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05 July 2021

On 18 June, the European Commission published the first annual work programme of the EU4Health package - the multi-annual financial mechanism for supporting actions on health from 2021-2027. According to the Work Programme, the European Commission will distribute about EUR 312 million in 2021 alone, to achieve its objectives for a healthier Europe. This is a sharp increase compared to the 2020 budget allocated on health, which came to a little over EUR 65 million. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a large part of this shift, as a lot of funds will be invested to safeguard, prepare, and respond to future health crises.

Below we analyse its relevance to allergy, asthma, and COPD patients.

EU’s health priority areas that will receive funding

In line with the long-term vision of the EU4Health programme, its 2021 annual work programme focuses on four priority policy areas: crisis preparedness, disease prevention, health systems and healthcare workforce, and digitalisation of health.

On crisis preparedness, the work programme draws from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to enhance anticipation and preparedness towards large-scale health crises. A budget amounting to EUR 106 million will be channelled for actions and procurement addressing medicine shortages, supporting clinical trials for Covid therapeutics, improving Members States’ capacity to detect infectious diseases, and preparing the European Health Emergency and Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). This work is of paramount importance for the EU and European region, to provide coordination tools to Member States to better protect the health of people in the event of cross-border health threats. The lack of such mechanisms was pointed by EFA in the evaluation of the past EU Health Programme.

With regards to disease prevention, with an allocated budget of over EUR 101 million, actions will be addressed to prevent different types of cancer. Additionally, EU disease prevention work will look at implementing best practices around health promotion and prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as allergy, and respiratory diseases. In addition, the EU will create a Disease Knowledge Gate to improve access to data on the prevalence of certain NCDs, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular, long Covid, and certain rare diseases. Other activities will support the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive, including evaluating the legal framework in view of possible revisions.

Actions on health systems and health workforce will be budgeted for about EUR 68 million and directed towards strengthening national health systems, the implementation of the new Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe, and improving the European Reference Networks (ERNs). Best practices in primary care will be supported also, as well as actions to enable health workforce to meet health challenges. EFA will encourage focus on the development of therapeutic options for allergy and respiratory diseases, as well as better preparedness among healthcare professionals to tackle our disease areas.

Finally, the digital component of the budget will be allocated around EUR 32 million for the establishment of the European Health Data Space, involving the infrastructure and governance of primary and secondary use of data. Patient access and data interoperability will be supported. At EFA we see this first investment as the start of a long-term process to digitalisation of health systems to complement healthcare, and make it more effective. 

The management and implementation of this and other health-related programmes, such as the Health cluster of Horizon Europe, has been assigned to the newly established European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA), while DG SANTE will also have a role.

You can see the full EU4Health 2021 Work Programme here.