ECDA stands united with Ukraine and calls for protection and continuity of care for Ukrainians

The European Chronic Disease Alliance strongly condemns the military invasion of Ukraine, expresses its stunning shock at the suffering being imposed upon innocent people, and is appalled by the violent attacks taking place against healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals. We stand together and in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Whilst only the Government of Russia can bring an end to the violence, we in Europe must do all we can to help the needs of those in Ukraine or fleeing Ukraine for safety, including those with medical needs associated to chronic disease. ECDA encourages the European Union and other international bodies to pursue ongoing efforts to help protect civilians in Ukraine, refugees fleeing the war, medical staff working on the ground to help those with vital needs as well as other healthcare professionals and humanitarian teams providing support in neighboring countries.
The most vulnerable require coordinated medical relief and services, especially as Ukrainian refugees pass into neighboring countries. ECDA would like to stress the importance of:

  • addressing shortages of medicines to Ukraine and surrounding countries
  • supporting patients’ access to information in their own language about how to maintain their treatment during this time and/or access specialists to receive care and/or participate in clinical trials
  • removing barriers to the export of medical aid to Ukraine
  • putting in place effective screening procedures at border crossings to identify those requiring assistance with their medical treatment
  • setting up mechanisms to assist health systems in neighbouring countries to gain better access to the medical records and clinical history of Ukrainians seeking safety outside their country
  • addressing the psycho-social needs of all Ukrainians leaving the country, including those requiring medical assistance

ECDA members have provided support so far through donation funds, the creation of Ukrainian language resources for those living with chronic diseases and the set-up of support networks. They will continue to provide assistance and help as the situation evolves.

A united international front must be retained to bring all pressure to bear on Russia to end the invasion; and offer protection in the best possible way to people in need during this time. We stand with Ukraine.


Update of the recommendation on cancer screening: ECDA position

ECDA fully supports the update of the 2003 guidance, which should allow to improve the early detection of cancer and potential complications across Europe; and support implementation of screening guidelines and cost-effective and evidence-based solutions for early diagnosis.

Improvements in cancer screening and diagnosis are critical to effectively enhance cancer management and survival in Europe; and prevent or address early-on cancer co-morbidities as well as cancer-related complications, which present a significant challenge.

Extension of screening to other types of cancer

The update of the recommendations and extension of screening to other types of cancer should be based on new, solid scientific evidence and good practice screening policies in Europe. The 2020 WHO report on cancer provides related guidance. ECDA supports the extension of screening notably to liver, lung and gastric cancer.

  • Liver cancer is the sixth-most common cancer and the third-most frequent cause of cancer-related death globally. Detection of liver cancer at an early stage could reduce mortality to a maximum of 5 years of life lost relative to the general population. Chronic liver diseases caused by viral hepatitis, alcohol or fatty liver disease are the most important risk factors for developing liver cancer. Extending the Recommendation to liver cancer for high-risk population groups living with chronic liver diseases makes sense and is endorsed by all clinical stakeholders. These patients are identifiable, have a high risk of liver cancer, and can be offered curative treatment if their liver cancer is diagnosed early. Furthermore, liver cancer detection tools are easily available and affordable.
  • Concerning lung cancer, there is compelling international scientific evidence demonstrating that Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) for lung cancer screening is effective, beneficial and feasible. More specifically, evidence shows that national screening programs using LDCT in asymptomatic high-risk Europeans could detect cancer at an early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful. Such screening programmes would save lives and improve the survival and quality of life of Europeans. In addition, LDCT for lung cancer screening satisfies all the criteria on the introduction of screening set out in point 6 of the current Council recommendations on cancer screening and is in accord with the WHO principles of early disease detection.
  • As for gastric cancer, although rates are lower in Europe and tend to decline, around 136,000 Europeans are diagnosed with gastric cancer every year. Approximately 90% of all gastric cancers are related to H. pylori infection. According to latest studies around 40% reduction in mortality is achieved by eradicating H. pylori among healthy individuals. Well-designed H.pylori screen and treat implementation strategies should be recommended with thorough monitoring and outcome data collection. Population-based screening for H. pylori does not seem appropriate for all European countries. However, it should be considered in the countries with higher incidence of gastric cancer and in all other countries in the individuals considered at increased risk for gastric cancer.

