New Health at a Glance report: lending a hand, not pointing the finger


2016 12 09


Health-EU newsletter  185 -  Focus

by Xavier Prats Monné, Director-General of DG Health and Food Safety, European Commission

by Xavier Prats Monné, Director-General of DG Health and Food Safety, European Commission

The new Health at a Glance: Europe 2016 report – launched on 23 November – is the initial result of the first two-year State of Health in the EU cycle; it provides Member States with reliable health information and sound expert analysis that can help them form evidence-based policy. 

The report, which also helps determine areas where EU-added value might be particularly meaningful, examines the health status and systems in the EU Member States and highlights obstacles that prevent them from being as effective, accessible and resilient as they might be.

There is good news and bad news in the report.  For example, it's good news that more than one million deaths across the EU might be avoidable.  And that's also the bad news -  it means that more than one million people across the EU are still dying from preventable diseases and injuries.  The report will help us see how to change that.  For instance, it shows that 16% of adults in the EU are obese and 20% smoke – these are risk factors that could be effectively tackled. 

Our health systems are also suffering from some preventable ills, according to the report's findings.  27% of patients in the EU go straight to the emergency ward because they don't have access to primary care.  15% of health spending is paid directly out-of-pocket by patients, and poor Europeans are generally 10 times more likely to have problems in getting proper healthcare.  And while you cannot put a price on health, you can add up the economic impact of poor health and inadequate health care systems. Each year, for example, the EU economy loses some 115 billion Euro in productivity due to the premature – and often preventable - deaths of working age adults. Those are the sort of problems that the State of the Health in the EU cycle hopes to better identify and analyse. The next step is to produce country health profiles of all 28 EU countries, which will summarise the state-of-play and underline the particular characteristics and challenges of each EU Member State. These profiles will be ready by this time next year.

The Health at a Glance report prepared by the OECD in cooperation with the European Commission is, like its name suggests, a first glance or horizontal overview of comparable health data from the different Member States. The overall State of Health cycle will provide an in-depth check-up that will be based on this report and on individual, detailed country profiles for each Member State.

At the end of the cycle, the Commission will provide an analytical paper to accompany the profiles, linking the findings to the broader EU agenda. The Member States will then be offered best practice exchanges they can participate in on a voluntary basis.

It's important to bear in mind that these country profiles are meant to lend a hand, not point the finger.  The ultimate aim is surely a goal shared by everyone – to help EU citizens have access to the best healthcare, prevention and health promotion possible, no matter which Member State they call home.

The launch of the Health at a Glance: Europe 2016 coincides with the signature of a cooperation arrangement between the European Commission and the OECD; our stronger cooperation will help improve the knowledge of health systems and their performance, to develop new, people-centred measures of experience and outcomes, and to build capacity for economic analysis of public health and health systems.