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The European health workforce and the digital skills gap: What is the EU’s role in closing the divide?

Webinar | 10 March 2022  | 11:00 – 12:00 CET

Digital tools hold the potential to improve the efficiency, accessibility, and quality of care. But even if the technologies are at hand, we cannot fully utilise them whilst the digital skills gap in the health workforce remains.

During the COVID-19 pandemic many digital health tools moved from being viewed as a potential opportunity to becoming an immediate necessity, and the use of them increased substantially, including tools for eHealth, mHealth, and Big Data.

The European Commission, being mindful of progress in other regions of the world, has launched a skills agenda for a green and digital transformation for all economic sectors to ensure necessary modernisation. For health and social care, a digitally skilled health workforce is absolutely essential to ensure patient centeredness, care integration and multi-disciplinary teamwork. Given that the European health workforce is mobile, crossing national borders, digital skills must be ensured in all countries.

Now is the time to strengthen digital skills as many countries are building back better their health systems. But what’s the EU’s role in closing the digital skills gap with regards to regulation, funding, quality standards, and technical issues? And how can we support Member States to collaborate more effectively in bridging the digital divide amongst the health workforce in order to universally improve care?

This is the second installment in a series of webinars on the European Health Union initiative, aiming at advancing the European Health Union beyond crisis preparedness and adding value for societies and citizens. The webinars are jointly organised by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and, the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG).

If you have any questions for the speakers, ask them during registration, during the event via the webinar Q&A function, via email to info@ehfg.org or tweet @GasteinForum or @OBShealth with #digitalHCW.  

Register here

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Webinar: European Health Union – not wishful thinking, but a reflection of Europeans’ real concerns

The time has come to make European health a priority. Health is defined as a Member State competence under the EU treaties. Statistics show there is a wide gap between the health systems of different EU Member States.

Healthcare expenditures per capita differ considerably. The situation has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

According to Eurobarometer research, the majority of Europeans insist that healthcare should be included in the list of most important decisions.

Participants of the discussion will address:

– how current European health policy corresponds to the expectations of European citizens;
– proposals on how to improve the state of Europeans’ health;
– how to create a European Health Union and establish it in the Treaty on European Union;
– the dangers of postponing European Health issues for the future.

Confirmed panellists:

  • Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Former European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety (2014-2019)
  • Joseph Figueras PhD (econ), Director, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
  • Prof. Ilona Kickbusch, Founding Director of the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva
  • Prof. Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health and Medical Director at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Anniek de Ruijter, Associate Professor in Health Law specializing in European Law at the University of Amsterdam
  • Christine Berling, Head of International & European Affairs, Directorate General for Health – French Ministry of Solidarity and Health
  • Maria Joao Rodrigues, President of the European Foundation of Progressive Studies (FEPS)

Organised by: EIHSD (European Institute of Health and Sustainable Development) and The Foundation of European Progressive Studies (FEPS)

Media Partner: EURACTIV

Register for the webinar here.

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Podcast: Towards a European Health Union – A conversation with Vytenis Andriukaitis

In her September 2020 State of the Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for a European Health Union as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcoming the Commission’s proposal, a Manifesto was drafted by the European Health Union initiative, which proposes a more ambitious model of a European Health Union and calls on the political leaders of Europe to commit to creating a solidaric, equitable and people-centred European Health Union.

To delve further into the initiative and its goals, episode six of the ‘European Health Union Now’ podcast sees host Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb speak with one of the lead initiators of the group, Vytenis Andriukaitis.

Vytenis is a former Minister of Health of Lithuania, and he was European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety between 2014 and 2019. Vytenis is WHO Special Envoy for the European region.

Listen to the episode here.

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The EU’s global action in support of universal health coverage in the time of the pandemic and beyond

A comment by Ilona Kickbusch and colleagues in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe on the recommendations for Europe’s global action in support of universal health coverage in the time of the pandemic and beyond. Read the piece here.

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The European Health Union & access to health technologies: is joint purchasing the way forward?

This 60-minute session is the first of a European Health Union Initiative webinar series with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, organised in close cooperation European Health Forum Gastein.

The enduring problem of ensuring sustainable and equitable access to affordable medicines and other health technologies for all has been highlighted once again during the COVID-19 crisis. In this upcoming webinar organised in close collaboration between the European Health Union initiative and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, we will explore whether we can harness the recent experience of joint purchasing during the pandemic to better ensure equitable access to health technologies for diverse patient groups in the future.

