New European Parliament's subcommittee on public health agrees a priority on NCDs

The newly created European Parliament's sub-committee on public health (SANT), chaired by MEP Arlukowicz, has defined priorities for its mandate.

The committee will be developing an own-initiative report on chronic non-communicable diseases; and will convene a hearing on chronic disease prevention.

Other priorities of the committee include:

  • Own Initiative report on Joint Procurement of medicines
  • Own Initiative report on Mental Health
  • Implementation report on Nutrition and Health Claims Directive
  • Oral question to Commission on Anti-Microbial Resistance

ECDA welcomes the committee's decision and congratulates MEPs for making NCDs a priority of their work. ECDA will remain available to offer its expertise and support the work of the European Parliament to improve the response to chronic diseases in Europe.

European Parliament's COVI committee publishes draft report capturing impact of the pandemic in the area of chronic diseases

The European Parliament's COVI committee published its draft report on “COVID-19 pandemic: lessons learned and recommendations for the future”.

ECDA welcomes the report, which reflects on ways to ensure EU’s better preparedness for future crises and to strengthen health systems, giving particular consideration to the field of chronic diseases. Indeed the report captures the impact of the pandemic for patients with chronic diseases and introduces recommendations to improve health promotion and disease prevention in Europe as well as patients' care.

ECDA particularly welcomes the acknowledgement of the pandemic’s significant impact on chronic disease patients due to their vulnerability to developing severe health complications, higher hospitalisation and mortality rates, and challenges linked with delays and disruptions in care – in a dedicated section.

Collateral damage is expected to arise in the years to come, alongside long COVID and increased prevalence of chronic diseases, which will have important consequences for healthcare systems, if no changes are operated now – including greater investment in disease prevention, early detection and management. As outlined by the World Health Organisation, preventing and treating chronic diseases has benefits far beyond health – notably for economic growth.

Facilitating the collection of comparable data for chronic diseases in the EU with an integrated data collection system that would be synergistic with data collection related to health threats and infectious diseases and that would cover health economic data related to the diseases will be critical. 

Picture: European Parliament COVI website. 

Season's greetings

As the year 2022 draws to a close, we wish a Merry Christmas to all and nice end-of-year holidays. We look forward to pursuing work in 2023 with partners and colleagues, towards greater prevention and management of chronic diseases in Europe.

ECDA message for the Awareness Week for Alcohol Related Harm

This week marks Awareness Week for Alcohol Related Harm, under the theme “Alcohol: The right to Know!”. ECDA joins partner organisations in their urgent call to address the high level of alcohol consumption in Europe, and people’s right to know about the impact of alcohol intake on their health.

Alcohol is a major risk factor for chronic diseases. In the EU, approximately 268,000 deaths and almost 8 million DALYs attributable to alcohol consumption are related to chronic diseases. More information on the links between alcohol and each disease is available here.

Europe is also the region with the highest proportion of total ill health and premature deaths linked to alcohol. Young people are heavily impacted by the burden of alcohol-related diseases in Europe. Further, one fifth of the population aged 15 and above drink heavily at least once a week.

Greater EU support is necessary to prevent alcohol consumption. This would bring significant health, economic and societal benefits, and contribute to reducing the prevalence of major NCDs.

ECDA recommends:

  • Introducing warning labels on alcohol products with details on the risks associated with consumption at the EU level, as advised by WHO, considering that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
  • Ensuring the right of Europeans to know and be protected from misleading or highly promotional information. Stronger regulatory and policy action should be taken to tackle the exposure to alcohol marketing and advertising on broadcast media, digital media and through the sponsorship of events, particularly those aimed at young people. A mandatory, front-of-pack energy labelling and a mandatory ingredients list for all types of alcohol products should be introduced at EU level to inform and protect Europeans.
  • Reducing alcohol availability by setting up a harmonized and higher level of alcohol taxation across Europe. Taxation allows to decrease affordability of alcohol and is a proven cost-effective measure to reduce consumption of alcohol, while contributing to addressing health inequalities.

It's World Diabetes Day

Today marks the World Diabetes Day. In line with this year's theme "Education to Protect", ECDA supports awareness around major chronic non communicable diseases such as diabetes and calls on policymakers to increase access to health literacy, to improve the lives of the million people living with diabetes in Europe. We reiterate our call for improved prevention & management of chronic diseases like diabetes in Europe, which share common risk factors and clinical links. Diabetes that is undetected or inadequately treated can lead to serious complications and other chronic diseases. 

More information on World Diabetes Day can be found here.

