CLOSING THE GAP OF INEQUITIES IN EUROPE

SARA CERDAS
EURODEPUTADA S&D

Education, social support, employment and low poverty are directly correlated to the health status of a country. This is science, and shows how the Social Determinants of Health – the conditions on which people are born, work and live and are directly related to education, employment, access to clean water and sanitation, housing, environmental factors and social and family support – are correlated to the health status of a population.

Inequities arise when there is a moral component to the differences between population groups: when their needs are tackled irrespective of their particularities. In order to close the gap of inequities in the EU, we must guarantee that the social determinants of health are not left behind. These measures are the ones we can take in order to improve the overall health status of a population.

Obviously, these measures will condition and will be conditioned by healthcare and healthcare provision. But health is much more conditional on the social determinants of health, than the healthcare provision itself. We know now that higher education is related to higher health outcomes, lower prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable diseases and healthier lifestyles.

We must bear in mind that accessibility to healthcare differs widely when we compare different regions across the EU, and the lack of complete health services continues to be a reality in most remote regions. Being from an outermost region myself, where certain treatments for diseases or some specific care or service are not available, I know first hand the importance of reducing inequalities and the necessity to offer reliable alternatives. It is of the utmost importance to ensure good accessibility in all regions of the EU and to all citizens, despite their health conditions. If there is an inequality in access, there will be inequities in health. And inequities in health will be directly linked to social inequalities.

One of the biggest challenges in health is that the resources are limited and scarce – we shall use them wisely. The best cost-beneficial public health interventions are long-term ones. Evidence shows us that for every euro invested in long-term public health interventions, we will have 14-fold euros in return. And this is where we can and shall act at a European level. As a shadow rapporteur of the EU4Health programme we bear in mind the concepts of One Health approach and Health in All Policies, in order to act on the health determinants, but also to act with measures to support Universal Healthcare Coverage, improving the availability, accessibility and affordability of healthcare. The European Union has other tools to reduce health inequities and inequalities, like the European Pharma Strategy, the Beating Cancer Plan, with the goal of improving accessibility to medicines and medical devices, improving health promotion and increasing health literacy.

At the same time the EU is also acting directly and indirectly in the social determinants of health through its different policies. As an example, we could indicate the green deal and all the environmental actions to ensure a safe and healthier environment, that is obvious but we could also use as example the SURE, to mitigate the unemployment, or the TEN-T, The Trans-European Transport Network, that improves accessibility across Europe.

As politicians, we need to legislate better and assess how we are affecting the health determinants and how we will affect health outcomes of EU citizens. Only with this health in all policies approach, it will be possible to close the gap of iniquities.

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