The COVID-19 pandemic facilitated a long-expected paradigm shift in the European Union’s perception of health and healthcare. It has been proved that health policy decisions cannot be kept within a nation-state framework only and that a new vision and strengthened community competencies are needed to cope with public health crises. Traditionally, EU member states have long been opposed to a greater role for the European institutions in health policy. Notwithstanding, growing disparities with alarming inequalities as to the health status of people across the 27 EU member states, and the differences in these people’ s access to quality healthcare, have the potential to seriously undermine the fundamental right to health.
The pandemic made it overwhelmingly clear that health is essential when it comes to the fair, resilient and sustainable development of our societies. Developing health systems indicators, a pharmaceutical strategy for Europe and a European cancer plan could be valid building blocks to construct a solid Health Union. This policy brief presents the case of Hungary, with a look at its chronically underfunded and poorly performing health sector and an analysis of the national attitudes towards the European Health Union. Consultations with health professionals, local administrators and civil society evidence that the
creation of an EU Health Union could contribute to the catching up of the ailing national healthcare systems. A majority of the Hungarian society would see the European Health Union as a driving force to improve health outcomes in their country and are supportive of more European integration in this domain.
Based on this, six areas of action are identified: planning, communication, joint research, equal access, primary prevention, and funding.
Dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Dr István Ujhelyi has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2014 and is also the Chair of Tourism Task Force in the European Parliament since 2015. He previously served as Vice-president of the Hungarian Socialist Party from 2014 until 2017. He holds a degree in law and political sciences from the József Attila University.
Dr. Mihály Kökény
Senior Fellow of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
Dr Kökény, having worked in various government positions, served as Minister for Health twice (1996-98, 2003-4) in a socialist-liberal
government. His international activities cover a broad field of health
promotion, environment and health and health care reforms. As a
delegate of his country he was the Chairman of WHO’s Executive Board (2010-2011). Currently he is a Senior Fellow of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. He is also a lecturer at the University of Debrecen, Faculty of Public Health in Hungary (on global health and health policy) and a WHO consultant.
Dr. Orsolya Süli
Dr Orsolya Süli holds an MSc. in Health Economics, Policy and
Management. She took interest in health policy during her medical
education and became involved on this field through the European
Medical Students’ Association, where she held the position of the Vice President for External Affairs. She completed an internship at the World Health Organization and contributed to several international global health related projects. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has been working on the frontline, first as an emergency medicine doctor in Hungary and currently as an acute medicine doctor in Scotland.