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European Health Union

Protecting the health of Europeans and collectively responding to cross-border health crises

The European Commission is building a strong European Health Union, in which all EU countries prepare and respond together to health crises, medical supplies are available, affordable and innovative, and countries work together to improve prevention, treatment and aftercare for diseases such as cancer. The European Health Union will

  • better protect the health of our citizens
  • equip the EU and its Member States to better prevent and address future pandemics
  • improve resilience of Europe’s health systems 

Lessons from the coronavirus pandemic

The pandemic shows the importance of coordination among European countries to protect people’s health, both during a crisis and in normal times when we can tackle underlying health conditions, invest in strong health systems and train the healthcare workforce. The European Health Union will improve EU-level protection, prevention, preparedness and response against human health hazards.

Key initiatives

Crisis preparedness

The Serious cross-border threats to health Regulation, adopted by the Council on 24 October 2022, ensures that the EU will have:

  • a robust preparedness planning and a more integrated surveillance system
  • a better capacity  for accurate risk assessment and targeted response
  • solid mechanisms for joint procurement of medical countermeasures
  • the possibility to adopt common measures at the EU level to address future cross-border health threats

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also been reinforced in crisis preparedness and management for medicinal products and medical devices. The Agency is now able to closely monitor and mitigate shortages of medicines and medical devices during major events and public health emergencies and facilitate faster approval of medicines which could treat or prevent a disease causing a public health crisis.

These new rules complete the European Health Union, building a powerful legal framework to improve EU capacity in the vital areas of prevention, preparedness, surveillance, risk assessment, early warning, and response.

European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) 

The Commission’s new European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) for health emergencies develops, produces, and procures, medical countermeasures before and during a health crisis. HERA aims to:

The European Health Data Space builds on rigorous data privacy, interoperability and security requirements, including cybersecurity, which is key for the trust of citizens and the robustness of the project.

Questions and answers on the European Health Data Space

The pharmaceutical strategy

The pharmaceutical strategy aims to modernise the regulatory framework and support research and technologies that reach patients. It rests on four pillars:

Since its set up, HERA has established an expert group on COVID-19 variants to monitor mutations, made vaccine purchases against monkeypox, set up the EU FAB – a network of ‘ever-warm’ production capacities for vaccine and medicine manufacturing that can be activated in case of future crises – and begun stockpiling equipment and drugs against chemical and nuclear threats. It also identified three priority health threats that require coordination of measures at EU level in the context of medical countermeasures. These are:

  • pathogens with high pandemic potential
  • chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats
  • threats resulting from antimicrobial resistance

European Health Data Space 

The newly-launched European Health Data Space, one of the central building blocks of the European Health Union and a milestone in EU’s digital transformation, aims to:

Europe’s Beating Cancer plan

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan aims to prevent cancer and ensure that cancer patients, survivors, their families and carers can enjoy a high quality of life. By tapping into a broad array of EU policies, notably digitalisation, research and innovation, the cancer plan helps EU countries turn the tide against cancer. It includes actions and flagship initiatives covering the entire disease pathway:

On 20 September 2022, the Commission presented a new approach to support Member States increasing the uptake of cancer screening, which focuses on detecting cancer at the early stage.

State of Health Preparedness

In 2022, the Commission published its first State of Health Preparedness Report. The report highlighted the progress made in the fields of preparedness and response since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also identified new challenges facing public health authorities and outlined concrete actions that the Commission will take to address them. Those for example include:

  • Development of medical countermeasures
  • Threat assessment and intelligence gathering
  • Resilient supply chains and production capacity
  • International coordination and cooperation

Global health security

To improve global health security and deliver better health for all in a changing world, the Commission adopted a new EU Global Health Strategy in November 2022.

The Strategy positions global health as an essential pillar of the EU’s external policy. It promotes sustainable, meaningful partnerships of equals drawing on the Global Gateway. As the external dimension of the European Health Union, the strategy is designed to guide EU action for ensuring better preparedness and response to health threats.

Documents

 

17 FEBRUARY 2021
Preparing Europe for COVID-19 variants: HERA incubator
English
(5.95 KB - HTML)
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25 NOVEMBER 2020
Factsheet: A European Health Union - A Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe
English
(5.95 KB - HTML)
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11 NOVEMBER 2020
Communication: Building a European Health Union - preparedness and resilience
English
(239.38 KB - HTML)
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11 NOVEMBER 2020
Proposal for a Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health
English
(509.98 KB - HTML)
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25 JANUARY 2022
Regulation on a reinforced role for the European Medicines Agency
English
(494.86 KB - HTML)
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11 NOVEMBER 2020
Proposal to extend the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
English
(427.89 KB - HTML)
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11 NOVEMBER 2020
Factsheet: "A European Health Union: tackling health crises together – Coronavirus impact and response"
English
(5.95 KB - HTML)
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11 NOVEMBER 2020
Factsheet: "A European Health Union: tackling health crises together – The role of EU agencies"
English
(5.95 KB - HTML)
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6 MAY 2021
Communication: EU Strategy on COVID-19 therapeutics
English
(177.11 KB - HTML)
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