Improving participation in screening

The initiative should help improve the participation to screening programmes. Harmonisation of protocols and research on finding the most appropriate target populations would be very beneficial.

Taking a bold vision on cancer screening

Further, other major chronic diseases can be risk factors for certain types of cancer, or enhance disease progression. The interactions between cancer and other chronic diseases require to establish protocols for the screening and management of complications on the long term, as these may occur only after several years in patients. The earlier detection and state-of-the-art management of other major chronic diseases that cause cancer should be integral to strategies to detect and control cancer.

ECDA's response to the public consultation on the update of the cancer screening recommendations is available here.

 


Joint call to MEPs to protect the strength of the BECA report during plenary vote

On the occasion of World Cancer Day and ahead of the plenary vote on the report developed by the BECA committee expected on 15 February, eleven European health organisations call on MEPs to adopt the report with no weakening of its recommendations on cancer prevention

In a joint letter initiated by ECDA, the organisations express again their continued support to the report of the special committee on “Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer” and ask MEPs to adopt it without compromising its content.

It is of long-term importance that the report maintain its level of ambition and strong language, in particular when it comes to the main, well-known and preventable risk factors of cancer and other major chronic diseases.

Every year in Europe, millions of deaths and lost years of "healthy" life are attributable to alcohol consumption, tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and air pollution, responsible for cancer and other major chronic diseases. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption, exposure to tobacco, nor to poor air quality. It is our shared duty to put in place all measures to ensure that our current and future generations are protected from the dramatic impact of these modifiable risk factors, which present a considerable health and economic challenge; and underlie health inequalities.

One of the key learnings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it is high time to efficiently promote and protect public health; and put Europeans’ health and wellbeing first and above commercial interests.

Health is a fundamental right embedded in the EU treaties, specifically in article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and a collective responsibility within the European Union. It is the backbone of strong and sustainable economies and societies.

The promise of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan to reduce suffering caused by cancer and other chronic diseases - including cancer co-morbidities and complications - must not be compromised.

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Co-signatories:

  • Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS)
  • Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)
  • European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare)
  • European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA)
  • European Institute of Women's Health (EIWH)
  • European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)
  • European Public Health Association (EUPHA)
  • EuroHealthNet
  • Oral Health Foundation
  • Smoke Free Partnership
  • Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE)

ECDA statement on the new EU NCDs Initiative

A bold move to address one of Europe’s biggest health challenges 

ECDA statement on the new EU NCDs Initiative

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) welcomes the announcement by the European Commission of a new strategic approach to address major non-communicable diseases in Europe in a systematic and ambitious way, which includes a focus on health promotion and disease prevention.

Chronic diseases represent a major health challenge across Europe, in every EU country. Their high prevalence has continued to exponentially grow over the past decades, fueled by under-investment in the area of prevention. It is expected to keep growing as a result of an ageing population and increased exposure to the well-known major risk factors and ‘newer’ determinants, without proper political and financial attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant, unprecedented impact on patients with chronic diseases, while it also affects people without any pre-existing conditions, resulting in the onset of chronic diseases and complications. It has underscored the clinical links between communicable and non-communicable diseases; and the need for holistic responses. In the current situation, a longer term collateral damage at individual, public health and socio-economic levels is no longer questioned. This “syndemic” has further exacerbated the importance of stepping up the prevention and control of chronic diseases and the need for significant commitment in the area with comprehensive strategies.

Against this background and building on the EU4Health programme, the European Commission’s new vision to improve the response to chronic diseases is much welcome. The co-creation element will ensure that the expertise of the medical profession, patients and all other crucial experts helps define a strong and robust roadmap, expected in June 2022. The priority areas identified by the European Commission encompass the key areas of knowledge & data, health promotion and disease prevention including screening, diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life for patients. They have the potential to bring a new impetus across Europe to change the lives of the millions living with a chronic disease while protecting the rest of the population and younger generations.