Register here

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Podcast: A Stronger Europe for Rare Diseases

The fifth episode of the “European Health Union – Now!” podcast series looks at the situation of rare disease patients in Europe, what it means to live on the wrong side of the border, why orphan drugs are a different kind of animal, and what collaborative partnerships are needed to improve the situation of patients.

Just a few facts and figures to paint a picture of the current situation:

· There are around 30 million rare disease patients in Europe.

· 50% of them are children

· 30% don’t live till their 5th birthday

· 95% of rare disease patients are without a treatment option altogether.

The development of orphan drugs is a financially risky and not very lucrative business for pharma companies. While a lot needs to be invested into research and development, 48% of orphan medicinal products (OMPs) in the EU have a revenue of less than 10 million Euros. On the other hand, also payers face difficult decisions on reimbursing often very expensive orphan therapies for a small patient population. Though the situation for patients has clearly improved since new European legislation was introduced in the year 2000 (the number of authorised OMPs has risen from 8 to 182), I think there is a consensus in the community that new models are needed for the treatment of rare disease patients, and the current OMP regulation review represents an opportunity to bridge at least some of these gaps.

In this episode Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, Secretary General of the European Health Forum Gastein and co-initiator of the European Health Union initiative, speaks about this and much more with our guest , Dimitrios Athanasiou. Dimitrios has more than 25 years’ experience with international business projects, and has worked in various countries in consulting, developing and reorganising companies. When his son was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, an incurable rare disease, he became a passionate international patient expert and advocate for Duchenne and Rare Diseases. Dimitrios is a board member of the World Duchenne Organization (WDO) and the European Patients’ Forum, and he represents EURORDIS as a Pediatric Committee member in the European Medicines Agency. In these roles, Dimitrios promotes the rights of patients with rare diseases to have access to the best care possible and to new, safe and affordable drugs.

Listen to the episode here.

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European Health Union – how and why?

Join global health expert Ilona Kickbusch, Bogi Eliasen from the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies and Christopher Le from The Norwegian Directorate of Health on September 6th from 12:00 – 13:00 CEST in a debate about health literacy and future health strategies across borders.

Can health evolve in Europe cross borders? Can collaboration help solve our challenges – and how should we place health in our international priorities in Norway, the Nordics, and in Europe?

Register here.

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The case for a European Health Union

A recent opinion piece submitted to the Brussels Morning Newspaper by MEP Sara Cerdas argues the case for a European Health Union.

Read the article here.

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Podcast: Do we need a Treaty change for a true European Health Union?

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union (EU) has often been criticised for not having reacted strongly enough and for not having taken more leadership in coordinating the response. On the other hand, the pioneering efforts around the negotiations and the purchasing of the COVID-19 vaccines have showcased that coordinated action of all EU Member States is not only possible but necessary in times of a pandemic. Yet, the EU is limited in what it can do regarding health under the current Treaty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has starkly revealed the weaknesses in the division of powers and competences between the EU and its Member States.

In this episode, European Health Union (EHU) initiators Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb and Anniek de Ruijter discuss the recently published position paper, by EHU initiative members, calling for for a Treaty change in order to fully reach a EHU.

Available to listen here.

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Podcast: A European Health Union for the people – civil society at the heart of Europe’s future

Civil society has played a crucial role in advocating for better health in the EU during the COVID-19 crisis – but had already done that before. As we are moving towards a European Health Union (EHU) that works for all Europeans, strong partnerships and collaboration with civil society organisations are needed. Civil society organisations can play a fundamental role in bridging the gap between the EU and its citizens, thereby helping to make the EHU a truly transformative European effort.

How can we strengthen the involvement of civil society in European policymaking processes? How can we ensure working in partnership across borders and sectors not only in preparation for the next pandemic, but for the future of health in Europe in general, becomes the new normal?

In this podcast, Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, Secretary General of the European Health Forum Gastein sits down with Milka Sokolovic, Director-General of the European Public Health Alliance, to discuss these topics. 

Available to listen here.

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EHU – Political pipe dreams or time for next level in health politics around the world?