ECDA welcomes plenary vote on the ECDC mandate extension

On the 4th of October, Members of the European Parliament adopted the provisional agreement reached by EU institutions to extend the mandate of the ECDC, a key element of the European Health Union. Such revised mandate will strengthen the role of the ECDC in supporting EU Member States in the prevention and control of infectious disease threats, and will help improve European preparedness and response ahead of future public health challenges.

The agreed text refers to the links between communicable and non-communicable diseases; and highlights the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had in the area. The text includes a new revision clause, under which the ECDC mandate should be re-evaluated by 2025, with the first evaluation examining "the feasibility of extending the mandate of the Centre to address the impact of cross-border threats to health on non-communicable diseases".

ECDA welcomes the endorsement of the extended ECDC mandate. Considering the important links between communicable and non-communicable diseases, data gaps in the area, learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for a more holistic approach to major health challenges in Europe, ECDA recommends that the evaluation be initiated before the end of this Commission's mandate. 

Image source: European Parliament audiovisual services.

ECDA message for World Heart Day

Cardiovascular diseases are clinically linked with other major chronic non communicable diseases. A holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to NCDs prevention and control is needed to address overlaps, complications and co-morbidities.
On World Heart Day, ECDA supports policy action for better cardiovascular health in the EU.
More information on World Heart Day here.

Supporting the Global Week for Action on NCDs in Europe

On 5-11 September, the chronic disease community marks the Global Week for Action on NCDs. The 2023 campaign focuses on financing for NCDs.

At European level, this week is an opportunity to celebrate the recent launch of the 'Healthier Together' EU NCDs initiative and its important focus on investment in the field of prevention and actions to address the common risk factors of chronic diseases.

  • The pandemic has exemplified the importance of investing in the prevention and management of chronic diseases, and health promotion measures to support a healthy population.
  • ECDA calls for the collection of comparable, harmonised and robust data on NCDs at EU level, in particular health economic data, which is vital to strengthen health systems to better respond to chronic diseases and inform policy decisions.
  • Screening and early detection followed by early action can help tackle disease progression and prevent or delay the onset of disease and life-threatening complications. ECDA reiterates the call for greater efforts to improve secondary prevention and take a holistic approach to chronic diseases considering the many clinical links they share.
  • Underlying social conditions and health inequalities can lead to disease onset and have long lasting effects on health. Strategies needs to take into consideration the specific needs of children and vulnerable groups who are disproportionally affected by chronic diseases and the impact of risk factors.

During the Global Week for Action on NCDs, ECDA encourage Members of the European Parliament, EU member states and the European Commission to show their support and commitment to greater action on chronic diseases.

More information on the week here.

Read ECDA position on the Healthier Together EU initiatives, including recommended priorities for action.

ECDA Endorses the Oslo Declaration to reduce alcohol-related harm

Alcohol-related harm is a major public health concern in the EU. The WHO European region has the highest level of consumption of alcoholic beverages, responsible for 1 in every 10 deaths annually, almost 1 million deaths in total.  

 Alcohol is a risk factor for many chronic diseases. Approximately 268,000 deaths and almost 8 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (years of life lost) attributable to alcohol consumption in the EU in 2019 are related to non-communicable diseases. 

Increased prevention efforts are vital to reverse the burden that alcohol consumption presents for our societies. ECDA welcomes the Oslo Declaration, which recognises these risks and calls for greater EU support in preventing alcohol consumption. It would bring significant health, economic and societal benefits, and is integral to managing and reducing the prevalence of major NCDs.  

 To reduce alcohol-related harm, the Oslo Declaration identifies seven policy recommendations: 

Read the Oslo Declaration: 

  1. National governments and the EU should regulate alcohol based on the WHO’s evidence-based Global Alcohol Action Plan to achieve its ambitious targets by 2030.
  2. National governments should cooperate to implement the evidence-based WHO Best Buys and SAFER recommendations, focussed on price, availability and marketing of alcohol.
  3. EU level regulation should reflect public support for mandatory ingredient, nutrition declaration and warning labels on alcohol products, so empowering properly informed consumer decisions.
  4. National governments and the EU should make sure that health policy-making processes are protected from alcohol industry interference.
  5. National governments should tax alcohol products related to alcohol content. This should be index-linked and increased regularly in line with economic and health indicators.
  6. National governments should restrict or ban the marketing exposure of alcohol products, particularly to young people and children and other vulnerable groups.
  7. Governments should recognise and support the pivotal role of civil society organisations in preventing and reducing alcohol harm.

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) welcomes the publication of this initiative, which we have encouraged since the 2011 Reflection Process on Chronic Diseases.

