Public Health

Europe faces significant challenges in the area of public health. While it is widely recognised that health is a human right and a prerequisite for economic growth, health expenditure is projected to continue its increasing trend, mainly due to socio-demographic changes – the ageing population and the subsequent increase in chronic diseases, multi-morbidities and long-term care needs – as well as due to the impact of new technologies. These factors have the potential to exacerbate costs, which are primarily shouldered by the public sector. There is a critical need to promote the sustainability of health systems and to harness the sector’s potential to catalyse economic growth – better health systems can lead to healthier and more productive citizens.

While healthcare remains mainly a responsibility for Member States, Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires that ‘a high level of human health protection be ensured within all EU policies’. EU public health policy and law has developed over recent decades through a range of interventions to support the single market and to promote the health of EU citizens, while respecting the role of EU Member States and the national public health systems. Examples include measures to prevent, monitor, fight and provide early warning against major cross-border health scourges as well as to protect public health by addressing tobacco consumption and abuse of alcohol.

Milieu’s track record in public health includes studies on the integration of public health concerns into other EU policies, such as Cohesion Policy and biodiversity protection, the provision of expertise to the European Parliament and the Commission on policy and legislation.

ESIF support in the area of health: building knowledge and capacities for monitoring and implementation, supporting innovation and effectiveness

The health sector cuts across many policy sectors and health policy objectives are critically inter-linked with policies in employment, social inclusion, education and training and environment, among others. Because health objectives are pursued across different policy areas, tracking ESIF spending in the area of health is a complex undertaking.

Milieu implemented a two-year initiative for the European Commission to investigate the ways in which ESIF 2014-2020 contributed to health policy through investment. The work included detailed quantitative data collection and analysis of health-related projects across all EU Member States, the identification of good practice projects, and a capacity-building programme aiming for better programming and project development in the area of health.

A dedicated project website contains a broad range of materials developed including country factsheets, descriptions of exemplary projects and a range of reports by specific health themes as well as policy recommendations targeting the 2021-27 funding period.

Since 2010, Milieu has supported the European Parliament in the organisation of workshops on a wide range of public health topics. These workshops collect top experts in the field from around the EU and beyond to provide background information and advice for members of the parliamentary committee on environment, public health and food safety (ENVI). For each event, Milieu sources and contacts experts, prepares background research, press releases, and a final workshop report. Recent workshops include: robots in healthcare; the sustainability of health systems; complementary and alternative therapies for patients; auto-immune diseases; health promotion and primary prevention; the role of education and sport in the fight against cancer; the case of glyphosate in the EU’s pesticides risk assessment system, and others.

Study on legislative alignment checks of the EU public health acquis for non-EU countries (DG SANTE, 2018-2019)

Countries that wish to join the EU need to align their legislation with that of the EU in all sectors. Milieu is supporting DG SANTE in the assessment of alignment (or conformity) of national laws in 13 third countries with the EU public health acquis (e.g. tobacco control, substances of human origin, serious cross-border health threats including communicable diseases, and medical products). The results of this work will allow DG SANTE to provide recommendations and feedback to these countries and to in-house experts for EU negotiations. It will also allow EU Enlargement countries, Micro States and ENP countries to continue with alignment to the EU public health acquis and will disseminate EU Global Health policy.

The health and social benefits of nature and biodiversity protection (DG ENV)

The protection of biodiversity is not only an environmental goal, it also impacts people’s health and well-being in many ways. This includes the provision of space for outdoor recreation and activity for health lifestyles; improvement of living and working environments; mitigating stress from heat, noise and air pollution and others. Realising these requires awareness by stakeholders and policy-makers, as well as collaboration across sectors.

Milieu’s main role in this undertaking was the mapping and analysis of stakeholders via surveys and in-depth interviews. This led to the identification of good practices, as well as needs and obstacles to be overcome to improve stakeholder collaboration and governance. Based on the findings, the final study identified opportunities for further developing and increasing health and social benefits as well as practical tools for the mapping of social values and health benefits that could be linked to nature and the environment.