The global pandemic continues to create financial and cultural shockwaves through all kinds of communities across the globe. While some countries feel they’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel, fresh waves of both new and old challenges await that could rock the boat. So maybe it’s time for political evolution too? Can health politics and the role of health in politics – nationally and internationally, be transformed towards a new reality? Three strong voices from the engine room of European health say it’s time. Time to move beyond the status quo, reshape the way the European Union  – and other countries – treat health and wellbeing. Is this a massive challenge? Yes. Can it be done? Only if we try. 

Join the European Health Futures Forum and Nordic Health 2030 Movement on May 27th, along with European Health Union initiators Ilona Kickbusch and Vytenis Andriukaitis, for this session in the Humanity Rising series, ‘Challenging the Current Model‘.

Register here.

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It is time for a European Health Union – now!

Now is the time to strengthen the role of the EU in health policy and to build a European Health Union. This will require appropriate amendments to the EU treaties, writes Vytenis Andriukaitis in his guest contribution to Healthy Europe.

Read the full piece here.

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Podcast: Facing tomorrow’s health threats – a strong ECDC for a resilient Europe

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening Europe’s resilience against current and future health threats has become a hot item on political agendas, as well as an essential concern for citizens.

Under the leadership of Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, in November 2020 the European Commission took first steps in the scope of a ‘European Health Union’ legislative package, intended to unify and improve European responses to cross-border threats. Chief among the proposed measures, which are currently under negotiation in the European Council and Parliament, is an extension of the mandate for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). But what exactly would this new mandate entail? How could it protect Europeans? And how does this proposal fit in with larger, more ambitious visions of European cohesion on health?

In the latest ‘European Health Union Now!’ podcast , Dorli-Kahr Gottlieb, Secretary General of the EHFG and one of the initiators behind the European Health Union Initiative (EHUI), sits down with ECDC Director Andrea Ammon to find out.

Available to listen here.

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EHU Initiative joins calls to extend the mandate of the ECDC

In a letter published today, the European Health Union Initiative together with multiple other organisations, has called on the Council to consider the expansion of the mandate of the ECDC to other areas of public health that are linked to the current mission of the Centre, notably to cover the interconnections between communicable and non-communicable diseases. The letter is issued ahead of the Council Working Party on pharmaceuticals and medical devices taking place this morning, which will discuss the Commission’s proposal to strengthen the Agency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted how interconnected disease areas are and how dismantling silos in healthcare leads to better results.

If Europe is to focus on greater strategic autonomy and be a geopolitical force that remains the healthiest region of the world – yet burdened by large health inequalities, it needs an excellent Centre for preventing and controlling diseases, a more effective ECDC that is all inclusive and that can collect and present information that is decisive for national health authorities, policymakers as well as healthcare professionals and the broader medical and scientific community.

To truly safeguard the health of Europeans, there is a need for an integrated approach to health challenges and threats.

The potential of increasing ECDC’s scope of work to other areas of public health has been highlighted in the 2019 independent evaluation of the Centre. The European Parliament further asked in a resolution of July 2020 that ECDC be empowered to tackle the gaps in chronic disease epidemiology.

The ongoing revision of the ECDC mandate is a unique opportunity to act change. It is time to break siloes, both across medical disciplines and with regards to EU vs national efforts, in order to increase sustainability and efficiency of EU-level activities while protecting public health in Europe.

Read the joint letter here

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The case for a European Health Union

We are pleased to share “The case for a European Health Union”, a short animated film introducing the European Health Union Initiative.

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The BMJ: Has Europe failed to protect its people from COVID-19?

Based on the recent European Health Union webinar, “Have we failed to protect Europe’s people? The case for a European Health Union”, an opinion piece authored by Lina Papartytė and submitted to The BMJ argues that yes, Europe has failed.

Full article available here.

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Webinar recording: Have we failed to protect Europe’s people?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the continent, it is hard to deny that our collective failings during the crisis have been massive, and fault lines in the current model of European collaboration are standing out starkly again in the struggle for timely and equitable vaccine roll-outs.

This second webinar in the series Towards a European Health Union, hosted by the EHU Initiative and facilitated by the European Health Forum Gastein, takes an unflinching look at what is going wrong, and how we can get it right in the future.

Watch the full recording here.

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Eurohealth: Perspectives on the European Health Union

In a recent Eurohealth publication, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Anniek de Ruijter, and Ilona Kickbusch gave their perspective on the European Health Union. Full articles are available below:

The European Health Union is an initiative with potential to shape European politics for decades to come by Vytenis Andriukaitis

What do we actually mean by a ‘European Health Union’? by Anniek de Ruijter

If you want a stronger EU: build a European Health Union by Ilona Kickbusch

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Podcast: Vaccine nationalism – where is the solidarity now?

