Health activists announce European campaign against effects of commodification of health

A coalition of trade unions, health activists, and organizations launched an all-European campaign against the commercialization of health. The campaign will include decentralized discussions and actions across various EU countries and will culminate in a major protest in the week leading up to World Health Day

September 08, 2023 by Peoples Health Dispatch
Commodification of health Europe
Health workers and activists during a World Health Day 2023 protest. (Photo: European Network Against Commercialization of Health and Social Protection) 

In a joint effort to combat the growing marketization of health services in Europe, three organizations—the European Public Services Union (EPSU), the European Network Against Commercialization of Health and Social Protection, and the People’s Health Movement (PHM) Europe—have announced a renewed regional campaign. The initiative was announced during a public meeting held on Thursday, September 7, aiming to bring health to the forefront of the European Union’s (EU) agenda.

The coalition has expressed deep concern over the EU’s prioritization of financial and fiscal matters, such as free competition and budgetary convergence, over public health. This approach, they argue, poses a danger to the well-being of European citizens and the state of health rights in the world.

With an eye on the upcoming European Parliament election in May 2024, these organizations plan to apply pressure on national governments and Members of the European Parliament, and encourage the adoption of health policies informed by the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted the need to prioritize health as an essential human right, and the organizations have asserted that “submitting it to the laws of the market is a crime.”.

The campaign will span the next seven months and will include decentralized discussions and actions across various EU countries. While the actions will address issues specific to local contexts, they will all align with key priorities identified by EPSU, the European Network, and PHM Europe for the entire region. These priorities include ensuring adequate public funding to guarantee quality care and decent working conditions, improving the accessibility of health services across geographical, financial, and cultural dimensions, building democratic participation of health workers and patients in decision and policy-making, and adopting medicine policies that benefit both the people of Europe and of the Global South.

One of the campaign’s central objectives is to develop strategies and mechanisms to address the shortage of health workers. It also aims to counter the brain drain from EU peripheral countries to the core and from low-income countries to Europe as a whole.

The organizations leading the campaign have said that activities will begin in October 2023. These actions will include national debates featuring activists, health workers, and policy experts. The campaign will culminate in a powerful protest in Brussels in the week leading up to April 7, 2024—World Health Day.

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