17 August 2022
CARE, - Healthcare

The European Commission organised the first meeting of the HERA Civil Society Forum, that took place in June online. EFA is a HERA official stakeholder. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides welcomed participants and stressed the need to understand the concerns of the health community and the importance of setting an agenda of solidarity and cooperation.

EFA asked for patient-centred EU coordination on care during emergencies

The meeting was chaired by the HERA Director-General, Mr Pierre Delsaux. In our interventions, EFA highlighted the severe impact of the COVID-19 crisis on chronic respiratory patients. Unfortunately, people are left vulnerable in the face of health emergencies. To prevent this from occurring in the future, EFA advised HERA to invest on building partnerships and trust, while developing cross-border cooperation, and public-private efforts, all hand in hand with civil society. Moreover, during the pandemic many patients, understandably, lost connection with vital care services, with many being underserved. Therefore, a structure addressing these issues is crucial for patients to always access the care they need and maintain contact with their providers.

EFA’s advice to prioritise crisis communications and climate change adaptation

The need for preparedness is putting EU health action at the spotlight. In regards to future health emergencies, EFA believes that the EU has now the framework to be better prepared, something to yet be proved. EFA’s patient community has unstintingly asked for more EU health action for years. Putting healthcare services and prevention at the forefront of crisis and emergency actions, as HERA’s mandate will be, is necessary.

EFA called for HERA to design more forward-looking actions in the future, by focusing on increased involvement of social actors, transparency and public communication. Regarding the latter, our recommendation is to establish a communications unit within the HERA organigram, to ensure the authority considers and works with civil society organisations to prepare crisis communications and overcome the lessons learnt from COVID-19.

Last but not least, EFA urged that the climate threat and adaptation must be included in the HERA mandate as it is urgent, cross-border, threatens all people horizontally, and risks significant health impact. While most EU actions and policies are targeting climate change mitigation, very little is done to adapt to climate change, and even less to protect health. Therefore, at EFA we would like to see concrete action of HERA in cooperation relevant actors, such as the Observatory for Climate Change and Health and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Next steps

EFA had summarised these and other principles in the consultation that preceded the creation of HERA. You can access EFA’s response here, as well as an analysis of HERA’s structure at the time of its launch.

We are looking forward to participating in the next steps of this important HERA forum, making sure that the new authority’s scope and functioning reflects the needs of allergy and chronic respiratory patients.