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LEAK: Commission’s global health strategy to expand EU’s role worldwide

The European Commission wants EU member states to play the same decisive role they had in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic by replicating the leadership role of the EU in future health challenges.

People’s health, health systems, and health threats are at the core of the new EU global health strategy communication that the EU executive is expected to unveil on Wednesday (30 November).

The strategy aims at ensuring the EU’s central role in the global health debate and follows a communication that dates back to 2010.

“The main message of this strategy is that the EU intends to reassert its responsibility and deepen its leadership in the interest of the highest attainable standards of health, based on fundamental values, such as solidarity and equity, and the respect of human rights,” the Commission wrote in a recent draft of the strategy, seen by EURACTIV.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging antimicrobial resistance threat and the ongoing war in the European continent, there is a need to address the “significant changes in global health and geopolitics” and “strengthen EU leadership in this area”, the Commission said.

In the communication, the Commission stressed the need to embrace a ‘Team Europe’ approach, a reference to the eponymous 40-billion package to support partner countries in the fight against the pandemic and its consequences.

Last month, Sandra Gallina, director-general of the Commission’s health service DG SANTE,  told EURACTIV that “the strategy is a way to illustrate the central role Europe has on the map of health”. 

In an annex of the strategy, the Commission will also present a non-exhaustive list of 20 global, regional, and bilateral projects in a timeframe from 2023 to 2027.

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Three core priorities 

To ensure the central role, the Commission is focusing on three “interrelated priorities” until 2030 which are delivering better health and well-being of people, strengthening health systems and advancing universal health coverage and combating health threats by applying an inter-disciplinary One-Health approach. 

To address the first two priorities the Commission is calling for a focus on “root causes of ill-health, like poverty and social inequalities” but also on new drivers of health that must be addressed in an integrated manner.

These include climate change, environmental degradation, humanitarian crises, or food insecurity, aggravated by crises like the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

Additionally, it stresses the need to focus on the growing challenges of antimicrobial resistance and mental health.

Health systems management is also touched upon, including workforce imbalances and resource shortages, while communication calls for maximising the use of artificial intelligence as well.

On the third priority – combating current and future health threats – the EU executive wants to reach enhanced equity in access to vaccines and other countermeasures, for more effective disease surveillance worldwide and for stronger international rules and cooperation mechanisms on health.

Overall, the emphasis is put on the ‘One Health approach’, which tackles the complex interconnection between humanity, climate, environment and animals. 

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Ensuring a central role internationally

Another aspect the strategy focuses on is working towards the EU as a driver of international cooperation.

“Expanding partnerships with a wide range of relevant stakeholders is of the utmost importance—promoting health sovereignty for more resilience and strategic autonomy supported by partners’ political commitment and responsibility,” the strategy said.

For that, the Commission and member states are taking the responsibility to ensure the synergy between national and EU global health strategies and work “closer than ever in a Team Europe approach”.

Cooperation should be strengthened via deepened cooperation through G7, G20, and other global, regional, and bilateral partners. 

When it comes to funding, the EU and its member states are collectively among the largest funders of global health, whether in terms of global goods, development aid, or humanitarian assistance.

The strategy’s goals will require not only high political commitment globally but also an “important commitment of resources”. 

“The EU financial contribution will follow a new approach involving innovative finance, co-investment from partners and pooling with other international actors—and the EU’s influence in shaping the agenda must match its financing support as a champion of global health,” the strategy said.

Source : Euractiv