Heraclitus, the enigmatic Greek, pre-Socratic philosopher once said: “Big results require big ambitions.” In a sense, there can be no greater ambition than driving towards universal health coverage and no greater result than actually achieving it.
Against this backdrop, the European Commission’s approach to addressing this issue – in the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 – took a leap forward last week with the publication of three communications.
The first explores how the Commission’s 10 political priorities contribute to implementing the SDGs and how the EU plans to meet them, going forward. The second highlights a new European Consensus on Development, urging a shared vision and framework for development cooperation for the EU and its Member States, aligned with the 2030 Agenda. The final communication speaks of a renewed partnership with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The latter also suggests building blocks for a new, sustainable phase in EU-ACP relations after the Cotonou Partnership Agreement expires in 2020 – since 2000, the Cotonou agreement has been the framework for EU’s relations with ACP 79 countries. As the EU notes, issues of conflict prevention and building stable societies, particularly in Africa, have never been more important.
The communications proposes two work streams: the first will mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals in the European policy framework and current Commission priorities; and the second will launch a “reflection” on further developing the EU’s longer term vision and will also increase focus on sectoral policies after 2020.
Health does not figure strongly in the Communications, an omission EFPIA finds surprising. One of the most ambitious of the SDG’s is a commitment to achieve Universal Health coverage. Europe’s social model rests on collective commitments like UHC and there is much the EU could share with other countries about constructing and financing UHC from the EU, even with the challenges we currently face. Beyond the EU’s domestic experience, the Union has also played an important role in promoting collective responses to health challenges, whether this is in piloting rapid response to emerging epidemics, supporting capacity-building and the work of WHO or developing the new policy and business framework for antibiotic R&D.
Nevertheless, there are notable elements of interest to healthcare stakeholders. For example, the EU’s and its Member States’ recognition of the key role of the private sector as an engine for long-term sustainable development is also welcome, as is its acknowledgement of the need to engage with sector through structured dialogue and shared development objectives. Within this context – while again there is no specific reference to health – there is also a nod to innovative public-private financing structures, mechanisms with which our industry is very familiar.
The launch of the work-stream aiming to integrate the SDGs into the EU policy framework is also an extremely positive development, which validates EFPIA’s own global health agenda. EFPIA member companies are actively-engaged in finding solutions to access to medicines across different therapy areas, as well as supporting core health system strengthening.
As the implementation of UHC gathers steam, Europe and our industry can and will play a central role. We can do so by identifying best practices that can be adapted to varying contexts. In order to do this, though, collaborating will be key – partnerships across the public and private sectors, and at international level will make UHC a reality.1