five years ago, branded The European Health Forum Justin (EHFG) as a “marketplace for good ideas to advance the health reform agenda” spoke with confidence about our collective ability to implement and manage these ideas. Today, as we celebrate the EHFG’s 25th anniversary and meet in hybrid form for the first time, the mood may be more sober or even bleak. However, we are still more determined than ever to take a quantum leap in our thinking and, most importantly, in our planning for how we can bring health to all.
It is clear that the world is going through a permanent crisis: the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency, the energy crisis, rampant inflation, and rising immigration due to hunger, famine and civil war. All of this comes in addition to the frightening legacy of the worst pandemic in a century, a new public health emergency in monkeypox, and the near certainty of even worse crises to come. Think antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Healthcare systems in Europe and around the world are under severe strain. Long-term financing problems to deal with an aging population needing more care than ever are exacerbated by high inflation, staff shortages, longer queuing up for diagnosis and treatment, and, increasingly, shifts in policymakers’ spending priorities toward defense and security. The liberal world order, and with it democracy, is in danger of collapse.
However, there are some reasons for optimism about the ability of the global community to come together to better manage crises. Earlier this year, the WHO Executive Board, based on a resolution I proposed, approved the creation of a new permanent committee on health emergency prevention, preparedness and response — an echo of the new EU body, the health emergency, if you like. preparedness and response agencyHira). The World Health Assembly approved a historic increase in Member States’ contributions to the WHO budget. Instead of 17 (sic!) percent, they’ll make up 50 percent of the total
income. An intergovernmental process has been established to negotiate a new legally binding instrument to better deal with health emergencies. Then there was a file partial lift From TRIPS (a waiver of intellectual property), which I see as a sign of goodwill towards the Global South that equal access to a vaccine for all is a critical goal. This month, we saw official opening From the Financial Intermediate Fund (FIF), a $1.2 billion fund designed to fill critical gaps in health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) — and help overcome stark health disparities that continue to widen.
Not a comfortable consensus but a huge leap forward
However, these small steps are not enough to meet the challenges we face. I very much hope that this year the EHFG will raise its bar by restarting the thought process of the previously unimaginable, taking us out of what a colleague once described as our “European bubble”, proposing/adopting radical solutions to those multiple health challenges and last but not least, the lack of Fear of difference. We do not need another intimate consensus among policy makers and stakeholders of good will that is gathering dust on the Berlemont shelf like the so-called visionary reports on the future of Europe. What we need is what I call fire: smoldering controversy and a blaze of old, petty certainty. That’s why we’re calling a shot when it comes to new ways of thinking about health care.
Mariana Mazzucato, one of our keynote speakers and Chair of the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All, put it Well when you talk about putting health for all at the center of government investment and innovation decisions with the public good in mind. she calls To move from a “healthy” economy to one based on health for all. It is really time to stop measuring economic success as GDP growth and start measuring it in terms of human well-being and the environment.
This means a new social contract around very different social and economic paradigms. Of course, human societies are not yet ready to move towards what the young Scottish philosopher William MacAskill calls “Effective altruism(Which makes charitable giving even better.) But the current trajectory in health and energy use can only mean millions of deaths around the world and even planetary exhaustion.
The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 ushered in a period of misguided austerity. In contrast, the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine has seen even “frugal” countries like mine loosen or even drop what Professor Mazzucato calls “wrong fiscal constraints”. But we must go further and adopt state budgets geared to deliver desired outcomes with real value – most notably, better health for all and shared well-being. TRUE. honest. core ESG Thinking must become the core of policy making.
A true European Health Union
In my view, this year’s forum should be a call to action for government ministers and others to learn the lessons of the current looming pandemic and other crises: thinking outside the box, cooperation, shared sovereignty, and solidarity above all. By bringing together many actors in health and other policy areas, the EHFG can set an agenda to expand and complement the EU Health Consortium.
The vast majority of Europe’s population prefers the EU’s greater competence in crisis management, rejecting the Fortress Europe approach at the same time. In addition to dealing with pandemic preparedness and response, including vaccine supplies, Europe is at the forefront of measures to promote digital transformation of healthcare delivery – and this is just beginning. This should be at the heart of the EU’s global healthcare strategy that DG Sante will present in Gastein on September 28.
So too must play the future role of the pharmaceutical sector in Europe, including research and development, competitiveness, and barriers to market entry. And one must not forget the need to make medicines affordable and easily accessible in many of the 27 EU countries. Europe is just beginning to discuss new ways to finance health care and, in the context of antimicrobial resistance, stimulate the discovery of new and effective antibiotics. Incorporation thinking about innovative financing is at the top of our agenda here.
One might add that this is all very well but do we have a professional staff to provide the enhanced care and treatment that we prepare ourselves for in Europe? The shortage of GPs, nurses and consultants in hospitals is growing at an alarming pace. Therefore, governments of Member States and the Commission, which are more competent in this area, need to work alongside public agencies, including trade unions, in devising practical strategies to recruit, retain and train greater numbers of motivated professionals.
So it is pertinent for this year’s forum to ask the essential question: the European Health Union – if not now, then when. Looking at our society and the challenges of the world, we might say, “If not now, it will be too late!”.