Heated Debate Likely on Plan for EU-Wide Health Coordination

By Hagmann, Michael | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Heated Debate Likely on Plan for EU-Wide Health Coordination


Hagmann, Michael, Bulletin of the World Health Organization


In a vote on 4 April, the European Parliament called for the creation of a European Health Coordination and Monitoring Centre (HCMC) -- the cornerstone of a proposed new programme that would coordinate and streamline health policies across the 15 member states of the European Union (EU). At the same session, the Parliament also called for an almost 30% increase in funding -- from [European Dollar] (euros) 300 million (US$ 256 million) to 380 million [European Dollar] (US$ 336 million) -- for the programme, which would run from 2001 to 2006.

Officially termed "programme of community action in the field of public health", the new programme was first proposed last May by the European Commission, the EU's executive body. The Parliament is currently calling for a number of revisions.

The proposed programme would replace eight existing programmes, which each addresses a single public health topic, such as cancer, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, rare diseases, pollution-related diseases, epidemiological surveillance, health education, injuries and accidents, as well as drug abuse.

The Commission's public health proposal, explains Member of Parliament Antonios Trakatellis, "is the first integrated EU venture in this sector. To date, important health topics have been dealt with in a piecemeal fashion, with different problems tackled mainly in isolation from each other". The main goal of the new programme, Trakatellis says, would be to collect and evaluate medical and epidemiological data across the EU, bookmark health-determining factors, including lifestyle, socioeconomic or environmental factors, and elaborate mechanisms by which one could respond rapidly and efficiently to health threats like, say, emerging infectious diseases.

The coordinating centre, the HCMC, that Parliament is calling for would be a clearing house for all types of public health data compiled from across the EU. It would gather data through national health agencies, monitor epidemiological trends and health inequalities, and come up with a catalogue of best health care practices to be provided to all EU citizens. "In order to collect and manage data, you need a functioning coordination centre, which simply wasn't there [in the initial proposal]," Trakatellis says.

In their vote, members of Parliament also included a wish-list of urgent issues the new programme should focus on: they include cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, age-related neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases, and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. …

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