For this initiative to be successful, the following aspects warrant consideration:

  • an inclusive approach that goes beyond traditional siloes, addressing the interlinks between chronic diseases and fostering integrated, multidisciplinary care
  • emphasis on the specific needs of children with dedicated actions
  • prioritising health economic data collection and analysis efforts, to provide comparable evidence that can inform policymaking at all levels
  • a bold vision and inclusive mindset to add value to other chronic diseases, such as kidney, liver, gastro-intestinal diseases, allergy and auto-immune diseases and the many more

ECDA supports the shift to a comprehensive, structured and pragmatic approach on chronic diseases, which it has favoured since its inception and further encouraged during the 2011 EU Reflection Process. ECDA will remain committed to work with the European Commission and all relevant stakeholders towards a chronic disease-free Europe and making this new initiative and its implementation one of Europe’s greatest achievements in the field of public health.

The full statement is available here.


New European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health

The European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health (EACH) was launched on 27 September, in the lead up to the 2021 World Heart Day, celebrated on 29 September.

It aims to promote better cardiovascular health for European citizens and calls on the EU for an ambitious plan to address the impact on the diseases.

The Alliance brings together 15 health organisations committed to improving cardiovascular health, amongst which ECDA.

For more information, please visit: https://www.cardiovascular-alliance.eu/


Joint statement on the new WHO Air Quality Guidelines

To protect public health and the environment from the harmful effects of air pollution, ECDA joined forces with our member the European Respiratory Society in calling on policymakers to engage with the new WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines 2021 and implement ambitious clean air policies without delay.

In a new statement released on 22 September, over 100 organisations - representing public health experts, specialist healthcare professionals and patients - highlight their support for the recently published Guidelines and call on countries to use them as a guide for effective air quality and emission reduction policies around the world.

In particular, to:

  • Revise clean air legislation to lower the limit values for PM2.5 and NO2 in air pollution hot spots and align them closely with the WHO AQGs 2021.
  • Combine fixed limit values with binding policies for a continuous reduction of the average pollution levels in all places, and not only in pollution hot spots, to achieve progressive lowering of exposures of the entire population.
  • Invest, implement, and effectively monitor and enforce clean air policies to protect and improve public health and feed into efforts for climate neutrality.

Air pollution is a major cause of mortality and disability in the EU and globally. It is linked to major chronic diseases including lung and heart diseases, diabetes, cancer; as well as infant mortality, and emerging evidence points to harmful effects on pregnancy, cognitive development in children, dementia and mental health, as well as an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

There is no safe level of air pollution, as evidence has shown there are harms to human health even at the lowest observable levels of exposure.

Read the full joint statement here.


Global Week for Action on NCDs

This week marks the Global Week for Action on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), taking place from 6-12 of September.

This year, the campaign celebrates the power of communities to act together on NCDs and drive change.

ECDA joins this effort to raise awareness of the importance of acting to prevent and manage major chronic diseases at European level. In the context of the shaping of the Europe’s Beating Cancer plan, the EU4Health programme, Farm to Fork strategy, and many other initiatives, the Week takes an even greater significance.

More information on the campaign here.

For more details on ECDA's actions during the week, please follow our Twitter channel @EU_CDA11.


Implementing Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan means turning goals for improved chronic disease prevention into reality

Today, on the occasion of the last day of the European Week Against Cancer and the World No Tobacco Day, the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) issues a statement on the implementation of the Europe’s Beating Cancer plan and prevention measures.

The statement emphasises the importance of realising the preventive actions set out in the Plan without delay – to protect millions of Europeans from cancer and other major chronic diseases that share common risk factors. Prevention is central to protecting and improving people’s health and well-being. It is also the most cost-effective way of addressing the growing prevalence of chronic diseases in the EU.

Helping Europeans ‘Commit to Quit’: The EU should strive for reaching the ambition of less than 5% of the EU population using tobacco by 2040. Further, robust EU legislation that enhances tobacco control, but also addresses novel tobacco and emerging products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products; and ensures proper enforcement at national level is essential. The review of the EU Tobacco Products Directive is a unique opportunity to embed provisions in that regard.

Reducing alcohol consumption in the EU: Notably, new mandatory requirements for alcoholic beverages (set out in the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan) to indicate the list of ingredients, and provide nutrition declarations and health information labelling, should be implemented in full and without dilution.  The introduction of excise taxes and other pricing policies, such as Minimum Unit Pricing, is needed to decrease the affordability of alcohol. Increased harmonisation of these rules throughout EU countries should be promoted.

