Health: the 27 Member States join forces to tackle future crises and address existing challenges

April 2024
By Editorial Staff

The informal Health EU Council, held on April 23rd-24th, engaged in discussions concerning the health workforce, medicine shortages, and initiatives targeting non-communicable diseases. These topics hold significant importance for EU citizens as they directly impact healthcare accessibility, affordability, and quality across the Union, and its capacity to address future crises.

Health ministers from across the EU convened to explore various ways the EU can intervene to address healthcare workforce challenges. They considered crafting a comprehensive strategy aimed at improving the health workforce throughout the EU. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted existing issues, underscoring the need for closer collaboration at national, European, and global levels to find solutions.

Despite Member States employing different approaches, the EU’s involvement remains crucial. It plays a pivotal role in supporting and enhancing these efforts by providing financial aid and establishing regulations for a coordinated and effective approach.

Recent initiatives aim to address medicine shortages and enhance supply reliability. Immediate actions target urgent shortages, while medium and long-term plans aim to strengthen supply networks. For instance, in 2023, the European Commission outlined measures to tackle medicine shortages, such as adjusting regulations and establishing the Critical Medicines Alliance.

As a result, health ministers were encouraged to explore further actions at the EU level to address the issue comprehensively. These additional measures encompass various aspects, including strengthening collaboration through the Alliance, and deliberating on strategies for stockpiling essential medicines to ensure preparedness for potential shortages or emergencies. Pricing considerations will also be on the agenda, in addition to around refining methods for public procurement of medicines.

Ultimately, the informal meeting focused on addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, which are significant global concerns. The EU has already initiated action, with Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (EBCP) outlining plans to combat cancer risk factors, such as implementing rules to reduce smoking and drinking. By implementing evidence-based rules and fostering collaboration among countries, the EU can make a difference in fighting those illnesses. During the following discussions, health ministers will delve into various EU actions aimed at preventing NCDs. They will explore areas where new rules may be necessary to effectively address these health challenges, such as implementing regulations to promote healthier lifestyles, enhancing access to preventive healthcare services, and bolstering research efforts to understand NCDs better.