Negotiators from the Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on new measures to ensure air quality

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) applauds the agreement between negotiators from the European Parliament and Council on new measures to ensure air quality in the EU is not harmful to human health, natural ecosystems, and biodiversity. With the aim to eliminate air pollution by 2050, this agreement marks a significant step towards ensuring a cleaner and healthier future for all Europeans.

The new rules set stricter 2030 limits and target values for several pollutants, including particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulphur dioxide (SO2), compared to current regulations. Notably, for the two pollutants with the highest documented impact on human health, PM2.5 and NO2, the annual limit values are to be more than halved from 25 µg/m³ to 10 µg/m³ and from 40 µg/m³ to 20 µg/m³, respectively.

This move comes at a crucial time as air pollution continues to pose a severe threat to public health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe region, an alarming 90% of deaths due to environmental factors, totaling 630,000 fatalities, result from NCDs.

The detrimental effects of air pollution extend to our younger generations, with more than 1,200 children and teenagers per year in Europe falling victim to its deadly consequences. Moreover, exposure to air pollution significantly increases the risk of disease later in life, highlighting the urgent need for action to mitigate its impact.

ECDA strongly recommends the smooth adoption by the European Parliament and Council of this agreement. By implementing these measures, we can safeguard the health and well-being of current and future generations and pave the way towards a cleaner and healthier Europe.


MEPs adopt the SANT report on NCDs

We are pleased to welcome the adoption of the Committee on Public Health’s (SANT) report on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at the plenary on 13/12. The report holds promise in advancing public health and effectively addressing NCDs, aligning with our shared commitment to enhancing chronic disease prevention and management in the EU.

We appreciate the report's acknowledgment of the significant impact and challenges presented by NCDs in the EU, particularly its emphasis on the necessity to prevent and decrease their prevalence. Among the numerous valuable recommendations, ECDA firmly supports the proposal for an EU-wide comprehensive strategy on NCDs, reinforced by disease-specific plans or measures. Commendably, the report underscores the importance of focusing on health economics and improving data collection on NCDs.

We urge the Parliament to maintain its robust stance against modifiable common risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, as well as environmental risks. We further encourage continued advocacy for stronger policies in addressing these factors, which significantly contribute to the burden of NCDs.

This Parliament report can serve as a roadmap for future EU action in this field and ECDA is committed to actively supporting the implementation of the report's recommendations to ensure the effective execution of strategies aimed at tackling NCDs within the EU.

 


Celebrating AWARH2023, Addressing the Impact of Alcohol on Chronic Diseases

Alcohol consumption continues to have significant impacts on Europeans’ health and lives, and societies. It is a major risk factor for chronic diseases and deeply linked to social inequalities. Despite strong evidence on the health risks associated with any level of alcohol use, Europe continues to have the highest global alcohol consumption. ECDA joins this year’s Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm (AWRAH) to continue advocating for positive change through robust EU policy action, to prevent and save lives.

AWRAH23’s theme, "Alcohol: The Right to Know," emphasises the importance of giving citizens all the means to be aware and educated about the impact of alcohol consumption on their health and wellbeing, in order to be able to make informed decisions.

Nearly 268,000 deaths and 8 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) in the EU in 2019 were attributable to alcohol-related chronic diseases. ECDA supports the European Commission's objective of achieving a 10% reduction in harmful alcohol consumption by 2025. To reach this goal, ECDA recommends:

  1. Mandatory Nutrition Labelling: ECDA supports mandatory ingredient labelling on all alcohol products. This empowers individuals with essential information.
  2. Implementing Preventive Measures: Advocating for preventive measures, including health warnings on alcohol labels, is critical. These warnings play a crucial role in raising awareness about the link between alcohol consumption and health, and the associated risks.
  3. Enforcing Effective Policies: The implementation of impactful policies, evidenced-based and supported by WHO, such as minimum unit pricing (MUP) and harmonisation of alcohol taxation is essential. These policies aim to discourage excessive alcohol consumption and can alleviate the significant burden of chronic diseases associated with alcohol use.
  4. Addressing Alcohol Marketing: Stricter regulations on alcohol marketing targeting youth and minors are crucial, including restrictions on advertising and sponsorships, particularly at events aimed at younger audiences. Protecting current and future generations and giving young people the opportunity to live in a health-conducive environment is a political responsibility.

 


European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology

The European Chronic Disease Alliance welcomes EULAR as a new member

The European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) has joined the European Chronic Disease Alliance, rallying its mission to improve chronic disease prevention and management across the EU.

This new addition brings the number of members of the Alliance to 13.

“EULAR is proud to be joining ECDA to support a coordinated European response to chronic diseases. Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs) in particular are underrepresented in European health policy, despite affecting approximately 120 million Europeans and accounting for over 50% of Years Lived with Disabilities (YLDs) in Europe. We aim to support the development of improved quality of care, social policy helping mitigate the burden of disease, and improving prevention and treatment strategies” - Prof. Annamaria Iagnocco, incoming ECDA Steering Committee member & EULAR past-President

EULAR is the non-profit organisation that represents people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs), health professionals in rheumatology (HPR), rheumatologists and scientific societies of rheumatology of all the European nations.

