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MEPs lead warning of looming health crisis in Europe

Coalition tells EU summit that cuts are driving health systems to “breaking point"

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Austerity measures introduced in and around the Eurozone are having a devastating impact on the physical and mental health of people in Europe and driving health systems to "breaking point", according to a coalition of MEPs, trade unions and other organisations.

An open letter to European leaders from the coalition - led by the European Public Health Alliance - calls for a halt to cuts in health and welfare systems, saying that "austerity measures put in place to appease financial markets are proving to be a threat to legitimate, democratic government and ultimately to democracy itself".

The letter has been published ahead of an EU summit scheduled for June 28-29, 2012, which will see Greece come under pressure to fulfil the terms of its bailout and continued discussion about the possibility of pooling liability for debt among Eurozone countries.

Markets have been on the slide in the wake of some pessimistic comments from EU leaders about the chances of forging a deal at the summit, but the EPHA-led coalition is calling for "confident action that prioritises the needs of citizens".

"In these difficult times, we urge you to set out a sustainable vision for Europe and demonstrate decisive leadership [and] draw lessons from economies which are showing resilience amid crisis and reforms," says the letter.

Health is a value in itself but also a precondition to achieve economic growth, the coalition argues, so cutting spending in social protection and health is "ultimately a false economy".

Earlier this month the EPHA published a briefing note on the economic crisis and its impact on health, which found rising rates of suicide, mental health problems and rates of infectious disease among EU citizens.

"Europe's leaders should amend their own mistakes before it is too late," according to Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the EPHA.

"Public healthcare is among the worst-hit sectors across the EU," she added. "This is an inevitable outcome of blindly trusting fickle and unaccountable financial markets to set public spending priorities."

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) also wrote to EU leaders ahead of the summit, with the organisation's president Sir Andrew Witty warning that current drug pricing measures could see the EU's pharma market fall behind the US and Asia.

26th June 2012

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