Dealing with health inequalities is not a new challenge. We have more than 30 years of experience in this field. Yet, inequalities remain a constant problem despite improvements in data, knowledge, policies, and interventions. In our communities, health inequity is a circle that needs breaking. It is both the catalyst and product of unequal economic, social, and environmental conditions. This is inherently unfair, unjust, and avoidable. Reducing health disparities is important, and the upward trends for such differences call for further innovative, collaborative actions at all levels.
At EU level there is a stack of policies that show where action is needed and why. Some of these carry a health label [Solidarity in Health (EC 2009), EU Council conclusions on Health and Equity in All Policies (2010) and Towards Modern, Responsive & Sustainable Health Systems (2011), the EC/WHO Joint Declaration (2010) and Health 2020]. Others also have a profound strategic relevance e.g. EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 [COM (2011) 615 final], Europe 2020, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020 (TA2020).
Recent work undertaken by HCN includes commissioned work for WHO EURO and co-developing and being a partner in a project led by Prof Helmut Brand at the University of Maastricht.
WHO EURO – HCN was commissioned to write a policy briefing paper How health systems can address health inequities through improved use of Structural Funds (WHO EURO 2010). This paper was a deliverable for the WHO/European Commission joint project on equity in health (2006WHO03). It is one of six briefings on policy issues produced through the project, which has as its focus improving health intelligence, building capacity and know-how for policy-makers and practitioners on tackling socially determined health inequalities as part of health system performance.
HealthEquity-2020 – HCN drew on EUREGIO III, EU policies and the WHO Briefing Paper to co-develop and manage a 42-month long EU project, HEALTH EQUITY-2020 (HE2020). This looked at how tackling health inequalities in EU regions could be done differently, putting in place sustainable foundations for effective actions. The project took a highly interactive approach with participating regions. The general objective was to assist Member States & regions to develop evidence-based regional action plans on reducing health inequalities, which also informed the use of Structural Funds in the present and new programming period. Specifically, it was examined how participating regions tried to align local needs and priorities to the priorities and opportunities of national and regional strategies e.g. ESIF Partnership Agreements, ESIF Operational Programmes, national health strategies and, occasionally, previous work to address health inequalities. The key learning points from the process were
Tools to support the recommendations above have been developed and disseminated by the HE2020 consortium and can be accessed at https://healthequity2020.eu