June, 17, 2015
CROSS BORDER HEALTH THREATS
Disease does not respect national borders. Disease can spread from country to country in the time of an airplane journey. Within the EU, member states retain primary responsibility for healthcare, including responding to cross-border health threats such as the spread of disease. Given the freedom of movement within the EU, member states need to be well prepared to respond to these threats. However, the answer is not to close European borders, but rather to strengthen national healthcare systems, with proactive support from EU institutions, to prevent disease and protect European citizens.
The paper uses a framework of comparing novel and emerging threats through a case study of seasonal influenza, compared with a case study of tuberculosis, and its multi-drug resistant strain (MDR-TB), to assess long term endemic threats. From this framework, four key recommendations are made to European policy makers:
- The EU should develop a public and defined framework for disease intervention in the event of a cross-border health threat emerging.
- The EU and its member states should develop a proactive vaccination plan, including monitoring coverage rates and supporting vaccination development, to prevent emerging threats such as seasonal influenza.
- The EU should strengthen political efforts to eradicate MDR-TB, with a focus on exacerbating factors such as social marginalisation, to deal with long term threats.
- The EU should enhance cooperation to deal with cross-border health threats, ensuring a level playing field between its member states to allow a proactive and preventative response.
Cross-border health threats will always be a challenge in an EU with open borders. Disease does not stop at our national borders, so our health care systems in turn must be equally mobile, cross-national and proactive.
Crossborder Health Threats