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EPF PAG meeting report - 21 November 2017

Report by working group member Christopher Vella, from Malta Health Network

The meeting kicked off with the usual brief welcome, an introduction by Katie Gallagher, and the approval of minutes. The meeting started with the first item on the agenda, the #EU4Health Campaign, a topic of much relevance and importance for EPF members.

  • #EU4Health campaign

A thorough update of the #EU4Health campaign was given by Camille Bullot, whose detailed analysis and interpretation of what has happened so far prompted a lively discussion about the best ways to maximise a positive outcome of such a campaign.  The fact that the future of a strong EU healthcare policy is as uncertain as it is lacking in commitment, was definitely a key concern for the members of the PAG.  The uncertainty about the future of DG Sante also shows that the serious implications of not having a strong commitment for health by the EU are not being understood.  In this regard, Camille highlighted EPF’s strategy and actions taken to ensure that everyone understands the “added value” of health, which is often estimated.  Hopefully, through persuasion and cooperation with other stakeholders, EPF will manage to get a budget line for health coming from the European Parliament budget. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that there are numerous policymakers who realise that Health is much more complex than ‘paying’ for a service, it is a commitment, which must be nurtured if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met and implemented.

  • Presentation: ‘Men, Work and Cancer’

The debate was followed by a presentation by Dr. Ian Banks (from EMHF), who highlighted the European Men's Health Forum current project, titled ‘Men, Work and Cancer’, which is currently being launched. The need for having a holistic approach when drafting policies that deal with Cancer treatment were highlighted, and the need to have an infrastructure which ensures that Cancer patients are not reduced to being classified as ‘full-time patients' once diagnosed was stressed. The presentation was also a gentle reminder to the fact that gender equality is most often erroneously seen as removing any reference to sexes rather than having different policies in place which cater to the different needs of both sexes so that both sexes are equally empowered to fulfil their ambitions.  More information on this project is available here: http://emhf.org/projects/

  • Update on EPF campaign on Access to Healthcare

The next topic discussed was an update of EPF campaign on Access to Healthcare, which has so far surpassed expected engagement. The campaign strategy to get engagement from EPF members, stakeholders and media was explained by Sara Gayarre, and the PAG members gave their feedback, with the most recurrent suggestion being that this campaign was so important, that trying to tackle it in a year may have been a bit too optimistic, if not stretching the EPF a bit too tight.  The fact that each Member State has its own realities and barriers to surpass before it can really have unhindered access to healthcare was both a strength and potentially a weakness since it tied the outcome with the Sustainable Development Goals, rather than proposing a specific action. The campaign has been a success regarding its  visibility and the audience outreach, and this is proved by the important number of participants attending the roundtable on the campaign in December, and by the high-level of the speakers that will contribute to the discussion.

  • Update on Policy Dossiers

An update on Policy Dossiers then was presented by Kostas Aligiannis, mainly the current discussion on Health Data and Digital Health. The inclusion of digital health and care transformation in the Digital Single Market aims to ensure that the EU citizens will have better treatment, prevention, and earlier diagnosis as well as delivering a more sustainable health system across the EU. The EPF's position on the topic is being prepared through various initiatives, with the most important key aspect being the dissemination of background information so that patients can validly contribute to policy discussions.  Regarding the EPF's patients' survey on electronic health records, this is to be tested and launched shortly, with the expected report to be annexed to the e-health position paper next year. It was noted that the Commission's communication on digital health, addressing secure access to EHR's, cross-border exchange and e-prescriptions has been delayed to later this year/early next year. 

There was then an update on the upcoming events by member organisations, EPF events as well as breakfast briefings.

  • EPF’s member engagement and internal working groups

The next item on the agenda was an update by Elena Balestra on the EPF’s member engagement and internal working groups during this year and the proposed way forward.  The fact that EPF has continued to grow and currently boasts 74 members, shows that EPF's commitment towards patients has, and still is, being recognised.  The fact that member participation and engagement has been a priority for the EPF has given fruit, and the national coalitions meeting event which took place in October also showed that members are eager for a stronger engagement and involvement in EPF. The national coalitions meeting bolstered members' knowledge about how to maximize their resources and potential, increasing their audience outreach as well as increasing the positive outcome for their projects.  The next year will see the setting up of working groups on Access to Healthcare and Digital Health, that are expected to conclude their work and present their findings in 2021.