The Health in All Policies initiative

The Health in All Policies initiative, proposed during the 2006 Finnish presidency of the EU, provided an important opportunity to consider the impact of both internal and external policies on health. It noted that many of the key determinants of health – and global health – lie outside the domain of traditional health policy. For example, trade and agriculture policies could affect both healthy diets within Europe and the ability of farmers in poor countries to earn a living, while immigration policies for health workers could affect health both in the countries from which workers emigrate and the countries employing them.

Health in All Policies was a groundbreaking initiative that dramatically raised the profile of health in Europe’s policy agenda. It promoted a comprehensive analysis of internal European policies for improved coherence with the aims of public health. The initiative also popularized the notion of using health impact assessments and looked into the challenges and opportunities of incorporating health components into EU-wide policy-making processes.

Since Health in All Policies was the hallmark initiative of the Finnish presidency, the apathy surrounding it has inevitably increased as subsequent EU presidencies have promoted their own preferred policies with equal enthusiasm. However, Health in All Policies remains a policy benchmark and an ever-present thread in new EU health policies. For example, Health in All Policies is one of the four basic principles of the current European Health Strategy.

Carrying the essence of Health in All Policies forward, European policy-makers must begin to apply the same notions when assessing external policies. This will include:

  • European common foreign and security policy and global health
  • European development cooperation and global health
  • European environmental policies and global health
  • European trade policy and global health
  • European agriculture and food policies and global health
  • European consumer protection and global health
  • European illicit drugs policy and global health

These and other policy commitments are beginning to shape European priority-setting for action on global health.

For more information on the Health in All Policies approach at the global level, see this seperate entry.