EUHPF - Open Letter on Economic Crisis and Health

European Union Health Policy Forum - Open Letter
on Economic Crisis and Health



As the inter-governmental meetings including the annual EU Spring Summit to
address the current global economic situation are being prepared, we, the
organisations collectively comprising the EU Health Policy Forum call upon
everyone to do all within your powers to protect the health and well-being of
this, and future generations, as a priority.

We do so in the firm, evidence-based knowledge that the positive link
between health and economic sustainability is clear. It is a key part of the
solution to the problems we are facing, which vary in their substance between
European member states but have massive consequences for all.

Not only is a healthy population a necessary condition for a healthy economy -
we have a Healthy Life Years Structural Indicator as part of the Lisbon
Strategy but we should not forget that we need a healthy population in order
to recover rapidly. Healthy Europeans create, find and keep jobs, and they are
better able to cope with insecurity and stress. The EU Mental Health Pact
alludes to this, and several authoritative EU-based studies have shown the
connection between “health and wealth”.

The health sector alone constitutes 10% of EU GDP. Health services and
related bodies are among the largest employers in the European Union.
Supporting industries and public services are crucial factors in every state
economy. Disease prevention plus timely and effective access to treatments
and services is an essential component of the economic fabric of every
community in every country.

Delays and lower standards, including in safety at work and environmental
protection, mean the number and duration of hospital admissions increases.
This leads to a greater cost burden on essential services, a higher cost for the
health sector itself, plus associated welfare and other costs. No state wants
that.

We are monitoring with growing concern announcements and the impacts of
reduced budgets for health and social expenditure in certain EU states. We
note with alarm increasing social unrest in certain states. We are aware of
increasing social and health inequalities within and between states. Based on
what we know already, we can predict the dire impact that will have on the
determinants of health - and for economic effectiveness, social cohesion and
environmental sustainability.

We compare that with the evidence that investment in health - health and
well-being for all, not simply the absence of disease - is widely beneficial. We
recall that history shows that states that invested in health in the past century
performed more sustainable than those who reduced investment. We call on
everyone to heed those lessons and thoroughly investigate options for
investment in health capacities, knowledge and infrastructures (including
e-health) as part of efforts you are making to stimulate economic
recovery.

We recognise that governments alone cannot solve all problems, nor deserve
all criticism. We know the roots, implications and solutions of the current
situation are essentially global. We represent and reflect the needs and views
of organisations with members across every state of the EU and well beyond.
We seek to work closely with a range of stakeholders internationally including
public, private and voluntary bodies, researchers, innovators and experts,
individual citizens and communities.

We seek leadership from Heads of European States and Governments with
bold and decisive action that means prioritising, protecting and providing for
the health of people, not sacrificing health for short term financial gains or
economic panaceas. Short-term solutions of cutting health and social
expenditure proposed in some Member States are short-sighted and will
damage the economic recovery prospects for Europe as a whole.

We commit - as we are doing in our strategic plan addressing economic,
social, environmental, demographic and technological policy priorities related
to health - to work constructively with governments and other stakeholders
such as the World Health Organisation and European Union Institutions to
help to meet these challenges. Their recommendations for specific actions in
health and sustainable development should be carefully considered.

Now, however, it is the time for each Government to commit to act strongly for
health. Every public survey shows their health is at the top of citizens’
concerns, and many will take it into account in forthcoming EU wide elections.
We urge you to keep it at the top of your agendas too, and await your
responses.

21 January 2009, Brussels.

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