Unparalleled efforts to ensure equal access to health care

Oct. 28, 2017, 8:24 a.m.

How has the Directorate-General for Health and Food Security responded to the unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees since 2015?

Thanks to projects funded under the Third Health Program, the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety has been able to assist Member States with activities such as training of health professionals, development of health care models for vulnerable migrants and the integration of migrants into primary health care systems.

The Health Program is a financial instrument that complements, supports and adds value to the policies of the Member States. Its main objective is to improve the health of citizens of the European Union, but it also seeks to reduce inequalities and increase the sustainability of health systems.

How much has been invested to help migrants and refugees?

In the context of the third Health Program, which covers the period from 2014 to 2020, in 2015 and 2016, 14.7 million euros were allocated to projects related to the health of migrants. This year, some € 4.5 million will be allocated to various activities, including joint action on inequalities in health and health of migrants.

What kind of inequalities do migrants and refugees face?

Due to lack of knowledge of the system, social and economic disadvantages, language barriers and, sometimes, stigmatization and other problems, migrants face large inequalities in access to preventive health care and treatment. The European Commission is committed to reaching the root cause of these inequalities.

Stigma comes from the unfounded fear that refugees and migrants might introduce disease into the EU. In fact, most refugees and migrants are in good health when they arrive in Europe, although they are often physically and mentally exhausted and often traumatized by events in their country of origin and by the painful trip they have taken. fact.

Although neither the Commission nor the World Health Organization advise refugees or migrants to submit to compulsory disease control, they strongly recommend medical examinations at points of entry to ensure that all refugees and migrants in need of health care can especially children, pregnant women, the elderly, and victims of violence.

Does the Health Program contribute to financing these health controls?

The International Organization for Migration received a direct grant from the Health Program to carry out health assessments, 4,275 in 2015 and 8,938 in 2016. Thanks to another project, 2,459 newly arrived migrants were subjected to urgent health assessments and were 49,707 physical health assessments. Through another project, 11,057 medical examinations were carried out in Italy, the EU country recently praised by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his annual address on the state of the Union of 13 September 2017 for "having saved the reputation of Europe" with its management of migrants and refugees.

What is being done to integrate migrants and refugees into EU health systems?

The adoption by the Commission of a European pillar of social rights last April was an important step in the right direction. Principle 16 expressly states that "everyone has the right to timely access to affordable quality preventive and curative health care services."

The Commission's action plan on the integration of third-country nationals, adopted in June 2016, also provides a framework in which to work on health. Many of the projects financed under the Health Program contribute to this, and many of them are mentioned in this issue of the Health-EU Bulletin on the health of migrants.

Which path should we follow?

The influx of refugees and other migrants entering Europe shows no signs of slowing down and remains a priority for action by the EU. The Commission will continue to support EU countries in making their health systems as accessible, efficient and resilient as possible. The "Health Status in the EU" package will help policymakers make realistic decisions on health policies and health spending, and in November the national health profiles of the 28 EU countries will be examined in an analysis paper which will link the results to the broader EU agenda. The ultimate goal? Equal access to health care ... for all.


Xavier Prats Monné

Director-General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission

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