By Joanna Kozakou
Issues directly relevant to Cyprus were recently discussed at the “Sustainable Health Systems for Inclusive Growth in Europe” conference, organised under the auspices of the Lithuanian Presidency in Vilnius.
Representatives of all Member States, government officials, policy makers, academics, patient groups, non-governmental organisations and industry executives attended the conference, with a common goal to prioritize the health care issues given the austerity cuts imposed on health care expenditure in recent years.
Of the most important outcomes of the Summit was the signature of the “Vilnius Declaration”, which is an urgent call for action to take immediate steps to protect health systems across Europe. It is a powerful document that will soon be submitted to the European Commission, which among other things, calls on Member States to work collectively in order to:
- Strengthen investment in health and disease prevention
- Ensure that systems are sustainable, based on good governance and transparency, taking into account cost-effectiveness
- Strengthen investment in research and innovation
- Ensure that systems will be people-centred giving all patients quality medical care
All aspects included in the “Vilnius Declaration” are vital for Cyprus to take into consideration as it is in the process of establishing the much anticipated National Health System (NHS) by the end of 2015. Under the proposed NHS it is envisioned that both the public and private sectors will be unified, as is the case in many other European countries. It is a crucial and unique opportunity for Cyprus to properly establish an NHS, particularly taking into account recent economic developments and the policies that Europe will follow in the coming years.
The implementation of a sustainable health system is mainly the responsibility of the state and all stakeholders involved with the end goal of ensuring the provision of high quality healthcare services for all patients. The main framework of this effort should center around the introduction of more efficient measures, such as improving the cost of healthcare and implementing innovations which could further improve the population’s health while at the same time setting the foundations for economic growth.
Drastic cuts in healthcare may lead to serious negative consequences on the population’s welfare if they compromise access to quality care. Any other policy aimed at reducing costs in the health sector which is not preceded by an assessment of the financial benefits from treatments and citizens’ health ends up being unproductive for the system as well as the economy.
*Joanna Kozakou is the President of the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA).