The Council of Europe aims to develop an ethical European health policy, by:
- combining human rights, social cohesion and health agendas;
- harmonising member states’ health policies in terms of safety and quality;
- developing preventive medicine and health education;
- promoting patients’ rights, access to health care, citizen participation and protection for vulnerable groups.
Conferences of European Health Ministers
Europe’s Health Ministers meet regularly to create policies to meet the new challenges in health care. Their 8th Conference on “People on the move: Human rights and challenges to health systems” took place on 22-23 November 2007 in Bratislava (Slovakia).
Health care services: a social cohesion perspective
The Council of Europe has recently adopted two Recommendations. The recommendation (2006) 5 refers to the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities and their full participation in society in 2006-2015. The recommendation (2006) 18 to member states “On health services in a multicultural society” emphasises the need of removing language barriers, as well as other forms of discrimination in the health services and increasing (ethnic) diversity among health professionals and social workers etc.
Health education for young people
The Council of Europe joined forces with the European Commission and the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe in 1991/1992 to set up the European Network of Health-Promoting Schools. Initially launched as a pilot project in four central and eastern European countries, the network now involves more than 40 nations, with over 500 participant schools and 400 000 students. They promote a healthy lifestyle for the school population by building partnerships and encouraging teachers, pupils, parents and the wider community to work together to improve overall health.
Blood transfusion: safety and ethics
Voluntary unpaid blood donations and the safety and improvement of haemotherapy are the Council’s guiding principles to harmonise blood transfusion practices. The 13th edition of the Guide on the preparation, use and quality assurance of blood components has been issued in 2007. The Guide is updated annually and is now a worldwide reference source.
Organ transplants: saving lives
The Council of Europe has set out the ethical principles governing organ transplants and in 2004 published the 2nd edition of the Guide to safety and quality assurance for organs, tissues and cells. It has also published guidelines on the ethical and social implications of xenotransplantation - the use of living organs and tissues from animals for human transplants. Recommendation (2006) 16 gives guidance to member states on putting in place a quality improvement programme for organ donation in every hospital where there is a potential for organ donation as a self-evaluation tool of the whole process of organ donation.
Pharmacopoeia: a world leader
The European Pharmacopoeia sets out common compulsory standards (monographs) to guarantee the quality of medicines in all member states. The European Pharmacopoeia promotes uniform analytical methods and drafts standards for all substances used in human and veterinary medicines. Today, 70% of active substances commonly used in medicine are described in the European Pharmacopoeia. National standards are being co-ordinated and there are now over 2000 compulsory European standards for new medicines.
The work is carried out under a convention ratified by the European Union and 36 member states. However, the Pharmacopoeia’s influence extends far beyond the frontiers of Europe; many other countries refer to its standards in their national legislation.
The European Pharmacopoeia (6th Edition) has been made public on June 2007. It is available in printed form, as a CD-ROM and online. Updates are issued three times a year, in printed supplements.
The Pompidou Group: co-operation in tackling drug problems
The Pompidou Group is a multidisciplinary forum for ministerial co-operation to combat drug abuse and trafficking. The Group has 35 member states at present. It co-operates closely with the new democracies in the fight against drugs through seminars, exchanges and a training programme for drug care workers.
The Group’s Health Ministers meet every four years to review its work and set new requirements. Current priorities include preventing drug abuse, reintegrating addicts and drug users into society, the operation of the criminal justice system, promoting training and research into the social cost of drug abuse and ethics.
The Council also co-operates with Mediterranean countries to establish a network of epidemiology experts.
Consumer health protection
The Council of Europe aims to improve consumer health protection with a new approach towards nutrition and safety. It has already been instrumental in drafting national legislation and European Union directives to harmonise laws and practices governing the quality and safety of products affecting the human food chain, as well as in the areas of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.