What key health questions should EU Research & Innovation (R&I) funding aim to address? The Horizon Europe (2021-2027) Health Cluster has provided an answer – well, six answers – which will shape R&I for most of the coming decade. This will also drive my own work in leading the R&I Partnership Policy of MedTech Europe.
The Health Cluster shares our goal of supporting R&I that benefits people, patients and populations as well as institutional, social and economic stakeholders in the EU.
1. Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society
As individuals, most of us know we need to pursue healthy and active lives. But the societal context can influence our physical and mental health. Income, education levels, social and gender aspects also have an impact on health risks and how diseases can be prevented. That’s why health education and behaviour will be an important area of R&I.
2. Living and working in a health-promoting environment
The environment we live and work in is a major determinant of health, estimated to account for almost 20% of all deaths in Europe. Pollution, chemicals, noise, radiation, urbanisation, climate change, social injustice, changing work environments, and behaviour can have a profound influence on our health. But there is still a lot to learn to understand and address these risk factors.
3. Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden
Non-communicable diseases, including mental illnesses and neurodegenerative diseases, are responsible for up to 80% of EU healthcare costs. Only around 3% of the health care budgets are currently spent on preventive measures.
Meanwhile, we are living through a harsh reminder of the impact of infectious diseases, including the coronavirus and antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections, can have on health and economies. R&I on effective disease management, the development and integration of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, personalised medicine approaches, digital and other people-centred solutions for health and care will contribute to reduce this burden.
4. Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable and high-quality healthcare in the EU
We need to support health care systems in their transformation to ensure fair access to sustainable health care services of high quality for all citizens. The role and organisation of health care systems need to be adapted and reformed to cope with demographic, epidemiological, technological and environmental transitions.
5. Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society
Innovative technologies will not solve our health problems in isolation. We also need to see innovation in health systems and in the adoption of new tools. In addition, it is vital that we expand our capacity to collect, combine and make sense out of vast amounts of data we generate.
6. Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry
R&I must also support the health industry in the development of novel health technologies. Health industries and SMEs may struggle to access investment, new markets and value-chains, or to build partnerships and create alliances. A comprehensive approach relies therefore on extended cooperation and capacity building within a value ecosystem.
While there is a huge volume of work ahead, we look forward to playing our part in addressing the enormous challenges we face together.
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