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Global Challenges

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By 2020, a quarter of Europeans will be over 60 years of age. Although we all wish for a long, happy and healthy life, real risks to that ideal include infectious diseases, pandemic threats and antimicrobial resistance. The huge burden of chronic and degenerative diseases keeps growing as Europe’s population gets older.

Organising and delivering healthcare is the responsibility of national governments. The EU role is to complement national policies by: helping them to achieve shared objectives, generating economies of scale, by pooling resources and helping member countries tackle common challenges – such as pandemics, chronic diseases or the impact of increased life expectancy on healthcare systems. These would be great challenges for member states to tackle on their own.

European research and innovation in health helps tackle these challenges. It is an investment in our health and, on a larger scale, in a healthy workforce, a healthy economy and lower public health bills. The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), the world’s biggest public-private partnership (PPP) in the life sciences, is funded partly by Horizon2020. The programme has a €3.3 billion budget for the period 2014-2024.

The EU strategy “Together for Health” supports the overall Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy promoting growth for all, a prerequisite of which is a population in good health. “Together for Health” responds to challenges faced by member countries by strengthening cooperation and coordination across the EU and complements national health policies. An evaluation by the European Commission in 2011 found that the strategy acts as a reference for actions taken at national and EU levels and confirmed that the principles and objectives identified in 2007 will remain valid for the next decade in the context of Europe 2020.

The “Investing in Health” strategy portrays health as being a value in itself, as well as a precondition for economic prosperity. It emphasises that efficient spending on health can promote growth. It also accentuates that Europe needs smart investments in health for example: spending smarter but not necessarily more in sustainable health systems, investing in people’s health, particularly through health promotion programmes and investing in health coverage as a way of reducing inequalities and tackling social exclusion.

As the standards of health among a population differ throughout the world, worldwide health policies differ in many ways. One indicator of the future direction, however, is the research which guides current innovation, such as the World Health Organisation’s “Priority Medicines for Europe and the World” report. New policy developments in the EU health sector in the near future will include the implementation of the Clinical Trials Regulation, adopted in 2014, and the ongoing revision of the Medical Device Directives.