The economic crisis has had serious adverse impacts on health, particularly for vulnerable people. The policy responses have have worsened health inequalities. Change is needed to improve health, well-being and social cohesion in Europe. The European Semester cycle of economic and policy coordination should strive to better balance fiscal and social priorities as defined in the Europe 2020 strategy. Faced with an increasing burden of largely preventable, non-communicable chronic diseases, investment in the health workforce, public health, prevention and promotion measures should be at the heart of the European strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth and better reflected in EU funding programmes in future.