This paper reviews key documents and reports at the intersection of health, health systems and the economy to identify potential areas where EPHA could contribute to these debates in line with its mission to further improve public health for all. The paper finds agreement among policymakers and experts about health and wellbeing being intrinsic values, as well as contributors to the economy and to economic growth. We also find support for the need to (wisely) invest in health and health systems. However, further work, including by stakeholders and civil society, is needed to continuously stress the importance of health and wellbeing for the economy. Of particular importance is the need to insist on the high returns that investments on health systems and the health workforce have, especially as part of the post-COVID 19 recovery process to strengthen health systems.
The paper further examines the ‘wellbeing approach’ and finds that while there may be an additional value from the use of broader metrics moving away from per capita gross domestic product (GDP), many challenges remain with the operationalisation of alternative metrics. In addition, the potential implications of applying a ‘wellbeing approach’ for investments in health systems are not clearly understood. We conclude by identifying a few potential activities that can guide EPHA’s work during 2023:
- Further analysis of (1) shortages and skills of the healthcare workforce and (2) the need to strengthen health systems and the economy by taking a broader evidence-informed approach to health and wellbeing into consideration.
- Identify gaps and areas where civil society could provide further support to monitor progress and ensure accountability of work on SDGs and the economy of wellbeing, considering the European Pillar of Social Rights.
- Provide feedback on related EU initiatives and legal processes, such as budget policy and initiatives related to the health workforce.
- Map and connect to existing initiatives by like-minded organisations and national, EU and international policymakers to further enrich this work stream (including the EU4Health CSA).
- Support the work of the WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development in Venice, Italy, including via the High-level Regional Forum on Health in the Well-being Economy (March 2023).
- Advocate for funding to be made available for NGOs to focus on these areas.