"It is a pleasure to see an ambitious, integrated plan come to life in Europe, as presented by the European Commission today”, comments Prof Raymond Vanholder, Acting Chairman. It could represent a radical progress in particular for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, mental health and neurological disorders, which are specifically covered with tailored plans.

Prevention is a key priority of the initiative, through a horizontal health determinants strand, and is embedded in the disease-specific strands which paves the way for positive change in the years ahead. The robust actions set out to address socio-economic determinants, including alcohol and tobacco use are welcome, in particular when it comes to protecting children and tackling health inequalities.

ECDA recommends that the following areas be further integrated into plans, to maximize the potential of ‘Healthier Together’:

  • Collection of comparable, robust data on NCDs at EU level–notably health economic data, to outline the cost effectiveness of prevention strategies and stimulate investment in the area –ensuring synergies and integration with European Health Data Space plans. Building an integrated EU NCD registry fully operational within the European Health Data Space by 2030, bringing together existing registries, data collection efforts and ongoing projects would be a major achievement for Europe and reflect further the EU added value of action in the field of health.
  • Support for targeted risk reduction strategies/primary prevention programmes that focus on co-occurring risk factors to impact multiple NCDs. With an ageing population and the rising prevalence of NCDs, it is important to focus efforts on preventing disease resulting from concomitant risk factors and addressing the impact of exposure to multiple risk factors on people’s health.
  • Enhancing awareness and education about NCDs and risk factors through intergenerational collaboration. There are examples of good practice in this area from France, which could be replicated at EU level, involving younger generations of health professionals.
  • Improving monitoring and early diagnosis of co-morbidities and complications in at-risk populations, using novel diagnostic tools. This should also include support for more harmonized screening strategies across Europe to detect early-on complications resulting from COVID-19 infection or ‘long’ COVID-19; which will come as a collateral damage of the pandemic and are expected to bring important challenges and costs for health systems.
  • Supporting more integrated, multi-disciplinary collaboration to prevent and manage co-morbidities, multi morbidity and complications –for instance by building NCD networks of excellence/European expertise networks, based on the model of the ERNs.
  • Including NCD management plans as part of crisis planning to ensure continuity of care–Healthier Together can be an opportunity to develop adaptable frameworks/approaches for member states to improve and/or setup crisis preparedness and management plans for healthcare systems to avoid future disruptions in NCD care delivery and be better equipped to respond to future crises –recognizing the specificities of national health care systems. These should also take stock of good practices identified in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans should include education and training modules for healthcare professionals; and may help create an “EU NCD specialists emergency reserve ”appropriately trained and ready to be deployed to provide care for people living with NCDs in any EU member state or neighboring country in crisis time of any nature (humanitarian crisis, war, pandemic, environmental disaster e.g earthquake, nuclear accidents etc).

ECDA is committed to working with the European Commission and all stakeholders to strengthen and implement ‘Healthier Together’, towards a chronic disease-free Europe that places attention on protecting our future generations from the detrimental impact of major, well known and mostly preventable risk factors; and that also anticipates “newer” health determinants, including environmental ones (exposome). Meanwhile, a “fit for the future” vision should be embraced, one that recognizes the need for holistic health approaches and integrated actions between the area of non-communicable diseases and other such as infectious diseases.

Other general ECDA recommendations:

  • Scope of ‘Healthier Together’:

- Add value to and/or include other chronic diseases (beyond major NCDs as defined by WHO), such as kidney, liver, gastro-intestinal diseases, allergy and auto-immune diseases

- Address the interlinks between chronic diseases (beyond disease-specific strands): disease-disease interactions, co-morbidities and complications

- Respond to the specific needs of certain population groups, including children and older populations (multi-morbid) as well as other vulnerable groups, with dedicated actions

  • Goals of ‘Healthier Together’:

- Reduce the prevalence of NCDs in Europe towards 2030 (not only mortality), with success indicators for the various age groups and at-risk populations; and better protect Europeans from co-morbidity

- Help achieve the UN SDGs targets for NCDs in Europe and exceed them, taking stock of the important learnings from COVID-19

“The priority areas of ‘Healthier Together’ are welcome, notably the focus on prevention and health determinants, and co-morbidities. They have the potential to bring a new impetus across Europe and change the lives of the millions living with a chronic disease, while protecting the general population and younger generations. ECDA supports the shift to a comprehensive and pragmatic EU approach to chronic diseases, which it has encouraged for many years. We remain committed to working with the European Commission and all relevant stakeholders towards a chronic disease-free Europe and making this initiative and its implementation one of Europe’s greatest achievements in public health” – Prof. Raymond Vanholder, Acting Chairman, ECDA

Read the full statement here

Picture: property of the European Commission