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Responding to the economic crisis: Europe's governments must take account of the cost of health inequalities
  1. Martin McKee
  1. European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel street, Camden, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health, European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK; martin.mckee{at}lshtm.ac.uk

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Europe's politicians greeted the new millennium with a sense of optimism. Meeting in Lisbon, in March 2000, the heads of government agreed on a strategy to make the European Union ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’.1 The wording was important. The Lisbon Agenda, as it came to be known, sought to ensure that all of Europe's citizens would benefit from economic growth, thereby avoiding the stark inequalities that accompanied growth in other parts of the world where the benefits were concentrated in the hands of a few.

Almost a decade later, with Europe's economies in the depths of the most severe recession in living memory, the Swedish Prime Minister concluded that ‘Even if progress has been made it must be said that the Lisbon Agenda, with only a year remaining before it is to be evaluated, has been a failure’.2 Europe's leaders now …

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