Text Box: Child-friendly health care

Child-friendly health care

The problem

Access to quality health care for children in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe is far from being guaranteed. In times of economic crisis, health care and social services budgets are the first to be cut. The most vulnerable groups in society, such as children, are the most affected. Investment in healthcare adapted to children’s needs ensures better outcomes for their entire lifespan and reduces the burden on health and welfare systems in the future.

There had been a substantial change in the epidemiology of conditions experienced by children in the last 50 years. Of particular concern are three issues: the lack of participation of children and young people in decisions affecting them both individually and collectively, inadequate investment in prevention in comparison to intervention and the inability of services to implement what works, to learn and continually improve.

The Council of Europe’s role

Children’s rights are central to the mission of the Council of Europe. A specific programme, “Building a Europe for and with children”, promotes children’s rights across the member states, covering topics such as sexual exploitation, corporal punishment and children in residential institutions. Child-friendly health care adds a health dimension to the programme, which already has developed standards on child friendly justice and child friendly social services.

The Council of Europe also strives develop an ethical European health policy by:

·         Combining the human rights, social cohesion and health agendas;

·         Harmonizing member states’ health policies in terms of safety and quality;

·         Developing preventive medicine and health education;

·         Promoting patients’ rights, access to health care, citizen participation and protection for vulnerable groups.

What the Council of Europe is doing

Work on child-friendly healthcare began in 2009. The results are a set of policy guidelines on child-friendly healthcare (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 21 September 2011) and a survey of the children’s opinions and experiences with health care.


Child-friendly health care takes into account the child’s age and level of development, maturity and understanding, respecting the child’s family and lifestyle context. Services are designed around children and their families, going beyond the health sector to include education and social care services.

There are five principles behind the child-friendly approach to health care:

  • Promotion of health and resilience through healthy lifestyles;
  • Increased participation of children and their families: the opinion of the child should be regarded as an increasingly determining factor in proportion to their age and capacity for discernment;
  • Protection of health from exposure to hazards in all forms: Environmental, social, or economic;
  • Preventing development of disease, focusing not only on disease development but also the study of health creation;
  • Provision of high quality health care that improves health and reduces inequalities.

The implementation of child-friendly health policies should take place at three levels:

Policy and planning level, service delivery level and at the individual level.

During the 9th Council of Europe Conference of Health Ministers, held in Lisbon in September 2011, commitment to the principles of child-friendly health care was reiterated.

Contact: Council of Europe Press Service
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60

pressunit@coe.int; www.coe.int                                                                                Updated: 7 November  2011