Social inclusion has a strong influence on health and wellbeing. Inclusion and improved economic opportunities will bring health benefits for less-favoured areas and marginalised communities, such as the Roma. Structural Fund investments for urban and rural regeneration can improve physical and mental health and reduce health inequalities. Healthcare investments will bring direct health benefits – here, it is valuable to target the problems faced by marginalised communities and vulnerable groups such as the elderly.

Understanding the policy context

Inclusive growth is one of the three priorities of the Europe 2020 Strategy – and its targets for 2020 include reducing the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 20 million. In support of this, Article 4 of the proposed regulation for the European Social Fund for 2014 - 2020 requires that at least 20% of the total fund resources in each Member State is allocated to the social inclusion thematic objective.

The European platform against poverty and social exclusion, one of the flagship initiatives under the Strategy, identifies health inequalities within Member States as a key concern. The platform calls for better access to healthcare, housing, education and labour markets. For healthcare systems, the challenge is to improve efficiency while widening access. The platform also calls for action against poverty and marginalisation of ethnic minorities such as Roma.

The platform sets out a range of actions for this objective: among these, a key role is given to the better use of EU funds to support social inclusion and combat discrimination.

These policy objectives build on existing EU workplace legislation, which guarantees equal opportunities and protection against discrimination.

Developing Operational Programmes

There are a number of ways in which Structural Funds investment in social inclusion can affect public health. These include:

  • Improvements in the immediate environment in which people live, so as to reduce environment-related health risks and facilitate and promote physical activity
  • Enhance urban connectivity
  • Enhance access to local public facilities and spaces for recreation and social interaction
  • Improvements in safety and safety perception

The table below presents some examples of actions by Member States and regions in the 2007-2013 programmes.

Example

Where to find it

Bulgaria’s regional planning authorities acknowledge that facilitating access to public buildings can contribute to social inclusion of people with disabilities and thus result in health gains, and that improving connectivity of isolated communities with urban centres may also serve this end.

Bulgaria OPRD 2007-2013, p 166.

 

Regional authorities in Cornwell take account of “barriers to housing and services”, including indicators of distances to key facilities, in their socioeconomic analysis. 

Cornwall and Iles of Scilly OP 2007-2013, p. 42.

 

Developing Projects

Below are examples of projects that illustrate the positive impacts of social inclusion (including urban regeneration) on health gains.

Neighbourhood revival in Palencia, Spain (URBAN Palencia), TPC EUR 11.7m, ERDF EUR 8.2m

The project is aimed at the social and economic regeneration of the “El Cristo” and “Ave María” neighbourhoods in Palencia. It encompasses a total of ten actions including the renovation of buildings, removal of architectural barriers, construction cycle lanes and an indoor sports hall, and new street lighting reducing luminous pollution. In addition, the project promotes social integration and equal opportunities through programmes encouraging the social involvement of the youth and combating absenteeism and school dropout. Adult training programmes and support for disadvantaged communities are also available. Reforestation of urban areas and construction of recreation areas are another component of the regeneration project. In addition to contributing to economic growth and jobs creation, this project is expected to positively affect public health, both physical and mental, by creating a healthier, safer urban environment and enhancing social cohesion. 

Rejuvenating a neglected quarter of Budapest (Magdolna Quarter Programme II in the Józsefváros district), TPC EUR 8.2m, ERDF EUR 7.2m

The programme, which was implemented between August 2008 and May 2011, sought to reintegrate a neglected quarter of Budapest (Magdolna) into the life of the district and the city, while promoting social inclusion and, ultimately, transforming a “formerly run-down district” into “a liveable and safe area”. The programme II worked on two levels: repairing and renovating physical structures and the built environment as well as offering training and information sessions to inhabitants. Specifically, it comprised: the partial regeneration of 23 buildings; the reconstruction of Mátyás square; the renovation of a school; the establishment of a community sports playground; the organisation of social and crime-prevention programmes and the provision of trainings and advisory activities about employment and services. Improving public safety, both directly and indirectly, was also a strong feature of the programme.