Protecting Europe’s current and future generations: stronger regulatory policy action to tackle the exposure to marketing and advertising of unhealthy food products and drinks is needed on broadcast media, digital media and through the sponsorship of events, particularly those aimed at young people. This should go hand-in-hand with addressing cross border sales challenges and enforcing mandatory harmonised labelling with evidence-based easy-to-understand information.

Implementing the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan means working in collaboration with all relevant actors within and beyond the cancer community, to maximise the benefits and impact of the Plan in other disease areas and co-morbidities.

Read the full statement here.


Extending the mandate of the ECDC towards an integrated public health approach: Joint letter from health organisations

Organisations from across the health spectrum call on the EU Council to extend the mandate of the EU agency to other areas of public health, as a response to the learnings of the COVID-19 pandemic and a forward-looking approach to improving public health in Europe that enhances multidisciplinary collaboration.

In a letter published today, a group of organisations (representing patients, healthcare professionals and medical societies, industry, public institutes and broader health advocacy groups) calls on the Council to consider the expansion of the mandate of the ECDC to other areas of public health that are linked to the current mission of the Centre, notably to cover the interconnections between communicable and non-communicable diseases. The letter is issued ahead of the Council Working Party on pharmaceuticals and medical devices that will discuss the Commission’s proposal to strengthen the Agency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted how interconnected disease areas are and how dismantling silos in healthcare leads to better results.

If Europe is to focus on greater strategic autonomy and be a geopolitical force that remains the healthiest region of the world - yet burdened by large health inequalities, it needs an excellent Centre for preventing and controlling diseases, a more effective ECDC that is all inclusive and that can collect and present information that is decisive for national health authorities, policymakers as well as healthcare professionals and the broader medical and scientific community.

To truly safeguard the health of Europeans, there is a need for an integrated approach to health challenges and threats.

The potential of increasing ECDC’s scope of work to other areas of public health has been highlighted in the 2019 independent evaluation of the Centre. The European Parliament further asked in a resolution of July 2020 that ECDC be empowered to tackle the gaps in chronic disease epidemiology.

The ongoing revision of the ECDC mandate is a unique opportunity to act change. It is time to break siloes, both across medical disciplines and with regards to EU vs national efforts, in order to increase sustainability and efficiency of EU-level activities while protecting public health in Europe.

Read the joint letter here

Co-signatories:

  • All.Can
  • BioMed Alliance
  • European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA)
  • EU4Health Civil Society Alliance
  • EU Health Coalition
  • European Health Union Initiative
  • EuroHealthNet
  • European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)
  • European Public Health Association (EUPHA)
  • European Diabetes Forum (EUDF) 
  • Self Care In Europe (SCiE)
  • Senior International Health Association (SIHA)

Making chronic disease prevention matter in Europe – ECDA’s statement ahead of the European Parliament's vote on the EU4Health programme

Prevention is a priority in the EU4Health programme, as it should be. ECDA calls on the European Parliament to adopt the provisional agreement of December 2020 to ensure that the Programme can rapidly assume its mission of further preventing diseases and promoting health in Europe.

The ECDA welcomes the inclusion of prevention as a priority, with at least 20% of the budget reserved for health promotion and disease prevention by addressing risk factors such as tobacco use and harmful alcohol consumption. As the burden of chronic diseases continues to rise and prevention remains the most cost-effective way of reducing premature mortality and DALYs, this decision should bring long-lasting benefits across the EU.

According to ECDA Chairman Prof. Vanholder, “Chronic diseases share common preventable risk factors. The priority on prevention in the EU4Health deal is a landmark step towards a healthier and more sustainable Europe. The multifaceted impact of chronic diseases on the EU’s population, societies and economies require that policymakers adopt robust measures and budgets. We welcome this strong commitment to improving the response to chronic diseases, while building more resilient healthcare systems”.

There is no single EU Member State which is not affected by the challenge of chronic diseases. The EU4Health programme will allow the EU to support efforts in a coordinated way while responding to specific needs.

While the EU4Health programme is part of the EU's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deal illustrates the fact that the WHO's recommendation to stimulate chronic disease prevention and control as part of COVID-19 recovery and investment plans is acted upon at EU level.

Find the full statement here.