In this first episode of the new European Health Union Now! podcast, Ilona Kickbusch, Founding Director of the Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Geneva, speaks with Anniek de Ruijter, Associate Professor of (EU) Health Law and Policy, University of Amsterdam and Clemens Martin Auer, Co-Chair, EU Vaccines Taskforce and President of the EHFG, on the topic of vaccine nationalism .

Europe seems to have forgotten that nobody is safe until everyone is safe. Does the current era of vaccine nationalism and its concomitant failure to demonstrate solidarity put a European Health Union at risk?

Available to listen here.

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How a European Health Union can strengthen global health

A compelling comment by Ilona Kickbusch and Anniek de Ruijter in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe on how a European Health Union can strengthen global health. Read the article here.

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Our good health: economic fuel or core value?

Vytenis Andriukaitis, one of the European Health Union Manifesto initiators, has co-authored an article for Social Europe on the value of good health.

Read the full piece here.

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The Lancet: Call for Action

A recent communication submitted to The Lancet calls for pan-European commitment for the rapid and sustained reduction in SARS-CoV-2 infections.

“Across Europe, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing excess deaths, placing a burden on societies and health systems and harming the economy. European governments have yet to develop a common vision to guide the management of the pandemic. Overwhelming evidence shows that not only public health, but also society and the economy benefit greatly from reducing cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Vaccines will help control the virus, but not until late 2021.If European governments do not act now, further waves of infection are to be expected, with consequential damage to health, society, jobs, and businesses. With open borders across Europe, a single country alone cannot keep the number of COVID-19 cases low; joint action and common goals among countries are therefore essential. We therefore call for a strong, coordinated European response and clearly defined goals for the medium and long term. Achieving and maintaining low case numbers should be the common, pan-European goal for the following reasons.”

Full text available here.

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Webinar recording: Towards a European Health Union

The recording of our webinar themed “Towards a European Health Union: A vision for more EU in health” is now available. Watch it on YouTube!

The webinar introduced the EHU initiative’s Manifesto for a European Health Union and engaged expert speakers and webinar participants in a candid dialogue about the Manifesto’s goals and how they may best be achieved.

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Launch: Manifesto for a European Health Union

The call for signatures on the Manifesto for a European Health Union has been launched. To view the manifesto and sign, go here.

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Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe

The European Commission adopts a pharmaceutical strategy for Europe. It rests on four pillars, including legislative and non-legislative action:

  1. Ensuring access to affordable medicines for patients, and addressing unmet medical needs (e.g. in the areas of antimicrobial resistance, rare diseases);
  2. Supporting competitiveness, innovation and sustainability of the EU’s pharmaceutical industry and the development of high quality, safe, effective and greener medicines;
  3. Enhancing crisis preparedness and response mechanisms, diversified and secure supply chains, address medicines shortages;
  4. Ensuring a strong EU voice in the world, by promoting a high level of quality, efficacy and safety standards.

For further information, click here.

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First steps towards a European Health Union

The European Commission is taking the first steps towards building the European Health Union announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union address. The focus is on measures to strengthen the EU’s health security framework, and to reinforce the crisis preparedness and response role of key EU agencies.

Further information is available here.

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European Health Union @ EHFG 2020

The Closing Plenary of the European Health Forum Gastein 2020 discussed the potential for a European Health Union including panellists such as Marta Temido, Minister of Health, Republic of Portugal, Thomas Steffen, State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Germany and Mohammed Chahim, MEP, Socialist & Democrats Group, European Parliament.

An overview of the session content and its recording is available here. A short animatic is accessible via this link.

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Webinar: Manifesto for a European Health Union

An expert panel of initiations involved in the work on a Manifesto for a European Health Union held a webinar outlining their vision for a stronger role of the EU in health and health policy. Among the speakers were Vytenis Andriukaitis, former European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Ilona Kickbusch, Founding Director of the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and Anniek de Ruijter, Associate Professor, EU health law, University of Amsterdam.

The recording of the webinar is available here.

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State of the Union address: More action on health

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced building a strong European Health Union in her State of the Union address.

The official European Commission website on a European Health Union is accessible here.