The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted failures to implement the European Union treaty provision to safeguard the well-being of its citizens (see go.nature.com/35kxn3c). European leaders have now announced plans to reform EU public-health systems through a 750-billion (US$886-billion) coronavirus recovery package (go.nature.com/3obozab).
In our view, the reforms would best be served by a transdisciplinary strategy that addresses individual, local, regional and global needs. A Europe-wide National Reference Centre for infectious diseases that have epidemic potential should be set up and incorporated into national health -protection plans.
Initiatives would include epidemiological surveillance and early-alert systems; cooperation between national and international public-health bodies; dissemination of technical guidance and clinical protocols for disease management; coordination of research; increased laboratory capacity for rapid identification of new pathogens; and trained public-health officials ready to implement large-scale testing, contact tracing and quarantine measures.
Such programmes would need to work with the proposed EU agency for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (see go.nature.com/3m5jfis).