EPHA’s manifestos analysis: assessing the public health measures in the parties’ manifestos

The European elections of 6-9 June will be a turning point for the EU health policies. Health systems are in crisis, particularly regarding the health and care workforce, which situation has been labelled a ticking time bomb. Growing challenges, such as climate change, are having an increasingly dire impact on health, equity, and mental health of people. The burden of non-communicable diseases is as well increasing and challenging the health of EU citizens, and the health systems. It is therefore crucial that the next mandate provides an adequate level of ambition on the health policies to be delivered. Expectations include the need to invest in health systems and crisis preparedness, and provide stronger EU health budget. 

In this context, EPHA has carried out an analysis of the main political parties’ manifestos (European People’s Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists (PES), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the European Green Party (EGP) and the European Left (EL). The aim of this analysis is to objectively inform voters about intentions and commitments of the main parties regarding public health. 

Key insights 

Health is given different degrees of importance in the manifestos. Aside from ALDE, several references to health are visible throughout the documents, although only the Greens and Socialists hint at health in all policies. However, no manifesto refers to a stronger EU health budget. All of the manifestos stress the need to reform the treaties, following an expected EU enlargement. In that occasion, a stronger role from the institutions is evoked, that could have an impact on health in the case of PES, EPP and EGP. The European Health Union is mentioned by the three parties, but no mention of the SANT Committee is visible. 

Healthy environments are unevenly addressed. Non-communicable diseases are mainly tackled in the EPP manifesto, which, however, lacks a focus on prevention. Specifically, mental health is only given a proposal in the EPP and PES manifestos. Anti-microbial resistance is only briefly mentioned in the EGP and PES programmes. Overall, this could result in a lack of action on dire, increasing public health needs within the EU and globally. Furthermore, Sustainable Food Systems are addressed, but often from a farming perspective (EPP, ALDE, PES to some extent). Healthy food appears in most manifestos (except ALDE), but only the Greens refer to the need of more plant-based diets. Overall, the manifestos provide elements to tackle climate change and threats to the environment with a contrasted level of ambition, but most lack focus on the related impacts to health. 

While some of the analysed topics are mainly unaddressed, equity is the one that is the most covered by the manifestos, from energy poverty, to tackling all forms of discrimination and ensuring access to health care. On the other hand, the digital transition is often tackled in a general way, with a lack of focus on health systems. Moreover, the questions of the resilience of health systems and of the health and care workforce are barely addressed. Measures to support workers are provided in PES, European Left and EGP, but without a focus on the health and care workforce, which does not reflect the urgency of the situation. 

Will health be a priority of the next mandate? 

Looking at recent developments and at the content of the manifestos, some key health topics and issues are at risk of disappearing from the agenda, or not be given the necessary priority and ambition. For instance, the leaked EU strategic agenda for 2024-2029 does not refer to health nor environment, and only has a few references to climate change, showing a lack of continuation from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the topic is covered in the manifestos to some extent, healthy food, and the Farm to Fork agenda, are also at risk. Euronews has estimated in February 2024 that over half of the promises from this agenda were still unmet, and that they were unlikely to be met in the future, as they were slowly being replaced by a strategic dialogue agenda on farming. This includes the Sustainable Food Law, still absent, and the Food Information to Consumers legislation, on hold. More than two thirds of the strategy is likely to remain unfinished before the next European Commission is put in place.  

This adds to the concerning news that EU4Health might not be part of the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework, from 2027. This would result in an extremely reduced ambition of the EU on health, and in forgetting the lessons from COVID-19. 

However, ahead of the European elections, citizens are calling for health to be a central point of focus. In a recent Eurobarometer, the fight against poverty and social exclusion (33%), and supporting public health (32%) are listed as the top topics that citizens would like to see in the elections’ discussions. 

It is therefore important to place health on the agenda, ahead of the elections, and after. 


Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA.

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