A new report from Save the Children, titled EU Health Cheque, urges an increase in the priority afforded to health in development assistance. It outlines why and how support for health for middle income countries must continue, as well as detailing why and how fragmentation in the health sector must be avoided. It recommends that budget support be bolstered so as to create strong health systems and provides specific recommendations on how EU policy coherence for development must be stronger for health.

This new report is the result of almost a year of research analysing the EU’s contribution as a donor to achieving the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) over the 2007-2013 EU budget period. The EU’s record on health can provide an insight into the impact of EU’s aid and development policies had, and the research assessed the many facets of this role.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) health agenda agreed a year ago, focused on systemic rather than incremental change. This focus was at least in part a reaction to criticisms of the health MDGs which aimed to achieve incremental change for specific health outcomes. The result was great progress, though insufficient for any of the health MDGs to be attained globally.

An ancillary effect was that systemic change to health systems did not happen – with the resultant weakness of health systems, even those like Sierra Leone that had achieved great progress to the health MDGs, was highlighted by the Ebola outbreak towards the end of the MDG period.

But to deliver the systemic and universal ambition of the SDG, it will be important to understand what succeeded in the health Millennium Development Goals, why they failed to be achieved globally, and what lessons may be drawn to redirect support for health and so implement the health SDG agenda.

EU Health Cheque firstly reports empirical research into the quantitative support to health provided by the EU budget and funds controlled by the EC. Secondly, it assesses the EU contribution with a more qualitative approach, with a variety of key players, both within and outside of the EU and multilateral organisations, being interviewed. Thirdly, to complement these interviews a round table was held under Chatham House rules that was able to include key players on the EU role in global health, from both the past and present.

Finally, a case study was undertaken in Nigeria to better understand from a specific country context what the more general Brussels based findings could mean to a development partner. The lessons in this report can therefore be used to make EU health ODA more efficient and impactful so it delivers greater results for the SDGs and brings healthcare to every last child.

The report urges an increase in the priority afforded to health in development assistance. It outlines why and how support for health for middle income countries must continue, as well as detailing why and how fragmentation in the health sector must be avoided. It recommends that budget support be bolstered so as to create strong health systems and provides specific recommendations on how EU policy coherence for development must be stronger for health.

The ten specific recommendations of the report are particularly important at a time when the EU is revising its Consensus on development, devising its strategy to implement the SDGs and undertaking the mid-term review of its long term budget – the MFF. Each of these three inter-related EU processes must serve the EU contribution to the SDGs in general including its contribution to Universal Health Coverage.

READ THE REPORT.