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Strengthening the European voice in global health Launch of the Initiative for a European Council on Global Health

The Global Forum for Health Research, in partnership with the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and the Global Health Programme of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva convened a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from 28 to 29 January 2008, which culminated in agreement to launch an Initiative for a European Council on Global Health.

The meeting participants from 25 different organizations highlighted the need for a common platform and a European voice reflecting the many global health actors in Europe, in order to promote:

  • European values in the global health(1) arena, such as universality, access to good quality care, equity and solidarity;
  • broad policy coherence and synergy of policy domains for health benefits such as development, trade, environment and agriculture, particularly in relation to the social and economic determinants of health;
  • European responsibility to address the health of the poorest populations.

The European Council on Global Health would work to influence policy and improve practice on research and action for global health through advocacy based on evidence and analysis.

Why Europe?

European countries make important financial contributions to socio-economic development, health and health research around the world. In cash terms, the USA's expenditures on health and health research are far larger than those of any other single country. However, the aggregate of country expenditures across Europe in each of these two areas is comparable in magnitude with those of the USA. In the case of Official Development Assistance, the aggregate of European spending, both in cash terms and as a proportion of Gross National Income, is considerably greater than that of the USA. These observations emphasize the potential strength that could be gained by more collective and coherent European approaches and policies towards development, health and health research.

The recognition of the need for policy coherence, strategic direction and a value base in relation to global health is only just beginning to emerge in Europe. For instance, "Strengthening the European Union's voice in global health" is one of the four principles on which the new Health Strategy of the European Commission(2) is based.

Task Force established

A preparatory Task Force was created to move forward the proposals made at the meeting in relation to the goals and objectives, governance, structure, membership, beneficiaries, partnerships, location, financing and performance measures of a European Council on Global Health.

The initial organizers, Ilona Kickbusch, Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, and Stephen Matlin, Global Forum for Health Research, have been tasked to advance the initiative and mobilize initial resources for it.

At its last meeting in May 2008, the task force called on European institutions to continue their support on matters of global health and assist as well as engage in the initiative.

For more information, read The Lancet Comment (The Lancet. 2008 May 24;371(9626):1733-4) or contact: [email protected]

(1) An explanation of 'global health' can be found in the following document:
I. Kickbusch, G. Lister (Eds), European Perspectives on Global Health: A policy Glossary. European Foundation Centre, Brussels, 2006.

(2) Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013. Brussels, 23.10.2007, COM (2007) 630 final