Summary: ‘The Political Determinants of Health and the European Union’, a Special Issue in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law

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On 25 April 2024 1-2.30pm BST, EUHealthGov hosted the launch of a Special Issue entitled ‘The Political Determinants of Health and the European Union’ forthcoming in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (Advance Publication available here).

The term ‘political determinants of health’ (PDoH) appears with increasing frequency in public health and health governance research, yet it remains poorly defined. For some, it is part of broader models of the social, commercial, or structural determinants of health; for others, it connotes an investigation of power dynamics that differs from epidemiological frameworks. Despite the diversity of approaches and understandings, it is clear that there exists a significant and growing body of work exploring the role of political institutions, norms, policies, processes, values, and conflict in shaping health. Moreover, in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, attention to the interface between political structures and public health has been amplified, suggesting the potential value of a more coherent approach to this area of research. This special issue explores the potential scope and value of the ‘Political Determinants of Health’ as a concept and a label for a common research and practice agenda. The project was designed to generate a bottom-up delineation – a call for papers invited scholars who consider their work to address PDoH in the EU, regardless of their disciplinary home and whether and how they might define this term, to propose contributions. The only requirement was that authors demonstrate explicit engagement with how their paper conceptualises PDoH and explain what they mean by “political.”

In this launch webinar, the authors and guest editors presented their contributions to the special issue and discussed overarching themes: What are the Political Determinants of Health (PDoH)? How is this concept used and what does it encompass? What PDoH are relevant to health in the European Union (EU)? Is the EU itself a political determinant and, if so, how does it shape health and health policy, within its territory and beyond? You will find a hyperlink to each special issue articles below.

First, Dr Thibaud Deruelle (European Social Observatory) introduced the theme and story behind this project. Dr Mechthild Roos (University of Augsburg) then introduced the (active and passive) role of the EU in the area of forced migrants’ health. Her presentation was followed by Dr Eleanor Brooks’ (the University of Edinburgh) who talk about how the EU’s meta-regulatory agenda ‘Better Regulation’ can impact health policy. Dr Alexandru Moise (European University Institute) presented a quantitative analysis of the impact of healthcare privatization on population health, and Dr Florian Tille (European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies) introduced a framework for studying the evolution of EU health policy and the European Health Union using the PDoH.  The presentation by Dr Mary Guy (Liverpool John Moores University) offered reflections on the notion of ‘solidarity’ in EU competition law. Dr Matilde Ceron (European University Institute) presented her analysis of the health impacts of the EU’s economic governance in the Eurozone, and Dr Charlotte Godziewski’s (City, University of London) presentation explored the securitisation of health in the EU after COVID. Dr Ashley Fox (University of Albany, State University of New York) shared insights from a longitudinal analysis of the macro-correlation between welfare generosity and health across EU countries, and Dr Benjamin Ewert (Fulda University of Applied Sciences) talked about the politics of food labelling using the NutriScore as an example. Finally, Dr Emilia Szyszkowska (Warsaw School of Economics) zoomed into one particular EU member state and presented her research on the Polish healthcare system. Dr Katrina Perehudoff and Dr Kaja Ippel (the University of Amsterdam) also contributed to the special issue, with an article exploring the EU’s role as a global health actor in the field of pharmaceutical and biotechnological research and development.

You can find the full webinar recording here:

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