“It is a pleasure to welcome EULAR as a member of our Alliance. Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases impact the lives of many EU citizens and are linked to many other types of chronic diseases represented within ECDA. By joining forces with EULAR, ECDA pursues its efforts to drive policy change for the benefit of those living or at risk of chronic diseases. The expertise of the rheumatology community will be a great asset to ECDA’s work, and at a critical time of the EU political cycle” - Prof. Em. Raymond Vanholder, Acting Chairman, European Chronic Disease Alliance

 

 


ECDA Letter - call for NCDs prevalence reduction in the EU and mobilising investment in prevention

In the context of the Global Week for Action on NCDs (14-21 September), ECDA encouraged EU policymakers to focus efforts on NCD prevalence reduction, mobilise investment in prevention and control, and implement necessary measures to effectively address NCDs in the EU.

Chronic non-communicable diseases have been a major health challenge for decades across Europe. No EU country is spared from the impact they have on citizens’ health, national healthcare systems, societies and economies, as further shown by the COVID-19 pandemic. The prevalence of NCDs continues to grow, fuelled by under-investment in prevention and control.

It is high time to take adequate action to reverse this trend. The EU NCDs initiative “Healthier Together” and the efforts driven at EU level thanks to the Expert Group on Public Health are welcome. They represent significant steps to achieve this goal. Yet, much remains to be done to effectively address NCDs in the EU. Aiming to reduce mortality from NCDs is not enough. Targets on reduced mortality are on track to be achieved in the EU, but people are living in a declining health condition.

ECDA encourages EU leaders to:

  • Mobilise resources for NCD prevention, notably by convening a High-Level Forum on Sustainable NCDs prevention in the EU by 2025.
  • Initiate a process to establish a holistic NCDs strategy for the EU, complemented by disease-specific plans where necessary, with clear targets for NCDs prevalence reduction in the EU by 2040 for all age groups (with intermediate targets for 2030).
  • Define a strategic and long-term vision for the EU as a whole, that does not leave behind any NCD nor EU country, addressing inequities and the specific needs of more vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly (often multi-morbid).
  • Commit to act and allocate funds to improve NCD prevention and care in the EU in the next years, for the benefit of the millions of citizens living with one or more chronic diseases and their families.
  • Address persisting data gaps in NCDs, which undermine effective responses and result in a misevaluation of the prevalence of certain types of NCDs and their burden. This is critical to improve disease knowledge, assess the real impact of the diseases and the cost of inaction, inform prevention and management plans; and anticipate any future challenges.
  • Set up an EU Ambassador for NCDs and an official EU NCDs Awareness Day (for instance, taking place during the Global Week) to stimulate greater knowledge-sharing and action.

Read the full letter here


Passing of MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir

 

ECDA members are very saddened to learn about the unfortunate news of the untimely passing of Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, an invaluable member of the European Parliament and a relentless advocate for the health and well-being of European citizens.

Véronique’s unwavering dedication and tireless efforts to champion improved EU policies for better healthcare and quality of life, in particular to support better prevention and management of chronic diseases, stand as a shining example of commitment. Her passion for creating positive change was matched by her determination to make a lasting impact.

On behalf of ECDA, we consider ourselves fortunate to have had the privilege of working closely with her, witnessing firsthand the depth of her dedication. As we mourn her loss, let us also celebrate her accomplishments and remember the indelible mark she has left on the path towards a healthier and more prosperous Europe - including her significant work to shape the Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, to improve health promotion and the response to chronic disease risk factors in Europe; and her support to more integrated approaches to chronic disease care.

In this difficult moment, on behalf of ECDA, we extend our heartfelt condolences to her family, colleagues and her loved ones.

 


ECDA recommendations to advance NCDs prevention and management in the EU

As the European Parliament's SANT committee progresses work towards a resolution on non-communicable diseases, ECDA formulates key recommendations to support the work of the committee and improve the response to chronic diseases across the EU, towards a Europe free of preventable chronic diseases.

Encompassing all priority areas, ECDA has called for decades for a dedicated, structured EU strategy (or framework) common to all chronic diseases – complemented or supported by disease-specific plans or actions where appropriate, and with a strong focus on prevention. Such an approach seems the most appropriate, realistic way to bring a coherent response to the diseases across the EU, that does not leave behind any chronic disease nor EU country. It would provide member states with clear guidance to achieve goals uniformly across the EU.

Priority 1: Reducing the prevalence of NCDs across EU countries, for all age groups, over the next decades  

Targets on reduced mortality are on track to be achieved but people are living in a declining health condition. The EU should aim to reduce the number of people living with the diseases, by protecting the population from the risk of developing a disease, complications, or co-morbidities.

