23 December, 2020
European Parliament policymakers recently agreed on a €5.1 billion deal for the 2021-2027 EU4Health programme. EU4Health is the European Union’s (EU) ambitious funding programme that was proposed in response to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in EU health systems and highlighted the importance of prevention and continued investment in public health, which are essential tools in protecting citizens’ health and can be more cost-effective than disease control and treatment.
Professor Craig Wheelock, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Director of Scientific Relations with the EU, commented on the news:
“ERS welcomes the EU4Health programme deal and supports that at least 20% of the budget will be reserved for health promotion and disease prevention, addressing risk factors such as tobacco use and promoting the digitisation of healthcare where appropriate.
“We are also pleased to see that the EU4Health deal provides opportunities for the training of medical professionals. Our health systems and medical professionals need extra support to deal with the challenge of treating patients with long-lasting COVID-19 health effects as well as other communicable and non-communicable diseases, therefore ERS stands ready to support the EU in these efforts and to help facilitate training.”
The EU4Health deal will extend the European Reference Networks to include non-communicable diseases (NCDs); World Health Organization data shows that NCDs accounted for 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in 2019, highlighting the high burden caused by these diseases and the importance of addressing NCDs. ERS hopes that future Health Emergency Response Authority projects will tackle long-term conditions and unmet medical needs in addition to the threat of infectious diseases, which will support health systems to manage the increasing prevalence of NCDs in the EU.
ERS urges the European Parliament and Council of the EU to adopt the final EU4Health agreement without delay to ensure the programme can begin in early 2021.