulnerable populations.

The ECDA believes that addressing these issues through focused regulatory measures and investment in primary prevention can significantly impact public health across Europe.