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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the fundamental importance of public health into stark relief, with inadequate action on issues prior to the crisis, such as in the areas of disease prevention, commercial determinants of health, health promotion and tackling inequalities all increasing the impact of the pandemic; and now reflected in the recently agreed increased funding for public health by European leaders and the European Parliament. 

A new EPHA toolkit outlines the case for putting EU funds to use to improve public health; summarises the funding and investment available and relevant for public health at a European level; and lastly provides some guidance on how to make the most of available resources to build a healthy European Union for all.

It also demonstrates how Health in All Policies should be applied when using EU funds and that they are delivered in line with EU policy fields and following the the World Health Organization’s Health Governance approach. Public health policies, particularly related to health promotion and prevention, suffer from a lack of investment across Europe, yet would bring considerable social, economic, health and environmental benefits if they were seriously addressed across society and policy silos.

The European Union budget in the next long-term period 2021-2027 offers multiple opportunities for Member States to help build a healthy Europe, and to combine that objective with a plethora of other important goals including:

• fighting the climate crisis and environmental degradation,
• tackling socio-economic and regional inequalities,
• improving healthcare systems,
• ensuring a fair, open and secure digital environment,
• addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

Many EU funds focus on particular objectives, although health aspects can be incorporated into most projects. Synergies are not only possible, but desirable; projects will return the biggest result if they break down barriers, work long-term and combine both tangible and intangible investments. Ultimately, the combination of public health and EU financing represents a win-win scenario for all Europeans.

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