From the ashes of the devastation caused by the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918 emerged the Health Organisation branch of the League of Nations. This was the predecessor entity to what was to eventually become the World Health Organization in 1948. Cataclysmic global events can help to alert political leaders to the value of deepening mechanisms for international cooperation. Our Network urges European leaders to seize the moment, learn lessons promptly and ensure our structures for collaborating across borders on healthcare are strengthened in the aftermath of the crisis.
We support proposals for a European Health Union42.
In addition to the recommendations above concerning the expanded role of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the role of the European Medicines Agency in helping address crisis scenarios such as pandemics should be further recognised. Its role in proactively publishing clinical data for COVID-19 medicines has been an important element of that agency’s response and should be embedded more widely as an approach to both transparency and enhancing therapeutic development.
The EMA should also be provided with a stronger mandate to help countries manage pan-national cases of medicines shortages, including in respect to centralising and publishing information on pan-European shortages.
The core role of the EU in helping Member States to combat common health challenges, such as infectious disease and non-communicable disease, should be elevated, and more clearly expressed.
This should be foremost in mind at the next opportunity for EU Treaty change. Following COVID-19, the phrase “health is not a legal competence of the EU” should be definitively abandoned.
We request all national governments engage seriously and thoughtfully on enhancing international health cooperation, including, but certainly not limited to, the role, remit, powers, governance and functioning of the World Health Organization. This includes the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and other affiliated agencies of the WHO. 2021 should be a year in which new robust long-term foundations of health cooperation for the post COVID-19 future are created.
An immediate means of exhibiting to the public that, post-COVID-19, the international community is more serious than ever on global health cooperation would be to rapidly implement the recently agreed Global Strategy for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer43.