MAY 2017

In this issue

EPHA events
EPHA updates
Members updates and featured events



Is the long-awaited Pillar of Social Rights a recipe for real change or empty rhetoric?

At the end of April, the European Commission finally announced its long-overdue plan to counterbalance the harmful impacts of austerity policies and deep cuts to health services, care and education.  The package of documents constituting the Pillar are, at first glance, remarkable. Rhetorically it is a great example of Health in all Policies.  For the first time, the Juncker Commission – after almost three years of ignoring health as not a “big thing” - has put health centre stage. In the reflection document presenting the rationale for the package by Commissioners Marianne Thyssen (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) and Valdis Dombrovskis (Euro and Social Dialogue), health is finally given the attention it so badly needs.

The Health department of the Commission (DG SANTE) has done a very good job of painting the EU's added value of social and health policies, programmes, funding and research and anchoring wellbeing and access concerns.  It’s a very clear case for the EU doing more, not less, for health and especially prevention, guaranteeing to healthcare for all and recognising the urgent need to invest in health and quickly increase the health and care workforce.  Indeed, 70% of Europeans want Europe to do more for health, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.

The reflection paper puts some focus on deaths from chronic diseases and recognises that healthy life years are not increasing according to the target set in the Lisbon Strategy of adding 2 healthy life years by 2020, saying “almost 50 million people in the EU-27 suffer from chronic diseases and nearly half a million people of working age die prematurely from these every year. Those deaths are avoidable through more effective public health and prevention policies, or more timely and effective healthcare."  We would add that chronic diseases are also having an increasing impact on children and young people, as well as those over working age, who the Commission must not forget in their employment-centric assessment.  But it’s too early to get excited that the Commission has finally recognised the societal and economic costs of Europe-wide challenges posed by alcohol, mental illness, obesity and environment-related diseases, without checking whether the package will lead to real differences for people’s daily lives.
So when will people feel the benefit of the new Pillar of Social Rights? The package is regrettably empty of any concrete suggestions on how or when the twenty principles will become reality.

A statement of rights and principles is welcome but not good enough. The Pillar will initially apply only to Eurozone countries, others are invited to opt in. This means that countries with some of the weakest social protection systems, greatest threats to fundamental rights and highest barriers for vulnerable groups are excused from the Pillar. This risks further divisions, some countries falling further behind, and people continuing to suffer from today’s race to the bottom on rights and protections across Europe. Plans for monitoring via a scoreboard and the European Semester sound vague.  Conditions will have to be made crystal clear – via EU funds – if the Pillar is to be taken at all seriously. Real leverage is lacking so far. It will be up to the European Parliament to make the link.

Likewise, the Commission will need to lead by example, by referring to the rights and protections of the Pillar when developing all other EU policies. This sounds like a commitment to put a longstanding Treaty principle into practice; social and health impact assessments will now be carried out routinely and must guide policy decisions.   This means, for example, that future economic, fiscal or trade policy proposals will have to be checked against how they will impact on access to healthcare, housing, water, sanitation or other essential services, child poverty, work-life balance, inclusion of people with disabilities and all the other principles.

To date, the impact assessment and ‘fitness check’ process for policies has had a very strong focus on assessing the costs for business, and not at all on fitness for purpose for protecting people’s rights, access to essential services or achievement of social or health benefits. If the Commission really is serious about a social ‘Triple-A’, as President Juncker says, the ideology around impact assessment will have to be rebalanced.  If so, that means an immediate shift from business-as-usual which still produces proposals which undermine health and social goals.

It is clear that social standards cannot be uncoupled from the single market – a healthy population is a prerequisite for a healthy economy, while many of the common health threats we face such as antimicrobial resistance, obesity or alcohol harm, cannot be tackled alone.

The focus is now on putting into action. How will the proposals be supported by the European Parliament and the Council?  EPHA is ready to engage, and calls on the Commission to work with civil society across Europe to translate the words into practical actions to begin to make the vision of a social Europe a reality for all.

