Following on from the European Commission’s 3rd EU Health Programme which comes to an end this year, and in light of COVID-19, the EC proposed a new and ambitious health programme – EU4Health. The Commission initially proposed a budget of €9.4 billion for the next EU Health Programme, however at the EU leaders summit in July this figure was reduced to only €1.7 billion by Member States. Last week at the negotiations on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework meeting, the Council Agreed to triple Member States’ proposal to €5.1 billion for the upcoming seven-year budget. Additionally, the new research budget was discussed with an agreement of €84.9 billion for Horizon Europe. 

The aim of the new Health Programme is to contribute to post-COVID-19 recovery by building stronger, more resilient healthcare systems and improving international collaboration in the field of health. The EU4Health programme will focus on the following key areas: 

  • Pandemic preparedness and responding to cross-border health threats
  • Addressing vaccine hesitancy 
  • Reducing health inequalities and health risks
  • Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance 
  • Strengthening health systems 
  • Preventing and managing NCDs, specifically cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer 
  • Increasing the availability and affordability of medicines and medical technologies 
  • Improving digital healthcare, including the application European eHealth Records 

The EU will additionally seek to expand the European Reference Networks initiative on rare diseases and will continue to promote international cooperation on global public health, including on addressing public health challenges and preventing cross-border health threats, which includes TB. 

To find out more about the EU4Health Programme and other funding mechanisms click here. There is also an EU4Health fact sheet

The proposed health programme budget is a huge increase from the current 3rd Health Programme (2014-2020) which only amounted to 449.4 million within the European Social Fund (ESF). The increased budget indicates a significant change in the EU’s priorities and the importance of coordinated efforts to promote global health. 

As the EU4Health work plan is developed and with negotiations with member states ongoing, it is vital to ensure that a well-resourced, well-designed and well-governed programme is established, in order to improve health systems beyond COVID-19. Not only is a strong health programme necessary for reducing health inequalities, but also for expanding access to quality healthcare services, medicines and medical products. With both a strong EU4Health and HorizonEurope programme, there is increased scope for the development of innovative solutions to tackling health challenges, including TB and COVID-19. 

You can read press releases from EP’s health committee, ENVI’s here and here. (available in all EU languages)

European Health Union

In the wake of COVID-19, the European Commission has also strengthened mandates of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and European Medicines Agency (EMA). The outcomes of the budget negotiations also come about as EC President Ursula von der Leyen unveils the Commission’s plans for a European Health Union. This includes a series of proposals which were adopted by the EC to “build a European Health Union” that will hopefully enable “stronger crisis preparedness and response for Europe”.  

Included in these proposals is an update to the cross‑border health threat legal framework which would enable the EU to: 

  • adopt common measures at EU level to tackle future potential cross-border health threats
  • declare an EU-level public health emergency
  • establish an integrated EU monitoring system for infectious disease and other health threats

An extended mandate of the ECDC would enable it to:

  • provide stronger recommendations on measures to control potential disease outbreaks, and set up analysis and modelling to support Member States
  • mobilise and deploy an EU Health Task Force to assist local response in Member States
  • reinforce the prevention of communicable diseases and specific health issues, e.g. antimicrobial resistance, vaccination and biosecurity
  • monitor and assess health systems capacity and identifying population groups at risk and in need of targeted prevention and response measures

You can read more about the ECDC proposal here  

The EMA extension would allow the agency to monitor risks and report on shortages of medicines during a crisis, and fast-track scientific advice and approval for medicines to treat or prevent a disease causing a public health crisis. 

Click here for more information on the European Health Union. (available in all EU languages)

TBEC hopes that through the new programmes and extended mandates, the EU and its Member States will have better capacity to prevent and respond to global health threats, including tackling TB across the whole European region. By working to reduce health inequalities and improve healthcare systems, we can improve the quality and accessibility of TB healthcare services such as vaccination, diagnostics and treatment, which are key to controlling the spread of infectious diseases. 

We encourage TBEC members based in EU Member State countries to advocate for an ambitious programme that includes activities on tackling TB and other infectious diseases. TBEC intends to collaborate with the CSF on TB, HIV and Hepatitis to promote interventions that will contribute to reducing the burden of all three diseases across the wider European region.

Stella Kyriakidou, The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety