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


  • 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.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan provides hope for chronic disease prevention

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) welcomes the prevention pillar of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, published on 3rd February 2021, that places prevention at the heart of the EU’s fight against cancer and other chronic diseases.

ECDA supports the targets and measures set out in the plan, which are expected to significantly help to improve the health of all EU citizens. Goals for a tobacco-free generation, and commitment to action in the areas of food and alcohol labelling are much required. Together they have the potential to unlock enormous progress in Europe’s agenda of disease prevention and should be implemented swiftly.

Cancer and co-morbidities present a significant challenge across Europe. In 2020, 2.7 million EU citizens were diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million died from it, accounting for the second cause of death in the EU after cardiovascular diseases.

In a statement published today on the occasion of the World Cancer Day, the Alliance particularly emphasizes the importance of:

  • Prevention: a crucial pillar that can have a far-reaching impact
  • Harnessing the benefits of early detection and diagnosis
  • Systemizing multidisciplinary and integrated care for better health outcomes
  • Supporting an improved quality of life for patients and their families

It is ECDA’s view that the plan in its current form is a strong basis to successfully improve the prevention and control of cancer and other chronic diseases in Europe.

While the plan is focused on the response to cancer, ECDA encourages the European Commission and policymakers to keep an inclusive mindset in the implementation and roll out of the plan, in order to maximise its benefits and impact in other disease areas. This will be particularly crucial for all proposed actions and initiatives that are linked to or have consequences on cancer co-morbidities – in all sections of the plan.

ECDA remains committed to supporting the implementation of the plan - in particular the prevention pillar - in cooperation with other stakeholders; and re-emphasizes that it will be important to monitor and track the implementation of the flagship initiatives and supportive actions set out in it.

Read the full statement of the ECDA here.

Food labelling - ECDA's response to the Commission's consultation

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) welcomes the opportunity to provide input on the Commission’s inception impact assessment on an EU system on front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labelling, envisioned as a cornerstone of consumers’ understanding of the nutritional value of foods as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy. Such a scheme should fully promote and safeguard public health in Europe.

To successfully do so, ECDA recommends that the EU-level system be mandatory for all EU member states, interpretative and uniform.

Read the ECDA's full response here.

EU institutions reach a deal on the EU4Health Programme

ECDA welcomes the news of a deal on the EU4Health programme, with a priority on disease prevention and at least 20% of the budget reserved for health promotion and disease prevention by addressing risk factors such as tobacco consumption and the harmful use of alcohol. This is a major step forward in protecting citizens from the rising prevalence of chronic diseases in Europe.

It is ECDA's understanding that the deal also includes the reinforcement of the mandate and capacity of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the extension of the European Reference Networks (ERNs) to non-communicable diseases and many other actions that will allow to better prevent and control chronic diseases in the EU. Further, strengthened involvement of civil society in the development of annual work programmes will ensure greater synergies between actions and Europeans/patients’ needs.

We encourage EU institutions to rapidly adopt the final text in order for the programme to start in 2021 and to continue to embed chronic diseases within EU and national COVID-19 recovery plans.

More information:

How do health systems meet the challenge of managing chronic diseases during COVID-19 and beyond?

In an article published  on 18th of November in Friends of Europe "Europe's World" series on health, ECDA Chairman Prof. Vanholder shares perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on chronic disease prevention and care, and outlines recommendations to strengthen healthcare systems in the area.

Read the article here.

Extending the mandate of the ECDC to cover non-communicable diseases

The Commission’s legislative proposal to extend the mandate of the ECDC is expected on 11 November.

The European Chronic Disease Alliance recommends the extension of the mandate to chronic diseases, in alignment with the Parliament’s resolution on the “EU’s public health strategy post COVID-19” adopted in July 2020 and the conclusions of the independent external evaluation of the ECDC in 2019.

The evaluation highlighted that the “opportunities stemming from an extension of the mandate to the non-communicable diseases are related to the expected increased sustainability and efficiency of EU-level activities in these areas and the potential for link and synergies with ECDC’s communicable diseases related work, that could also encourage more integration at national level”. The COVID-19 crisis further amplifies how relevant this conclusion is.

There is a critical lack of comparable data and guidance to Member States in the area, responsibilities which ECDC is naturally well placed to take up notably due to its renown expertise, experience and pre-established networks amongst national public health authorities.

ECDA hopes that consideration is given to this recommendation in the context of the Council Working Party on Public Health meeting taking place on the 29th of October to discuss draft Council Conclusions on COVID-19 lessons learned in health; and while the Commission introduces a COVID-19 health response package.

Read the full paper here.

This paper is supported by MEPs Kateřina Konečná (Czechia, GUE/NGL) and Brando Benifei (Italy, S&D). 

CHRODIS Plus WP 8: Workbox on employment & chronic diseases

The CHRODIS Plus Joint Action (2017-2020) has come to an end, after 3 years of intense work.

Outcomes of the Joint Action are available here. The overarching conclusions & recommendations to integrate NCD good practices into national policies can be found here.

The Work Package 8 on employment & chronic diseases has produced a workbox composed of:

  • a training tool for managers promoting inclusiveness of people with chronic diseases at work
  • a toolkit for workplaces offering 127 means to foster employees’ wellbeing

The materials are available in 10 languages.

In this Work Package, 18 partners from 11 EU countries worked together to develop and pilot the workbox, which provides ideas and tools to: measure, evaluate and strengthen the inclusiveness of workplaces and the work ability of employees with chronic conditions; foster wellbeing, health, and work ability of all employees; prevent the development of chronic diseases; support employees to return to work after a sick leave; and help individuals with chronic health conditions to stay at work.

Further, policy recommendations will be available by the end of the year.

An overview of the work carried out by the Work Package is provided in the summary video here.

Why are these deliverables so important? 

  • Over 1 in 4 employees in Europe report suffering from a long-standing illness or health problem (2018 data)
  • Fostering employees’ wellbeing, health, and work participation benefits individuals, employers and the society as a whole

ECDA contributed to the Work Package 8. Hear the audio message from ECDA Chairman Prof Vanholder on the outputs of this collaboration.

Open Letter to AGRIFISH Council - Front of Pack Nutrition labelling

Call for a mandatory EU-wide Front of Pack nutrition labelling system with a public health mindset

On the occasion of World Food Day, as the European Commission's conference on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy is ongoing, and ahead of the next AGRIFISH Council, ECDA together with four other health organisations and several MEPs issue an open letter to Ministers responsible for Agriculture to express their support for the adoption of a harmonised, interpretative and mandatory EU front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labelling system and ask Ministers to put public health perspectives above trade considerations or regional/local business preferences.

Indeed, public health is the very reason for the Commission’s decision to put forward a proposal by end 2022. The Commission states in the Farm to Fork Strategy that it will propose such a scheme “to enable consumers to make health conscious food choices”. 

The letter follows the publication of a “non-paper” submitted in September by seven member states, for consideration by the Council, that raises serious concerns from a health perspective.

The signatories outline the following principles:

  • The future FOP labelling system should be mandatory for all EU member states
  • Interpretative FOP labels appear to be preferred to FOP informative labels
  • Exemptions will undermine the aim of the system to be implemented uniformly and consistently
  • Uniform reference values (e.g. per 100g or ml) should be indicated for all products
  • A thorough FOP labelling policy monitoring and evaluation programme should be put in place

The full letter is available here

Co-signatories: MEP Biljana Borzan, MEP Sarah Wiener, European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA), European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS), European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), European Public Health Association (EUPHA), European Patients Forum (EPF)