ECDA meets with European Health Commissioner Kyriakides to discuss the EU response to chronic diseases

On the 18th of September 2020, ECDA had a virtual meeting with the Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides, as well as Cabinet members and officials from DG SANTE, to discuss chronic disease prevention and control in Europe, the EU4Health Programme and Europe’s Beating Cancer plan.

Commissioner Kyriakides expressed the Commission’s dedication to a European Health Union that prevents major chronic diseases and supports chronic disease patients – irrespective of the pandemic; and to negotiating a strong EU4Health programme that helps achieve objectives proposed by the Commission in the field. These will be supported by plans to expand the European Reference Networks (ERNs) and strengthen healthcare systems in order to address the challenges that were exemplified by the COVID-19 crisis.

She also reaffirmed the intention to reinforce the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The EU Pharmaceutical Strategy and Europe’s Beating Cancer plan will be important instruments to improve access to care and prevent chronic diseases as well as comorbidities.

The crisis is an opportunity to do more for Europeans’ health and the Commission intends to act upon it.

EU4Health Civil Society Alliance: 10 Guiding Principles for the new health programme

As the COVID19 pandemic continues to affect individuals, societies and economies worldwide, the need to strengthen healthcare access and disease-prevention, whilst reducing health inequalities and bringing innovation to health systems across Europe persists, and is to-date stronger than ever.

Following recent announcements related to the financial cuts in the Commission’s new health programme, and in view of the upcoming ENVI committee vote on the draft EU4Health programme proposal later this month, the EU4Health Civil Society Alliance, which ECDA is contributing to, have gathered their expertise and carried out a joint analysis of the programme. The Alliance has developed a list of 10 guiding principles, to act as guidelines and help ensure the new programme’s full potential.

The EU4Health CSA believes that the new programme should focus on ensuring long-term health improvements beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

Read the guidelines in the statement available for download here.

About the EU4Health Civil Society Alliance:
The EU4Health Civil Society Alliance (CSA) is a group of patient and public health civil society organisations and advocates, representing many diverse networks of European citizens concerned with health and well-being. You can find more information here.

Global Week for Action on NCDs: Five key actions for Europe to accelerate progress in the response to chronic diseases

The Global Week for Action on NCDs (non-communicable diseases) 2020 starts today. A week to keep up momentum for action on chronic disease prevention and control at a pivotal time for the European Union: as pandemic recovery plans are defined and ongoing budget negotiations will frame public health efforts for the coming years.

The COVID-19 crisis reflects the impact of major chronic (non-communicable) diseases on our societies and the vulnerability of patients and healthcare systems. It shows that health issues are intertwined, and that we cannot respond to the pandemic - caused by a respiratory pathogen - without integrating prevention and control of chronic diseases in recovery plans (action #1).

Innovative measures are needed to address their high and growing prevalence in Europe.

Taking a more strategic approach to disease prevention

The various objectives of the EU Green Deal, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, Farm to Fork strategy etc are welcome and will likely bring tangible results in protecting citizens from the main risk factors of chronic diseases. However, Europe needs a comprehensive strategic framework for disease prevention (action #2), that will allow a better coordination of efforts among sectors, policies and goals; more alignment with WHO recommendations and greater implementation of successful practices across EU countries in relevant areas. This will further embed public health objectives and prevention into all EU policies.

Putting in place new structures at EU-level to promote health and improve chronic disease control

There is a clear unmet need for a European mechanism to collect and analyse harmonised and comparable data on diseases and risk factors (action #3) at EU level. This should be defined as a high priority for EU financing and could be put into motion as part of the European Health Data Space. Without creating the capacities to collect reliable data in a uniformed way, policymakers and all relevant actors will have limited ability to define policies that truly respond to the scale of the problem and to evaluate the outcomes of actions taken. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more than ever the need for health data to be interoperable.

Further, extending the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to chronic disease prevention and management (action #4) in Europe now becomes paramount, to allow the agency to provide guidance to act on a major health challenge that is common to every EU country, and that has important links with other health threats falling under the agency’s remit.

The EU has the means to expand the successful model of the European Reference Networks (ERNs) to chronic diseases, especially for improved management of co-morbidities (action #5) – this should be acted upon in a timely manner. EU cooperation will be precious due to the complexity of cases.

All of these actions will necessitate investment. While institutions are negotiating the EU budget for 2021-2027 and the funds to support pandemic recovery, it is essential that public health and health research be prioritised. The EU4Health programme shall remain a strong instrument to deliver its ambitious objectives, notably to respond to chronic diseases; and support Member States meet their United Nations commitments in the field.

More information about the Global Week for Action on NCDs here

EU budget: It is time to invest in a healthy future

The European Council reached a crucial agreement on the budget underlying the COVID-19 recovery and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) on Tuesday 21 July.

However, the proposed €9.4 billion EU4Health Programme, featuring funding from Next Generation EU and the MFF, has been reduced to €1.7 billion, jeopardising the EU’s ability to deliver the ambitious objectives set in the field of health. Funding for the Horizon Europe programme has also been reduced. This will have a considerable impact on health research and innovation, an area where the EU aims to gain global leadership.

We call on the EU institutions to work together with European leaders to stand firm behind a strong budget for long-term health action.

Read here the full joint statement from EU health organisations part of the EU4Health civil society alliance.

Paper on COVID-19, chronic diseases and EU health capacity

This paper outlines recommendations to EU institutions, national governments and relevant groups in Europe concerning the COVID-19 response and recovery plans with regard to chronic diseases.

