Health policy and European Union enlargement (2004)



Edited by Martin McKee, Laura MacLehose and Ellen Nolte
Published by Open University Press
European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies series
2004, 294 pages
ISBN 0 335 21353 7 (Paperback) £24.99
ISBN 0 335 213545 (Hardback) £69.99

The first analysis to address the consequences of European Union (EU) enlargement for health sectors in both new and existing member states has been published. The book, Health policy and European Union enlargement, was written by leading health policy experts from 20 countries, brought together by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a partnership of 12 organizations, including the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

The study is an attempt to ensure that the cause of health is not overlooked on this momentous occasion for Europe. It examines and quantifies costs and risks arising from new members joining the EU, and aims to help governments formulate strategies for public health.

The study highlights how enlargement brings both opportunities and challenges. Patients from the new member states will be able to obtain some health care services throughout the EU. Health professionals will be free to travel, with some seeking more lucrative jobs in the wealthier member states. There will be new regulatory regimes, and health care managers will have to comply with an extensive body of legislation on issues such as working time, health and safety, and data protection. Free-trade policies will have to be balanced with public health considerations, particularly with regard to substances that are legally traded but potentially hazardous, such as tobacco and alcohol. The new borders of the EU enclose large vulnerable populations, such as elderly people and minority groups, and it will be important to ensure that they do not fall behind. All these and many other issues will have implications for health care systems.