The most important news about health equity, wellbeing, and their determinants.

Health Highlights

Welcome to Health Highlights, EuroHealthNet's monthly newsletter. We bring you the most important news and information about health equity, wellbeing, and their determinants.  


Health Headlines

2024 kicks off with the Belgian EU Presidency of the Council of the EU 
How will its priorities promote a Europe that cares, prepares, and protects?

From 1 January, Belgium took over the Presidency baton from Spain with priorities to reinforce the health and social agenda. Over the next six months, it will drive progress on the European Health Data Space, take stock of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (specifically on vaccines and smoke-free environments), and develop a strategy to boost the EU’s health and care workforce.  

Building on the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Presidency will strengthen social dialogue, fair labour mobility, mental health at work, and access to sustainable social protection. It will also expand the social dimension of the European Semester, with attention to the Social Convergence Framework and improving social investments, and advocate for access to decent and affordable housing for all.   

A new timely Eurohealth publication also focuses on the Belgian EU Presidency's work on health and the future of health in the EU from the EU Institutions' perspectives. 

Transforming our health systems 
WHO marks 15 years of the Tallinn Charter, European Commission publishes ‘State of Health’ Reports 

During the WHO/Europe conference 'Trust and transformation: resilient and sustainable health systems for the future', participants called for more inclusive governance and co-creation processes to promote trust and sustainable transformation. They also recognised that healthy living environments, wellbeing, and stronger health systems are a political choice.

Examining the current health systems, the European Commission’s ‘State of Health Preparedness’ Report also highlights vaccination and the ‘One Health’ approach as key components for preparedness.

The ‘State of Health in the EU’ report signals the need for action against poor mental health and growing health inequalities and the importance of continued health investments.  

Implementation is fundamental to reach 2030 climate and environmental goals 
The first progress report on the 8th Environment Action Programme 

The report published by the European Environmental Agency underscores the urgent need to finalise negotiations under the Commission’s Green Deal package to enable important systemic changes in the agricultural, food, and, mobility sectors. While progress is seen in air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and green finances, more efforts are needed to facilitate these systemic challenges and safeguard wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries.  

Key recommendations include shifting the taxation burden to heavy polluters, accelerating the phase out of environmentally harmful subsidies, and encouraging more sustainable production and consumption patterns. These outcomes are based on the monitoring framework put forward by the European Commission in 2022.  


EuroHealthNet Partnership

Unlocking the Potential of the European Semester – how can we achieve a Wellbeing Economy through participatory societies? 

EuroHealthNet and the European Economic Social Committee (EESC) organised an important debate about integrating a Wellbeing Economy framework into the European Semester’s macroeconomic process. Discussions focused on how the model, which promotes an economy that works for people and the planet, can further strengthen the social and health equity dimension needed in the European Semester. Find more information in EuroHealthNet’s event report.  

EuroHealthNet’s 2023 work on the Semester and health and wellbeing accumulated in a must-read Policy Paper

The latest EuroHealthNet magazine serves up thought-provoking insights into the impact of the food around us  

In the latest magazine edition, EuroHealthNet and its partners look into the way food systems shape our health and impact our environment.

Among other things, the articles feature the consequences of a society overwhelmed by unhealthy food options and the impact of behavioural and cultural insights on healthy food choices. It also includes the outcomes of the Best-ReMaP Joint Action on food marketing, reformulation and procurement.  

What are the health system barriers and enablers to vaccination among disadvantaged populations? 

A systemic review by RIVER-EU found that measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates among disadvantaged communities are impacted by service delivery, poor communication skills, and language barriers with the health workforce, financial costs, and feelings of discrimination.  

The RIVER-EU initiative, of which EuroHealthNet is a partner, aims to increase vaccine uptake in under-served communities within the EU.  

EuroHealthNet responds to EU consultations:

Read all our consultations here.  

Ongoing consultations
The Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) contributes to new analysis on breaking the poverty cycle 

The ‘Escape from Poverty’ book exposes the key factors that perpetuate poverty across generations, including governmental failures to invest in children and the tendencies to blame poverty on ‘dysfunctional’ families. It sets out the importance of increasing resources to combat poverty— strengthening social protection, basic income security, and children’s access to key services.  

