Commission calls on EU to gear up on health actions

31 March 2010

Today the European Commission adopted proposals to enhance the EU's role in global health. The objective is to make Europe's contribution more effective so as to better accompany developing countries in getting back on track towards achieving health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Commission presents four approaches to improving global health: establish a more democratic and coordinated global governance; push for a collective effort to promote universal coverage and access to health services to all; ensure better coherence between EU policies relating to health; improve coordination of EU research on global health and boost access in developing countries to new knowledge and treatments.

The Communication on the EU Role in Global Health can be accessed in English here (PDF), along with the three accompanying staff working papers: Contributing to universal coverage of health services through development policy; Global health: responding to the challenges of globalization; European research and knowledge for global health.


European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli and European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Health is a right for all, in Europe and beyond. But it is a right that too many people still cannot enjoy today. The Millennium Development Goals related to health, on child mortality, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS are among those most off track. We cannot accept this. As the main partner of developing countries, the EU has a responsibility to play a leading role in addressing global health challenges. Working with the world's poorest countries - for example through research partnerships- to improve access to new knowledge and to lifesaving treatments is a moral obligation and also in our own interests: communicable diseases, for example, do not stop at borders. Today's proposal is part of our preparation for the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals this September where the EU should speak with a single and credible voice."

Four main areas of action

In the last decade, health policy has gained a prominent position internationally and health aid has quadrupled amounting to over 16 billion euros. There are good stories to tell and concrete achievements on which to build. Yet, the lack of progress on health MDGs in the poorest countries and the growing challenges of globalization call for a strong EU global health vision, voice and action. The Commission proposes today areas for action, based on EU principles of solidarity, towards equitable and universal coverage of quality health services. The Commission highlights the main challenges that the EU needs to address: leadership, universal coverage, coherence of EU policies and knowledge. This new policy framework aims to be a turning point in promoting the right to health and better addressing global health challenges.

The proposals for an EU response to the four challenges are:

  • Enhance global governance on health: EU should defend a single position within UN agencies and work to reduce multiplicity of health projects.
  • Progress towards universal health coverage: EU should ensure that development aid supports developing countries build sustainable health systems and should promote division of labour among all actors, public and private, bringing knowledge and funding to the health sector. The Commission will propose a list of priority countries, mainly the ones most off-track from the health MDGs, where EU should concentrate its aid.
  • Ensure better coherence of EU internal and external policies in relation to global health: The EU will combine its leading role in trade and development to create a coherent approach to global health, including also issues such as migration, security, food security and climate change.
  • Increase Global health knowledge: ensure that research and innovation produce accessible and affordable products and services, and that no diseases are neglected. The EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) includes international cooperation towards achieving health-related MDGs as well as extensive research on diseases which can devastate developing countries. For example, in the first three years of FP7 (2007-2009) alone, the EU has invested over €200 million in research projects on controlling and treating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

This Communication will be discussed in the Foreign Affairs Council on 11 May. A Global Health High Level Meeting gathering EU Ministers of Health and Development will explore further action in June.

For version of the Commission documents in multiple language please follow this link:




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