The lessons from this crisis must be learnt. The proposals aim to support reflections on preparedness for potential future pandemics or other crises, which may occur as a result of factors like climate change; but also to reinforce healthcare systems’ capacity to achieve long-term public health objectives.

  • COVID-19 exemplifies the need for better prevention and control of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) across Europe
  • Prevention and optimal management of chronic diseases must be integral to the COVID-19 response and recovery plans
  • Rethinking the EU capacity in healthcare appears more than ever fundamental to better protect citizens and set up a European Health Union

This papers covers: 1) implications of the COVID-19 crisis for chronic disease care and for patients; 2) Lessons learned from COVID-19: needs and solutions to improve chronic disease care; and 3) Implementing these learnings into EU and national policy.

The new EU4Health Programme as well as national-level programmes should dedicate increased and sufficient resources to chronic disease prevention and optimal management, seeing this as long-term public health investment, in parallel with the budget allocated to infectious diseases and future crisis preparedness.

All the actions proposed herewith would pave the way towards a “European Union of Health”, as desired by EU citizens and supported by the European Parliament and several EU Member States.

Read the full paper here.

Europe's Beating Cancer Plan: adding value across disease areas and placing prevention at the heart

European Week Against Cancer

Cancer and other chronic diseases are interrelated and share common elements, notably common preventable risk factors. Further, cancer-related complications and co-morbidities represent a significant burden on patients across Europe.
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is an important policy framework to address a significant health challenge and the second cause of death in the EU: cancer. Beyond, the Plan has also the potential to generate long-lasting effects and benefits to other chronic disease patients.

ECDA's key messages:

  • The Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan must be of relevance to all chronic diseases: an integrated and holistic approach to co-morbidities is crucial for its success. The Plan should be focused yet sufficiently bold to add value across disease areas.
  • Prevention must be at the heart. Over 40% of cancer cases are preventable; many deaths from other major chronic diseases across Europe are also eminently preventable and they share common and preventable risk factors.

Launched during the European Week Against Cancer 2020, ECDA position paper provides the perspectives of the chronic disease community on the four areas of the Plan, as well as important aspects with regards to research and data collection. It also includes broader considerations for the success of the Plan.

In the annexes, further evidence on the correlation between cancer and other major chronic diseases is provided.

Read the full position paper here.

EU action and capacity in health – learnings from COVID19

ECDA supports the vision advanced by different political groups on strengthening EU health competency and building a “European Union of health”, supported by countries like France.

We welcome the announcement of a “new, dedicated Health Program” by Commission President Von der Leyen.

Taking stock of the gaps that the crisis has revealed, we propose a series of measures in the following areas to progress EU action in the field of health:

  1. Extending the role and capacities of the EU and international health advisory bodies: notably to extend the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to cover chronic non-communicable diseases.
  2. Reinvigorating EU health action
  3. Assessing and rethinking EU health competency

ECDA remains fully committed to supporting the European Commission in responding and recovering from the crisis, working together for a European Union that provides a high level of protection from major health challenges.

Read our full letter to the European Commission here.

Statement on the EU Green Deal

A healthy planet is essential to achieve a sustainable, climate-friendly societal and economic development but also to protect public health and prevent major chronic diseases. Indeed, these are for a major part determined by environmental exposures and risk factors.

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) proposes key considerations to reinforce the European Green Deal with regard to chronic disease prevention as well as public health in Europe; and make further connections between ambitions in these areas.

Healthy environments play a crucial role in the prevention and control of chronic diseases, which are a major health challenge across Europe and globally. The consequences of these diseases on Europeans’ health and quality of life, as well as on our economies cannot be underestimated.

The European Green Deal and environmental health protection should be an integral part of any inclusive and sustainable growth strategy. In light of the current crisis, they should be a priority of Europe’s post COVID-19 recovery plan.

Read the full statement.

Resources on COVID-19 and chronic diseases

People with chronic conditions are part of the specific risk groups who are more prone to developing severe forms of the disease. Smokers and tobacco users are also at higher risk of COVID-19 infection (source: WHO). Further, data suggest that regions with higher levels of air pollution, a major risk factor of chronic diseases, have higher mortality rates from COVID-19 (source).

ECDA members provide disease-specific resources on COVID-19, updated as the situation evolves and latest scientific evidence becomes available:

The ECDC leaflet on COVID-19 for people with chronic diseases, their families and care-givers is available here.

WHO guidance and updates on COVID-19 are accessible here.

COVID-19: ECDA support letter to the European Commission

In the current complex and fast-evolving situation across Europe resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) has issued a letter to the European Commission President Dr Von der Leyen and the European Commissioner for Health Ms Kyriakides to express our understanding and support to the European Commission in addressing this health crisis and assisting Member States in these challenging times.

ECDA salutes the dedication and restless efforts of individuals and organisations who contribute to preventing, containing, and mitigating the effects of the outbreak; including healthcare and allied professionals who are on the front line to care for Europeans.

People with chronic conditions are part of the specific risk groups who are more prone to developing severe forms of the disease according to current evidence. ECDA welcomes the advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for these groups, their families and care-givers.

While the medical “branches” of our members are working on the frontline of the outbreak, ECDA remains fully committed to support the European Commission in responding to this crisis, and working together for visionary health action at the EU level.

ECDA will continue to support more European-level decision making in dealing with health issues.

Read the full letter here

More information and resources on COVID-19 from ECDA members:

WHO guidance and updates on COVID-19 are available here.