01.10.2019 | Brussels Background A Stella(r) moment for health?
About this time around last year, the health care community in Brussels drew a very grim picture of the future of health care. “The end of DG SANTE” was proclaimed from the rooftops. Some tried to fight it with loud voices calling for more instead of less focus on health. And apparently these voices have been heard – Maybe a trained medical professional as European Commission President was exactly what we needed?
When President Juncker presented his white paper on the future of Europe in 2017, one scenario described a “doing less more efficiently” approach. An approach that would scrap public health from the EU’s to-do list completely. The health care world was furious and drew a gloomy picture of the future – DG SANTE no more!
A year later, when it looked very grim for health care topics on the EU level, a Eurobarometer survey – often cited not only by us but also by others – showed that basically all European citizens cared about is apparently (or mostly) health care and they even wanted the EU to do more in this aspect. Admittedly, this is not easy as we all know that health care is still a core competence of the Member States. This gave the health care world a boost and led to some even demanding a “Vice President for Health” in the next Commission.
Well, we haven’t gotten this far.
But the future of health care in the European Union has become somewhat brighter. With the new President elect Ursula von der Leyen (or VdL as some like to call her) being a trained doctor, chances are high that health care topics might be taken a tat more seriously. In her mission statement for the EU, VdL already made clear that health care and in particular the fight against cancer will be a priority on the EU agenda. Admittedly, we also have Manfred Weber to thank for that one.
And with the designated Commissioner Stella Kyriakides she might have found just the right one to foster this plan but also to work on long lingering issues as well. The Cypriot candidate is not only a trained psychologist, but she has vast experience in health care policy shaping and advocacy. After a six year stint in the Cypriot Ministry of Health, she served as an MP for 13 years, being a member of the public health committee. Moreover, she is also a vocal advocate in the fight against breast cancer.
Her mission letter states six priorities in the field of public health promotion and protection for her future assignment over the next five years. Kyriakides shall find ways to ensure access to medicines for the European population and at the same time ensure a strong and competitive European pharmaceutical industry. Moreover, medical devices will be reverted back to DG SANTE as ensuring a smooth implementation of the new regulations on medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics is a priority. That means for the first time in a long time DG SANTE covers everything that is related to health. Also e-health is high on her future agenda with a creation of a European Health Data Space which will foster information exchange while keeping the safety of patient data a top priority. The ongoing fight against antimicrobial resistance and the full implementation of the European One Health Action Plan as well as the battle against dropping vaccination rates in all Member States will be on her agenda.
We will see what the future holds when Stella Kyriakides (presumably) takes her seat on November 1st. But one thing is certain: Europeans want more healthcare topics dealt with at EU level, but navigating the healthcare cosmos of European policy making is no easy endeavour/voyage.