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eHealth: Opportunity or threat to health equity for all?

09 June 2016
by epha -- last modified 09 June 2016

Increasing inequality across Europe is a huge challenge to policy-makers in all areas, not least health policy. Income inequality in OECD countries is higher today than at any time in the last fifty years, which has profound impacts on the health and wellbeing of the poorest. 2016 eHealth week in Amsterdam should strive to ensure that the technological transition increases health and access to healthcare for everyone and excludes no-one, including refugees, migrants and other vulnerable people.


EPHA Policy Manager Sascha Marschang commented that "Counting on new technologies without tackling the underlying causes of poor health and barriers to access will exacerbate inequalities and health problems, especially if eHealth opportunities are used to justify de-funding and continued underinvestment in health services and the health workforce."

The 2016 eHealth Week hosted by the Dutch EU Presidency in Amsterdam emphasises the role of patients and other end users who, in line with this year's conference theme, are recognised as being 'at the heart of transition'. A transition that envisages eHealth as an integral component of the Digital Single Market Strategy.  There are many obstacles to be overcome to make this an eHealth strategy for all.

eHealth can play an important role on the road to fair and universal access to healthcare.  By making healthcare information and services available online, and reaching out to people living in isolated and vulnerable situations who are excluded from healthcare provision across Europe, there is an opportunity to extend the reach of health systems. It is crucial that services are tailored and meaningful to those they are aimed at.  The prerequisite is that people with vulnerabilities are brought in, which requires political will, determination and investments in providing better access to new technology, health literacy support and training.

Mr Marschang continued, "If we wish to make eHealth an ordinary part of healthcare, we need think about  how eHealth – and mHealth in particular - can become an inclusion tool for the poor, for the homeless, for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, for Roma communities and millions of others who are unemployed or destitute as a result of austerity?" In addition, health and social care workers occupy a central role as change agents: if they are not themselves involved in the design and implementation of the transition, Europe's eHealth ambition cannot be realised since acceptance and day-to-day utility are essential. Recent projects like ENS4Care demonstrate that e.g. nurses and social care workers not only see themselves as part of the process, but that they have a clear vision of how eHealth can be useful to them and how it can be deployed across Europe.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) is a change agent – Europe‟s leading NGO advocating for better health. We are a dynamic member-led organisation, made up of public health NGOs, patient groups, health professionals, and disease groups working together to improve health and strengthen the voice of public health in Europe. EPHA is a member of, among others, the Social Platform, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), the EU Civil Society Contact Group and the Better Regulation Watchdog.

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EPHA (Aisbl) is the European Platform bringing together public health organisations representing health professionals, patients groups, health promotion and disease specific NGOs, academic groupings and other health associations.

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