Like every year in mid-September, the President of the European Commission presented political priorities, upcoming legislative initiatives and actions the European Commission intends to take for year to come. With just a few months to go to European elections, von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech also focused on the political accomplishments achieved over the course of her mandate, from the European Green Deal and the COVID-19 pandemic, to the EU response to Russian aggression.
On the topic of health, the European Health Union was presented as “a major achievement of the von der Leyen Commissions that aims to protect the health of EU citizens; equips the EU and its Member States with the tools to prevent and address future pandemics; and improves the resilience of Europe’s health systems” (State of the Union 2023 – by the von Der Leyen Commission). Here is a retrospective of some of the initiatives on health undertaken over the past year:
May 2022: the European Commission proposed the European health data space which “empowers individuals to control their health data and offers a consistent framework to harness the power of health data for innovation, better healthcare and policymaking” (State of the Union 2023 – by the von Der Leyen Commission).
December 2022: the Council adopted a new approach on cancer screening, following the European Commission’s proposal to strengthen cancer prevention through early detection.
January 2023: the European Commission launched the European Cancer Imaging Initiative to support healthcare providers, research institutes and innovators in making the best use of innovative data-driven solutions for cancer treatment and care.
June 2023: the first comprehensive approach to mental health was unveiled. This initiative ensured a new and cross sectoral approach to mental health issues by introducing 20 flagship initiatives. In total, EUR 1.23 billion in EU fundings have been made available to finance activities promoting mental health.
The initiatives and plans of the European Commission foreshadow a bigger focus on the topic of mental health, with a larger investment of EU funding and a closer attention of EU institutions to the developments in this field in the following years. Nonetheless, the fight against the rest of most prominent non-communicable diseases will definitely not lose momentum, with cancer being at the centre of it. The emergence of new technologies and the discussion on its use and regulation for the benefit of all Europeans will also have a pivotal role in the upcoming years.
The Europe Region of World Physiotherapy is constantly working to increase the influence of physiotherapy as a vital component of healthcare across all stages of life, from preventive measures to disease management and rehabilitation. We are committed to keep on collaborating with the European institutions and other stakeholders to ensure that the health and well-being of European citizens are optimised through the integration of physiotherapy into healthcare policies and practices.