Dreaming of health equality across the EU?

  • Posted on 10.02.2010

Dreaming of health equality across the EU?


John Wilkinson

Former Chief Executive of Eucomed


An ageing frequent traveller (this time sat on a plane taking me from frigid Brussels to what I hope will be altogether better conditions in Southern Spain) I am often exercised by what would await me if I were to get sick on my travels.

Like most citizens of the EU-15, I would probably seek to get back to my home system as soon as possible. 89% of EU-15 citizens polled in DG SANCO’s 2007 survey of citizens expressed satisfaction with their own healthcare system – this compared with just 59% for the new EU member states.

But on what basis do I or any other citizen assess the service that we get at home? Do we study OECD or WHO statistics? Do we have other objective measures? By and large no. We assume that our Governments are right when they tell us we live in countries with good health services.

The original survey carried out by DG SANCO was designed to inform the development of  the Cross-border Health Directive. This has the laudable goal of being a first step towards creating  a more equitable landscape for citizens across Europe, particularly addressing the two tier perceptions of its citizens as illustrated by the 2007 survey.

Opinion is one thing; facts are another. So this week the Commission announced the funding of a study aimed at putting some metrics in place to compare health systems across Europe. EUROHOPE ( European Healthcare Outcomes, Performance and Efficiency ) is a EUR 3 million project to be coordinated by the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare.

The end game is a set of European Community Health Indicators (ECHI) designed to inform policy makers and, perhaps, citizens with meaningful measures of health system performance. Will this affect my choice of places to avoid getting sick in? Who knows?

The timing of this initiative could dovetail well with the completion of the Exploratory Process into the future of Medical Devices and which Eucomed hopes will inform the development of policy during the next few years. Medical technology can and should be at the centre of any debate on dealing with health challenges in the future.

John Wilkinson, Chief Executive, Eucomed

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