Open letter to Dr Von der Leyen, President-Elect of the European Commission: Cooperation and action in health

The European Chronic Disease Alliance sent a letter to Dr. Ursula Von der Leyen, President-Elect of the European Commission, to salute her commitments to climate action, to a full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and to the setup of a European plan against cancer, as defined in her political guidelines for the incoming Commission; and stress the importance of complementing these actions with dedicated policies addressing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as a whole.

The ECDA encourages the President-Elect to ensure that a considerable impetus is given to action in health, with a strategic approach embedding health considerations across sectors; and to improved prevention of NCDs.

The European Union has the means and the legal competence needed. This necessitates a composition and structure of the incoming European Commission that provides a dedicated “policy home” for health and political leadership. Health deserves political dedication from the highest levels.

The full letter is available here.


ECDA Statement on World No Tobacco Day 2019

Policy-making and public information should always stem from independent, evidence-based research

Smoking is the largest avoidable health risk in the EU and a major risk factor for chronic diseases such as cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney disease and hypertension. Despite ongoing efforts by policymakers, Europe has a high prevalence of tobacco use by adults (26% of the overall population) and young Europeans aged 15-24 (29% respectively).

Tobacco is responsible for nearly 700,000 premature deaths annually in the EU. In 2018, approximately 430 000 people died from lung cancer. Diseases of the respiratory system accounted for 8.5 % of all deaths in the EU in 2015. Tobacco consumption accounted for 3.6% of total COPD deaths in the European Region in 2017. Tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 17% of all cardiovascular deaths. Smoking also has a major economic impact on our societies.

Tobacco control and smoking cessation remain the most effective means to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 target 3.4 of a one-third reduction of premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) globally by 2030, in addition to combating the onset of chronic diseases. Further, a key target for Goal 3 is to “strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in all countries, as appropriate”. Indeed, full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is critical to addressing the negative downstream effects of tobacco use.

ECDA commends the progress made by the WHO and the EU in the areas of: plain packaging, mandatory combined health warnings on packs and the focus of the EU Health Award 2018 on initiatives to prevent tobacco use, the promotion of smoke-free environmental laws and prohibition of characterising flavours in certain products. However, efforts must be sustained to enhance a smoke-free environment that safeguards Europe’s citizens from chronic diseases caused by tobacco and attain the associated economic benefits.

Further, citizens should be informed of the consequences of using tobacco products and the effects on human health based on independent, scientific research findings.

To mark World No Tobacco Day 2019, the ECDA calls on all EU Member States and the European Commission to take the necessary measures to guarantee that independent research, which constitutes irrefutable evidence, is the basis of policy-making and used to inform consumers of the health effects of consumption of tobacco and tobacco-related products.

Read the full statement here.

Further facts and evidence for action

  • Europe has the highest rates of tobacco consumption of any WHO region globally.
  • Tobacco consumption in people aged 15-24 has increased 5% since 2014.
  • While avoidable, the health risks associated with tobacco consumption are the leading cause of premature death;  approximately 50% of European smokers die prematurely (on average 14 years earlier).
  • About 15% of the European population had tried e-cigarettes at least once in their life in 2017.

Immediate EU action on non-communicable diseases could help save almost 2 million lives by 2025

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA), the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the NCD Alliance publish a new joint paper “Towards an EU-Strategic Framework for the prevention of Non-communicable Diseases” concluding that a new EU-level strategic framework to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is needed to address the chronic diseases epidemic.

With 70% of respondents to a recent EU Barometer survey wanting to see more EU action on health and with epidemic levels of NCDs undermining people’s well-being, healthcare systems, and Europe’s economic and social prosperity, preventing NCDs should be a main priority for the next European Commission.

The report provides a series of basic principles, priorities and actions, setting out a roadmap for EU policy-makers to make change happen.

Core to the future Strategic Framework are a number of tangible actions, including:

  • Rolling out NCD prevention policies recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Designing EU financial instruments that support national investment in prevention
  • Pursuing ‘EU flagship initiatives’ in areas that can deliver co-benefits for NCD prevention and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Identifying and rectifying EU barriers to the implementation of national NCD prevention strategies
  • Establishing a pan-European system for data collection, policy evaluation and accountability
  • Ensuring thorough inter-institutional coordination on health and well-being

Download the full paper.

Download the summary version.

Read the Press Release


“Few issues are as close to people as their health. There is no doubt that the EU has the legal power to act to prevent non-communicable diseases, the 21st century’s foremost health threat. This paper presents the incoming European Commission with concrete ways to make change happen to promote people’s health and well-being. We hope they will have the courage to take action”

Freek Spinnewijn, President, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA).

“Disease prevention is a fundamental component of sustainable development, economic growth and a healthy society. As we are entering a new cycle of EU political leadership, an EU Strategic Framework for NCD Prevention would guide and articulate existing and future initiatives in the field, while being an additional concrete example of the EU added value in health”

Prof. Em. Raymond Vanholder, President, European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA).

ECDA statement on the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs

The ECDA has released a statement following the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs on the 27th of September in New York, welcoming the engagement of Heads of States and Governments from EU Member States, as well as the EU Health Commissioner who attended the meeting; but outlining the lack of ambition in the political declaration, with no reference to the WHO Best Buys and other recommended effective interventions to address chronic diseases, nor time-bound and measurable commitments from countries.

