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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 41 Article 3
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 41, 09 October 2003

Citation style for this article: Messages from the 2003 European Health Forum Gastein. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(41):pii=2308. Available online:

Messages from the 2003 European Health Forum Gastein

Editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office

David Byrne, Europe’s Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, last week addressed this year’s meeting of the European Health Forum Gastein, the theme of which was 'Health and wealth: economic and social dimensions of health’, on the links between health and economic prosperity, and the need to give health a central place in the European Union (EU) economic and social agenda (1).

Economic costs of this year’s SARS epidemic had shown how valuable effective public health measures can be, and with healthcare now accounting for between 5 and 10% of the GDP in the expanded European Union of 25 countries, improving health is an economic priority for Europe. Enlargement brings the challenge of a health divide arising between richer and poorer member states, which the Commissioner said would be intolerable.

The Commissioner emphasised the importance of developing a EU knowledge base for health, and said that the information strand of the new public health programme ( will provide a first step towards systematically gathering data that can help to inform difficult policy choices. A more complete picture of EU health, based on a handful of indicators, should measure communicable disease control among other things.

Georgios Gouvras from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection also spoke at the Forum on Europe’s fight against SARS and other communicable diseases. In summarising, Commissioner Byrne said that SARS had been a wake up call to remind Europe that communicable diseases do not stop at national borders, and commented that the proposed European Centre for Disease Control would contribute to better preparedness for epidemics and bioterrorist attacks by bringing together scientific knowledge and providing a system for consultation and decision making (2).

  1. Byrne D. Health equals Wealth. Speech/03/443 to the European Health Forum, Bad Gastein, Austria. European Union press release, 3 October 2003. (|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display=)
  2. Eurosurveillance. Commission publishes proposal for establishing a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Eurosurveillance Weekly 2003; 7(40): 18/09/2003. (

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