Call for Papers – ECPR Joint Sessions – EU Health Governance

EUHealthGov network members Thibaud Deruelle (Université de Lausanne) and Eleanor Brooks (University of Edinburgh) are delighted to invite abstracts for their upcoming workshop on The Political Determinants of Health in the EU. Full details can be found below.

The workshop will take place at the ECPR joint sessions, hosted at the University of Edinburgh, from 19 to 22 April 2022. We are glad to announce that the workshop is planned to be held in person (Scottish government guidance permitting). 

ECPR’s Joint Sessions of Workshops provides a unique platform for scholars to come together for several days of intense discussion, feedback and collaboration. Workshops are limited to 15-20 participants from the field of EU health governance, all of whom must attend for the duration of the sessions and must submit/present a paper for in-depth discussion. We plan to use our workshop as the basis for a special issue and welcome abstract submissions from across disciplines. For more information about the joint sessions please visit the ECPR website

You will find the call for abstracts here, as well as below. Submission is exclusively done via the ECPR website; you can, however, email us at and for any further information on the organisation of the workshop. The submission portal will close on 2 February 2022, midnight GMT. The workshop programme will be announced prior to the opening of registration on 24 February 2022. 

With our warmest wishes for the New Year, 

Eleanor Brooks & Thibaud Deruelle

Workshop description

Health is a political choice (Kickbusch 2015). Disparities in the social determinants of health – the conditions in which we are born, grow, work, live and age – result in differential exposure to health threats, differential vulnerability to disease and differential consequences of illness, as the COVID-19 pandemic is illustrating (Burström and Tao 2020). The study of the political determinants of health (PDoH) is concerned with how the social determinants are shaped by politics, policy-making and political institutions, and thus how patterns of disease follow patterns of politics and power. 

We interpret the concept of PDoH broadly, encompassing politics and policy, law and regulation, interests and ideas. This workshop will discuss PDoH in the context of the European Union (EU), including its social, economic, political and legal structures. Bringing together work from across the political science sub-fields of public administration, comparative politics and European Studies, as well as law, sociology and other disciplines, it will focus on three dimensions of the PDoH:

  1. The EU and its internal governance frameworks. Within the EU scholars are exploring how policy instruments like the European Semester and the Better Regulation agenda shape health policy (EUHealthGov 2021). Existing research demonstrates the limits of the European Commission’s purposeful opportunism in health (Brooks and Bürgin 2020), how European health agencies are guided by concern for bureaucratic reputation (Deruelle 2020) and how health actors have strategically increased the scope of conflict to undermine the EU’s austerity agenda (Greer and Brooks 2021).
  2. The EU as a global health actor. The EU also has a role in determining health outside of its borders. Existing research analyses the impact of trade policy, in particular, upon tobacco control (Siles-Brügge 2019), health services (Koivusalo et al. 2021) and public health more broadly (Jarman and Koivusalo 2017). Beyond trade, there is a nascent literature on the ‘external dimension’ of EU health action (Hervey and McHale 2015) and how this determines access to medicines in third countries (Perehudoff et al. 2021).
  3. The EU legal order and institutional legitimacy. The question of legal competence and legitimacy is central to the PDoH. The treaties restrict the Union’s role in health, but their parameters are porous (Guy 2020). This flexibility allows for competence stretching which raises questions of legitimacy (Hervey and de Ruijter 2020) and effectiveness (Jarman 2018). Recently, this has led to the fast-paced extension of competences for institutions such as the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (Deruelle and Engeli 2021).

At the level of policy, the EU has struggled to act on the PDoH. Divergent understandings of the determinants of health have led to ‘lifestyle drift’, whereby policy starts out recognising the PDoH but soon drifts ‘downstream’ to focus on individuals’ lifestyle factors (Godziewski 2020). The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated health integration (Greer, de Ruijter and Brooks 2021) and presented an opportunity to reflect on the wider determinants of health in the EU. This workshop seeks to promote an understanding of the PDoH and support the political choice for health.