Efficient public spending essential for health policy objectives

Hungarian Parliament

More and efficient public spending on health and better public policies across government are essential for achieving health policy objectives, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, at a meeting of parliamentarians from the European Union (EU) countries in Budapest, Hungary on 14–15 April 2011.

The Hungarian National Assembly organized the meeting of chairpersons of committees on health as part of a series of meetings of parliamentary committee chairpersons. Hungary holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU during the first half of 2011. These meetings were organized within the parliamentary framework related to the Presidency to foster cooperation among national parliaments.

Among the participants of the meeting were Miklós Réthelyi, Hungary’s Minister of National Resources; Miklós Szócska, Minister of State for Health; and John Dalli, Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer Policy of the European Commission.

Addressing the participants, Zsuzsanna Jakab discussed why a European policy for health is crucial for improving the health of citizens. She presented evidence of health trends in the EU and highlighted the key features of the future European health policy (Health 2020) and why a whole-of-government and whole-society approach is essential.

She pointed out that the leading causes of the burden of disease in EU countries show the importance of looking beyond mortality. Along with noncommunicable diseases, including diseases with high mortality such as heart disease and stroke, there are also diseases and conditions that have a high burden of morbidity but would be neglected if one only looked at mortality. Chief among these are conditions related to mental health and those associated with age.

“There is a strong correlation between government expenditure on health and the burden of out-of-pocket spending on the population,” Zsuzsanna Jakab said. “However, what we also know is that government policies can make a big difference. It is not just how many resources are available and how wealthy a country is. It is also about good governance, the right decisions and implementing the right policies. So we argue for more public spending and better public policies across the government.”