Nina Renshaw
Secretary General, EPHA

EPHA events

Civil Society Trade Lab


What should the future EU trade policy look like? What can trade accomplish and what are its limits?

EU trade policy is at an important crossroads, following the recent, and often heated, public debates.Join ten civil society organisations, including EPHA, to discuss the shape of the EU's future trade agenda. Four interactive workshops, or laboratories: Social and Labour; Farm, Food & Trade; Trade Environment & Climate; and Digital Trade, will be followed by a high-level panel debate to explore these issues in more detail.
How to avoid the Antimicrobial Resistance doomsday scenario ?


Hosted by MEPs Nicola Caputo (S&D) and José Inácio Faria (EPP)
With the participation of Nina Renshaw, EPHA and Lord Jim O'Neill.
To register, contact Valerio Ottati at

>> Read More



Enabling change for health: Breaking down barriers to action against chronic diseases.

Despite the existence of a strong evidence base for effective policy action on health promotion and disease prevention, too little has been achieved. Policy-makers already know what needs to be done to overcome barriers to good health, so the focus of this conference will be to explore how new levers and different levels of power can break through to real action on chronic diseases – by making health everyone’s business.

EPHA updates

EPHA welcomes 5 new members

EPHA is delighted to welcome 5 organisations to the Alliance:

Launch of Digital Health campaign

EPHA's new campaign on Digital Health, launched during e-health week on 10-12 May, aims to ensure a holistic and socially-inclusive approach to the use of technology in public health.  Read EPHA's discussion paper,  Digital Solutions for Health and Disease Management, kicking off the campaign, which explores some of the key benefits, while also highlighting some disadvantages of digital health solutions in many of the health and disease areas worked on by EPHA members.

New Position Paper on the follow-up EU Action Plan on AMR

A new EPHA Position Paper on the follow-up EU Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance is now available on the EPHA website. The paper sets out EPHA's response to the recent European Commission consultation and calls for a firm One Health approach in order to address the causes of drug-resistant infections in all sectors, and to take action in four key areas: regulation, guidance, funding and cooperation. The paper also calls on the Commission to make significant steps toward achieving its ambition for Europe to be a global leader and best practice region for antimicrobial stewardship and the prevention of AMR. 
Open Letter I Call for EU-wide nutrient profiles for nutrition and health claims - NGOs and industry call on European Commission to stop misleading health claims on food

On 15 May EPHA co-signed a letter with the European Heart Network (EHN), the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and several companies calling on the European Commission to adopt nutrient profiles to stop misleading health claims on food. This message is consistent with EPHA's long-time position. Nutrient profiles should have been adopted under the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC 1924/2006) back in 2009. Today, rather than adopting nutrient profiles, the requirement to have them may be scrapped as part of a Refit process. This is unacceptable from the point of view of public health. This initiative follows an earlier, well-received letter where EPHA joined several health and consumer organisations and companies asking the Commission to set a regulatory limit on trans fats. 


Other EPHA news

EPHA’s response to the OECD online consultation on sustainable access to innovative therapies

The future of EU agricultural policy I EPHA response to CAP consultation

Unmask my city and improve our health

AVMSD vote fails to ensure a healthier, future-proof marketing environment

Members updates and featured events

Eurocare | Self-regulation is no regulation - the case for protecting children from alcohol marketing | 7 June | Brussels >>Read More

Royal College of Physicians | Manifesto: Keeping patients at the heart of the NHS: RCP's four-point plan for government >>Read More

FEANTSA | Press Release | New Project to Protect the Rights of Destitute Mobile EU Citizens >>Read More

Mental Health Europe | Call for research participants - Mapping and Understanding Exclusion  >>Read More
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EPHA is the European Platform bringing together public health organisations representing health professionals, patients groups, health promotion and disease specific NGOs, academic groupings and other health associations.

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