Commission calls for joint and sustained action to foster health equality and accessibility

The European Commission (DG SANCO) organised on 18 March the conference ‘Health in Europe – Making it fairer’ focused on how to improve health fairness and equity in Europe, improve access to health and combat discrimination in health. The Commission acknowledged that health inequalities have been rising over the last few years and that further action is needed to address the gap between the rich and poor and between certain social groups and guarantee health care access to all. According to Health Commissioner Tony Borg, developing integrated polices at national level are key since many social and educational factors lead to inequality in health. Particular attention should also be paid to disadvantaged or discriminated population groups more likely to experience health care access difficulties: ethnic minorities and migrants, persons with disabilities, psychological problems, severe chronic illnesses, people who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, gender or age; the poor, the unemployed. The Health Commissioner also insisted that the challenge needs sustained action and real partnership between governments and institutions, and announced that the European Commission would be launching in the next few weeks a joint action against cancer to improve access to care and screening.

In a joint press release, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) (of which AGE is a member) and the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) welcomed this first step towards more equity, but call for further action to strengthen the health and equity dimensions in the 2020 Strategy and further engage civil society while emphasizing key issues such as patient empowerment, health promotion, disease prevention and health literacy.

EPHA also recalls that the fight against discrimination is prerequisite to action in favour of health equity and accessibility and urges MEPs, ahead of the EU eletions in May, to push for the adoption of an EU Directive on equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender, race, type of condition, social status, education, or country of residence. For the last few years, AGE, together with other European NGOs, has been campaigning for the adoption of such framework directive.

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