Summary: Putting Health on the Agenda: Practitioner Perspectives from Elizabeth Kuiper

EUhealthgov |

EUHealthGov held its third Practitioner Perspective on 19th July 2023. We were delighted to host Elizabeth Kuiper, Associate Director and Head of the Social Europe and Well-being programme at the European Policy Centre (EPC) to discuss the evolving place of health on policy agendas between the COVID-19 pandemic and upcoming changes with a new Commission term and European Parliament elections in 2024.

Against the backdrop of current interconnected challenges spanning the geopolitical context and cost-of-living crises, the profile of health on EU-level agendas has gained more prominence. This has emerged not only via learnings from COVID-19 for public health and EU competence in health, but also via Commission President Von der Leyen’s greater ambitions for health from December 2019, where the previous Commission had seen health famously characterised as a “small thing”.

Elizabeth Kuiper’s experience of working in Brussels since 2010 has taken place alongside this evolving profile of health. Her work with the EPC on health has included highlighting the recent discussions about potential Treaty change and the contrasts between citizens’ calls for, and politicians’ equivocations regarding, more EU-level health competence in connection with marking 30 years of health as a Treaty competence in the Maastricht Treaty. The EPC have also engaged with the current evolutions regarding EU governance and the implications for health, issuing a bold proposal for an Executive Vice President for the Wellbeing Economy.

Elizabeth’s presentation also introduced the EPC’s recent work on examining what the European Health Union means – including as a narrowly-defined concept, or an aspiration. Bringing together a broad coalition of stakeholders (including academics and health representatives), the European Health Union Task Force has enabled the EPC to develop concrete recommendations which will be launched on 12th September 2023.

The EPC’s focus has been on extending the European Health Union beyond the now well-established pillars (including pandemic preparedness and the European Health Data Space) and questions of Treaty competence in recognition of attention this has received in other fora, notably the Conference on the Future of Europe. The directions indicated by this work include extending use of joint procurement to address inequalities and access, particularly for rare diseases; elevating HERA’s status to ensure more independence and autonomy in recognition that perspectives on health may change with the new Commission in 2024; highlighting the need for better implementation of recommendations for addressing the skills gap in the health workforce; and the need to explore more partnerships across the world and work more holistically at the global level in tackling health emergencies.

A recording of this event is available here.