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) advises national and wellbeing programme 

The long-term goal of the Terveydeksi programme is to reduce the demand for health and social services in Finland. This will be done by addressing the ‘wellbeing deficit’ and burden of disease, increasing work ability and functional capacity, and mitigating inequalities. In the first phase, concrete measures for implementation will be proposed by an expert group, of which THL is a member.  

Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDPC) gathers experts to discuss implementing EU health promotion measures in schools and municipality 

The aim of the seminar was to inform local health-promoting networks of the activities implemented under the European Social Fund "Complex health promotion and disease prevention measures". The seminar featured findings from national research on the population’s healthy habits, perceptions of food sustainability, and mental health, as well as promising examples.  

Bulgarian National Centre for Public Health and Analysis (NCPHA) presents insights on the national implementation programme on NCDs 

As part of a roundtable discussion, NCPHA presented the core activities of the ‘National Program for the Prevention of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases 2021-2025’. Together with other stakeholders, the National Centre discussed the challenges encountered in facilitating intersectoral cooperation and the ways in which the programme can be optimised.  

More news from the Partnership
  • EuroHealthNet is hiring a Policy Manager and a Senior Communications Coordinator to join the office in Brussels.
  • EuroHealthNet co-authored an article on scaling up action on NCD prevention, together with WHO in the context of the Belgian Presidency. 
  • PSLifestyle, which aims to close the gap between climate awareness and individual action, has published its '2023 Wrap Up' edition of its EU newsletter! Read about what’s in stock for the new year, including how stakeholders in 8 European countries will help initiate sustainable pathways in their localities.  
  • As part of the Resonate initiative on nature-based therapies, EuroHealthNet gathered consortium members to reflect on health equity in the project case studies and agree on an approach to health impact assessments.  
  • EuroHealthNet took part in a dialogue organised by the European Policy Centre. We emphasised the need to think differently about health systems, ‘moving from a sickness system to a more health-promoting system.' 
  • EuroHealthNet participated in the Food 2030 conference on policies for greener and more sustainable food systems. We represented the FEAST2030 initiative in discussions with other research projects on how to maximise the impact of our outputs. 
  • Sciensano co-published a granular map documenting inequalities across Belgium. The map looks at six indicators: education, employment, income, housing, crime, and health, and aims to help policymakers effectively address health inequalities. 
  • The Agency for a Life of Quality Wallonia publishes an explanatory video on the Healthy Nutrition and Wellbeing Plan for older groups in Wallonia, Belgium, setting out the importance of action around healthy eating.  
  • The Flanders Institute for Healthy Living develops an accessible and evidence-based method to help social workers improve the resilience of vulnerable younger people and help them re-enter the employment market.  
  • Public Health France publishes a dedicated issue of its magazine on the importance of a positive approach to sexual health and education. This requires multidisciplinary interventions within and beyond school. 
  • The Institute of Public Health in Ireland marks 25 years of shaping public health policy, with discussions centred around the role of governments in supporting healthier populations and reframing health policies and investments.  
  • In a pilot study commissioned by the Ministry of Health in Spain, one in four students aged 12 and 13 reported using electronic cigarettes at some point in their lives while 35% had consumed alcohol at least once.  
  • The Welsh Government launches a National Framework for Social Prescribing, mapping a common set of standards for implementation. Public Health Wales supported the development of this framework, producing social prescribing case studies and a glossary of terms for social prescribing.   
  • According to RIVM’s preview of the Dutch Public Health Foresight Study 2024, the Netherlands will face three challenges by 2050: improving the health of all residents, enabling good-quality care and support, and addressing the impact of climate change on health and the living environment. 

News from the Institutions

The European Commission earmarks EUR 752.4 million for this year’s EU4Health work programme 

EU4Health will continue supporting further investments in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the European Health Data Space, health promotion and disease prevention (including mental health and tobacco control policies), health systems, and the health workforce. The programme will also allocate EUR 9 million to operating grants to strengthen the work of civil society organisations.  

