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Health Inequalities in Europe: now is the time to act! AER calls for all levels of governance to join forces


11 Oct 2010


Regional Policy

Brussels (B), 8 October 2010

Even in these times of economic crisis, health inequalities can be avoided, and regions have both a political and moral obligation to act: this is the message from the Committee on Social Policy and Public Health of the Assembly of European Regions’ (AER).

It is true that the current economic crisis contributes to reinforcing health inequalities. When responding to the crisis, one cannot simply focus on balancing budgets. It is also important to look at a region’s human and natural resources and make sure that this recession does not lead to a social crisis. Denny VÅGERÖ, Professor of medical sociology, from the Centre for health Equity Studies, stated that “Gross Domestic Product is not a good measure of development. We need to take a broader perspective to development and also look at things such as health, the environment, climate change…”

In the words of Erio ZIGLIO, Head of the Venice Office of the World Health Organisation, “The challenges now are to secure commitment at all levels and coherence between them. The issue of health inequalities needs to be a whole-of-government priority to be addressed through a coherent set of policies and interventions on a scale appropriate to the trends and magnitude of the problem in the regions.” In his opinion, isolated initiatives are not sufficient: it’s like taking a quarter of an aspirin every six months to treat a headache, when in fact what one needs is 2 aspirins every 3 hours.

Regional action on health inequalities must be complemented by action at the European level. Participants stressed the essential role of Europe’s cohesion policy in combating health inequalities to deliver economic, social and territorial cohesion. In order to have a comprehensive view of a region, we need to revise today’s indicators for the allocation of funds.


In preparation for this conference, AER undertook an indicative survey among its member regions to illustrate the impact the current crisis is having on regions’ capacity to manage health policies and provide services. The outcomes of the survey, as well as a background paper entitled ‘The impact of the economic crisis on health inequalities’ are available at:


The Assembly of European Regions (AER – is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe. Bringing together more than 270 regions from 33 countries and 16 interregional organisations, AER is the political voice of its members and a forum for interregional co-operation.
AER Contacts:
Press: Francine Huhardeaux, Press and Communications Officer, - Tel: +33 3 88 22 74 49
Committee 2: Ourania Georgoutsakou, Senior Policy Coordinator, - Tel:  +32 2 421 87 57



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