The ECDA calls on the Member States to capitalise on the exchanges and discussions to enhance action on chronic diseases, and accelerate progress at EU level; and on the European Commission to pursue efforts and invest further in health and the chronic disease challenge which impacts sustainable economic growth, healthcare systems and labour markets in Europe.

The full statement is available here.

Global Week for Action on NCDs | Our Health, Our Right, Right Now

The first Global Week for Action on NCDs - from Monday 3 September to Sunday 9 September 2018 - is a global opportunity to talk about non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and what needs to change to improve people's health.

The week is launched in light of the ENOUGH campaign initiated by the global NCD Alliance, building towards the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs on 27 September in New York.

NCDs In The EU 

  • Non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs) are responsible for 86% of all deaths in the WHO European Region.
  • EU countries spend nearly 10% of GDP on healthcare. Up to 80% of this spending goes towards the treatment of NCDs, amounting to around €700 billion per year. (source). 
  • In 2013, 550.000 people between the age of 25 and 64 died from NCDs in the EU. Deaths from NCDs represent a loss of €115 billion, or 0.8% of GDP per year for the EU economy (source).
  • People with NCDs suffer from reduced productivity, reduced employment, earlier retirement, and lower income, with major macro- and micro-economic consequences for work, economic development and prosperity. (source). 

One Action Per Day

There are 4 main preventable risk factors to NCDs: tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, and the harmful use of alcohol. Air pollution is also a leading contributor to NCDs.

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) and European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) highlight one effective action per day during the week that can tackle each risk factor:

'Enough: Now is the time for EU action on NCDs'

In light of the United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which will take place on 27 September in New York, ECDA and the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) have developed a set of recommendations with achievable steps to advance action on the prevention and control of NCDs in Europe.

The recommendations are addressed to the European Union institutions, and drawn to the attention of the Austrian Government, which will hold the EU Council Presidency at the time of the Meeting, and the Italian Government, co-facilitator of the Meeting. 

Read the paper here

Joint Civil Society Statement: HLM on NCDs must deliver bold commitments, action

Joining 190 organisations worldwide, ECDA calls for bolder commitments and action to address chronic diseases at global level and in the EU.

We welcome the report of the WHO Independent High-Level Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases - notably the call for high-level ownership of national NCD responses from Prime Ministers and Presidents - but outline recommendations for the Third UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on NCDs to be a true turning point in the response to chronic diseases. In particular:

  • Put people first and meaningfully involve people living with NCDs and young people
  • Call out the commercial determinants of health as a major obstacle to progress
  • Adopt a comprehensive approach to sugar, tobacco and alcohol taxes (STAX)
  • Tackle the NCD risk factors in a comprehensive manner
  • Maintain a balanced approach to prevention and treatment in the NCD response

Civil society is ready to work with WHO and governments in the lead up to the UN HLM and beyond to build on these recommendations and set the bar higher for people at risk of and living with NCDs worldwide.

ECDA especially looks forward to the opportunity to work further with the European Union institutions to this aim and ensure a leading contribution of the EU to the UN HLM. 

Read the full statement here

Towards the SDGs: What place for chronic diseases in the EU agenda post 2019?

Hosted by MEP Karin Kadenbach (S&D, Austria), MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, Finland) and MEP Daciana Sârbu (S&D, Romania)

The event gathered the health and non-health sectors to discuss EU action on chronic diseases and how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of the UN High-Level meeting on NCDs taking place in September 2018 and the changing EU leadership in 2019.

It launched a Manifesto for the recognition of health as an objective in its own right in the European Commission 2019-2024 strategy, with specific objectives on chronic diseases and targeted investment to deliver on the UN SDGs.

The programme of the meeting is available here.

Read the post-event communication here and the summary event report here.

For more information, please email at

Europe’s health deserves the EU’s attention: Investing in chronic disease prevention and management

Several MEPs joined by the European Chronic Disease Alliance launched a manifesto calling on the European Commission to recognise health as an objective in its own right in its 2019-2024 strategy, with specific targets on chronic diseases; and to allocate the necessary human and financial resources and scale up related investment to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The manifesto outlines four priority actions to deliver on the SDGs in the EU and to ensure robust, effective and innovative EU leadership in health.

It is currently supported by: Ms Karin Kadenbach MEP, Ms Kateřina Konečná MEP, Mr Aldo Patriciello MEP, Mr Alojz Peterle MEP, Ms Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Ms Daciana Sârbu MEP, the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA), the European Association Working for Carers (Eurocarers) and the MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Group.

For more information on the recommendations, please refer to the background document here.

To support the manifesto, please contact the ECDA Secretariat at:

Setting up a sub-group on Health and Social Policy within the Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the Implementation of the SDGs

The ECDA sent a letter to Commission First-Vice President Timmermans ahead of the Management Committee meeting of the Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) on the implementation of the SDGs (14th of March) to stress how important it is that the sixth Reflection Paper "Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030" addresses the challenges that the EU and its Member States face because of the large and increasing burden of chronic diseases.

To ensure effective attention to this challenge, the ECDA suggests the creation of a “horizontal” sub-group on Health and Social Policy, which would go to the very heart of ‘Better Regulation’, ensuring a coherent and streamlined policy development and echoing EU citizens’ call for more European-level decision-making in dealing with health and social security issues.

The letter can be read here.