While the main responsibility for health and social security lies primarily with the governments of the individual European Union (EU) Member States, the EU complements national policies, especially those having a cross-border dimension.  

In a recent poll conducted for the European Parliament, more than two thirds of EU citizens expressed support for increased EU action on health and social security. EU health policy aims to foster good health, protect citizens from health threats and support dynamic health systems. It is mainly implemented through EU action programmes, the current one being the third health programme (2014-2020).  

Challenges include tackling the health needs of an ageing population and reducing the incidence of preventable chronic diseases. Since 2014, steps forward have been made in a number of areas, including antimicrobial resistance; childhood obesity, health systems, medical devices and vaccination. EU action on social security issues in the EUis closely related to the implementation of what is known as the European Pillar of Social Rights as well as labour market developments.  

The EU helps to promote social cohesion, seeking to foster equality as well as solidarity through adequate, accessible and financially sustainable social protection systems and social inclusion policies. EU spending on social security is tied to labour market measures. Progress can be observed on issues such as work-life balance and equal opportunities, but there is more to do. In the future, social protection schemes will need to be further adapted to the new labour market realities (fewer manufacturing jobs, atypical contracts, ‘platform work’, etc.).  

In its proposal for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, the European Commission plans to boost funding to improve workers’ employment opportunities, and strengthen social cohesion through an enlarged ‘European Social Fund Plus’. The fund would also incorporate finance for the stand-alone health programme, with the aim of creating synergies with the other building blocks of the European Pillar of Social Rights: equal opportunities and access to the labour market; fair working conditions; and social protection and inclusion.