Recommendations:

  • Adopting EU specific targets on reducing prevalence by 2040, with an intermediate target for 2030
  • EU Council Presidencies' priorities related to chronic disease prevention in future trio programmes until 2030
  • Continuous and increased funding for NCDs in the EU4Health, Horizon and Connect programmes; inclusion of all chronic diseases amongst priorities of future European research and health action programmes beyond the period 2021-2027
  • Appointment of an EU NCDs Ambassador to drive and oversee progress and mobilise resources across sectors to achieve goals
  • EU and national priorities on prevention and management; and on mitigating the impact of NCDs on health systems

Priority 2: Addressing chronic diseases in a holistic and structured approach

Chronic diseases are clinically interrelated (common risk factors, similar patterns, disease-disease interactions, complications). Effective NCDs prevention and management requires a concerted effort that includes all diseases.

Recommendation:

  • An EU wide, coordinated framework/strategy on chronic diseases, complemented by disease-specific plans (or measures) as appropriate
  • Presentation of such EU strategy/framework by European Commission leadership at the fourth High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of NCDs in 2025
  • In the meantime, extending the scope of the ‘Healthier Together’ initiative to other types of chronic diseases not yet covered

Priority 3: Focusing action & investment on primary and secondary prevention

Prevention can reduce the prevalence of NCDs by as much as 70%. Yet investment in prevention remains limited (3% of health expenditures).

Gaps & areas for urgent attention include:

  1. Common modifiable risk factors (tobacco & alcohol use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, air quality) and socio-economic determinants of health
  2. Co-occurring risk factors
  3. Healthier living environments and economies of “well-being”
  4. Awareness & education of NCDs and risk factors in the general population; health literacy in high-risk and hard to reach populations
  5. Workplace prevention
  6. Secondary prevention, health checks and early detection of NCDs, complications and comorbidities in people at high risk
  7. Sustainable financing for prevention

Recommendations include:

  • Implementing urgently the WHO evidence-based, widely endorsed ‘best buys’ and other recommended interventions to address NCDs risk factors
  • Specific measures addressing co-occurring risk factors in primary prevention plans/programmes
  • An EU NCDs prevention code
  • Reigniting EU collaboration towards economies of well-being
  • Continuous EU research funding to study human exposures to environmental factors throughout life
  • An official EU Chronic Disease Awareness Day celebrated annually during the Global Week for Action on NCDs (September)
  • EU Action Plan Against Disinformation and future Digital Europe Annual Work Programmes to place greater emphasis on addressing disinformation online in relation to NCDs risk factors
  • EU Expert Group on Public Health (sub-group on NCDs) to work on a combined approach for targeted identification of people at high risk and
    preventive health checks for NCDs and co-morbidities
  • An EU High-Level Forum by 2025 on financing for NCDs prevention, to explore options for sustainable financing models for NCDs prevention programmes
  • EU Council recommendation on strengthening investment in primary and secondary prevention of chronic diseases at EU level

Priority 4: Upscaling primary care and fostering integrated & multidisciplinary NCD management

The care of many chronic diseases is increasingly complex and requires to break silos between disciplines.

Recommendations:

  • Building European expertise/excellence networks for prevention and control of NCD co-morbidities and complications (for highly prevalent or highly complex co-morbidities)
  • EU and national funding for research in NCD co-morbidities and their management
  • Greater national efforts to develop multidisciplinary, integrated care in all NCD areas; to improve collaboration between primary, secondary care levels; and to upscale and strengthen primary care services.

Priority 5: Ensuring continuity of NCDs care; reinforcing EU and national crisis planning

COVID-19 has shown that most health systems in the EU are not adequately suited to provide continuity of care for NCDs.

Recommendations:

  • Making continuity of NCD care integral to crisis preparedness and management plans for national healthcare systems – especially considering the learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Greater EU collaboration to avoid future disruptions in NCD care delivery and ensure member states are better equipped to respond to future crises (e.g. exchange of good practices, EU support for scenario modelling and risk assessments etc), building on recommendations from the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
  • An “EU NCD specialists emergency reserve”

Priority 6: Improving EU-level data collection on NCDs

Major data gaps persist in the EU, including health economic data. Systems and indicators are not harmonized, data is often disparate, not comparable across countries and types of NCDs.

Recommendations:

  • An EU NCDs registry by 2030 to allow a harmonised, centralized mechanism for the collection, monitoring and analysis of data on NCDs at EU level
  • Mandating OECD to perform further cost-analyses of the impact of NCDs, comorbidities and complications to provide stronger health economic data.

Priority 7: Supporting more integrated approach to health challenges

COVID-19 has shown the clinical links between communicable, infectious diseases and NCDs; and the need for more integrated surveillance and responses.

Recommendations:

  • Initiating the evaluation of the ECDC mandate by end of 2024 (activating the revision clause in Amended Regulation (EC) No 851/2004, which specifies that “the first evaluation shall examine the feasibility of extending the ECDC mandate to address the impact of cross border health threats on non-communicable diseases")
  • Extended mandate for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to work on the links between infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases

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 work closely with them, offering expertise to 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.