EU Ministers and Parliament members commit to action on mental health, report on noncommunicable diseases gets approved

In its conclusions, the Council invited Member States to develop cross-sectoral action plans for mental health, involving health and other sectors such as employment and education. In an adopted report, the European Parliament called for a European Strategy on mental health. It also endorsed a report on noncommunicable diseases, emphasising prevention and similarly highlighting the need for European cooperation.   

Member States approve conclusions on more holistic, community-based care systems 

The Council Conclusions set out key actions on transitioning care systems to more person-centred community-based support models, underpinned by the gender perspective. Ministers invite countries to, among others, ensure that early childcare and education services are affordable, address the shortages of skilled care workers, and reinforce social protection and support for informal carers. 

European Commission to boost youth participation in EU policy-making, flagging up specific guidelines on wellbeing in schools 

Building on the achievements of the 2022 European Year of Youth, the Commission presented actions to meaningfully engage youth in policymaking processes. The Commission will prepare guidelines on wellbeing in schools and launch a youth campaign on climate and democracy ahead of the 2024 European elections. 

What we are reading...
Ageing A new report sets out recommended actions to improve quality of life for older adults in England, focused on reducing disability and ill health and adapting environments to allow older people to live independently and enjoy life as long as possible. 

Climate change The German Status Report on Climate Change and Health sets out, among others, the impact of climate change on NCDs and mental health, climate justice and communication – Robert Koch Institute. 

Disease prevention The Netherlands is failing its targets to reduce smoking and alcohol use, as well as reduce the prevalence of obesity by 2040. 

Energy poverty A new paper sets out the economic and income distributional effects of higher energy prices (and indirectly, higher food prices) on households in the EU – European Commission. 

EU Cohesion policy The European Commission published its 2023 Summary Report on the Implementation of the European Structural and Investment Funds. Key achievements included supporting people through employment and skilling, fostering social inclusion, and mobilising projects in the agricultural sector.  

Financial incentives for prevention Bulgaria will offer tax returns to those who have visited their doctor for their annual health checkup. The return will equal people’s annual health insurance contribution. 

Food policy The new 'Good Food for Germany' strategy brings together around 90 planned and existing food policy measures with the aim of making it simpler for everyone in Germany to access and eat healthy food. 

Health inequalities A report from the Institute of Health Equity finds that health inequalities have caused 1 million early deaths in England in the last decade.  

Homelessness prevention Eurodiacona showcases the work done across member countries to help prevent homelessness, putting forward recommendations at national and EU level to strengthen prevention.  

Income instability The OECD examines a range of policies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of social protection for people with highly unstable incomes, exploring how those most at risk of economic insecurity can build financial buffers. 

Income inequalities In a new paper, the European Commission explores the extent, evolution, and sources of inequalities across earning opportunities in EU-27.

Intergenerational inequalities EuroFound examines key intergenerational social trends and significant developments in the areas of income, housing, work and employment, and health.  

Mental health The European Commission and the Network of Experts on the Social Dimension of Education and Training publish factsheets on the importance of a whole-school approach to positive mental health involving all school actors.  

Mental health A review by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work looks into the psychosocial risk exposure and mental health outcomes of European workers with low socioeconomic status and highlights the pandemic and digitalisation as strong external trends.

Screening Ireland’s National Screening Service publishes a new strategic framework to address equity in screening for 2023-2027 addressing key barriers along the screening pathway.  

Tobacco regulation WHO’s technical note calls for action to prevent the uptake of e-cigarettes, protect children and non-smokers, and minimise health harms to the population. 

Taxation WHO findings show that most countries are not using taxes on unhealthy products, such as alcohol and sugary sweetened beverages, to incentivise healthier behaviours.  

Working conditions The OECD’s “Pensions at a Glance 2023” sets out how improved opportunities and working conditions for older groups can help sustain pension systems and address labour market shortages.  



Full calendar of events

In case you missed it...

  • Second edition of the European Employment & Social Rights Forum - 16-17 November (Wrap-up video available here

  • Life-long learning week: "Key Competences for All: A Lifelong Learning Approach to Skills" – 27 November-1 December (presentations available here

  • Health-Wealth Divide: Leaving No One Behind' Conference - 29 November (recording available here

  • Flash Report Third meeting of the Public Health Expert Group - 6 December (flash report available here


EuroHealthNet is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of EuroHealthNet only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


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