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Public Health and the European Union

EU logoHealth policy in the UK is increasingly influenced by policies in other European Union (EU) countries; an estimated 85% of new legislation now originates in Brussels. The 1992 Treaty on European Union (or Maastricht Treaty) made public health an official EU competence for the first time.

The EU's Health Strategy Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013 (download below) puts in place a strategic framework for work on health at the EU level across all policy areas. The strategy’s principles include taking a value-driven approach, recognising the links between health and economic prosperity, integrating health in all policies, and strengthening the EU's voice in global health. The strategic themes include Fostering Good Health in an Ageing Europe, Protecting Citizens from Health Threats, and Dynamic Health Systems and New Technologies.

The Directorate General Health and Consumer Affairs (DG Sanco) is one of the directorates under the EU which is independent. Its job is to ensure food and consumer goods sold in the EU are safe, that the EU's internal market works for the benefit of consumers and that Europe helps protect and improve its citizens' health. DG Sanco holds a considerable budget for health. Food labelling and reformulation of processed food at population level are examples of EU level directives.



Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco)  
Our job is to help make Europe's citizens healthier, safer and more confident. Over the years the European Union has established EU laws on the safety of food and other products, on consumers' rights and on the protection of people's health. The Directorate General for 'Health and Consumers' has the task of keeping these laws up to date. It is national, regional or even local governments in EU countries who actually apply the EU's health and consumer protection laws. It is their job to make sure traders, manufacturers and food producers in their country observe the rules. Nonetheless, part of our job is to check that this is really happening and that the rules are being applied properly in all EU countries.

East Midlands European Office (EMEO)
The EMEO is situated in the European Quarter of Brussels and is the region’s voice in Europe. It monitors European policy and funding, promotes partnerships at European level, engages with decision makers, creates opportunities arising from EU membership and raises the region’s profile in Europe. It also acts as an interface between its partners, European Institutions, Brussels-based interest groups, other European regions and networks.

Committee of Regions (CoR) 
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the political assembly that provides the regional and local levels with a voice in EU policy development and EU legislation. The Commission and Council are obliged to consult the Committee of the Regions whenever new proposals are made in areas that affect the regional or local level.

The European Regional and Local Health Authorities Platform, Euregha
EUREGHA represents the interest of regional and local authorities focused on public health. To date, EUREGHA accounts more than 100 local and regional authorities across 18 countries. The EUREGHA Network was created to meet the needs of the European Commission regarding patient mobility and open coordination on health quality care in 2004. It represents a platform of dialogue between regional and local authorities/organisations and the European Commission on health care issues.

Assembly of European Regions
The Assembly of European Regions (est.1985) is the largest independent network of regions in the wider Europe. Bringing together over 270 regions from 33 countries and 16 interregional organisations, AER's mission is to: promote the principle of subsidiarity and regional democracy; increase the regions' political influence within the European institutions; support the regions in the process of European enlargement andglobalisation; facilitate interregional cooperation across wider Europe and beyond.

European Commission Public Health
The European Commission embodies and upholds the general interest of the Union and is the driving force in the Union's institutional system. Its four main roles are to propose legislation to Parliament and the Council, to administer and implement Community policies, to enforce Community law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and to negotiate international agreements, mainly those relating to trade and cooperation.

North West Health Brussels Office (NWHBO)
The North West Health Brussels Office (NWHBO) is a dedicated North West resource in Brussels, promoting the interests of the North West health community in Europe, facilitating lobbying on EU policies that impact the NHS and on wider health issues and assisting in developing European partnerships and projects for public health objectives. Establishing the Office was an innovative and unique step and it now acts as one of approximately 250 European regional representations in Brussels focusing on health and related issues. The NWHBO is now the longest-established regional office focusing specifically on public health and health systems in the EU context.

Since its launch in 2004 it has demonstrated the value of regional health sector engagement in EU policy-making and funding. In the process the region has gained valuable experience in advocacy, pursuing funding and learning from European partners on a wide range of issues. The region continues to increase its understanding of the relevance of European health policy and will look to gain further policy and funding successes through its engagement at European level in the future. The NWHBO office has partners from across the North West including the Strategic Health Authority, 24 Primary Care Trusts, the Health Protection Agency and now the Christie Hospital. We have a history of working with NHS partners and the wider ‘health community’ including universities, foundation trusts and NGOs across the North West of England on European policy, legislation and funding opportunities We believe that partners across the region can benefit from European working in a variety of ways, in addition to applying for EU funds. The Office is guided by a Steering Group which meets quarterly, comprised of senior NHS Managers, Directors or Chief Executives from across the North West region.

The Epode European Network, Preventing childhood obesity
The EPODE European Network (EEN) is a European project running from 2008 to 2011 with the support of the European Commission DG Health and Consumers. The Network was created by the French company, Protéines, based in Paris and is designed to facilitate the implementation of EPODE-like programmes in other European countries. The EEN will contribute to the EU vision of multi-stakeholder partnerships united in their determination to promote healthier lifestyles, improve diet and physical activity habits, and prevent obesity and other non-communicable diseases in European populations.

EU Parliament - Factsheets


Document downloads

  • Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013
    Adobe PDF document, 123 KB

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