Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan needs a thorough prevention pillar to tackle challenges common to all chronic diseases

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan needs a thorough prevention pillar to tackle challenges common to all chronic diseases, reads a statement by over 25 health organisations, including the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA).

NCDs, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes, challenge people’s health and well-being, the sustainability of health systems and Europe’s economic and social prosperity. Over half a million people under the age of 65 die of NCDs in the EU each year, while up to 80% of healthcare spending goes towards treating chronic diseases.

Common causes ask for common solutions. What connects all NCDs is that they are highly preventable, exacerbated by socio-economic inequities and are driven by a number of common, modifiable risk factors – especially related to tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy food environments, insufficient physical activity and air pollution.

The flagship Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan offers a major opportunity to firmly and strategically tackle these common risk factors and support the creation of health-enabling living environments. This will answer the aspirations of Europeans for a healthy, equitable and ecologically thriving continent for current and future generations.

Read the statement here

CHRODIS + Joint Action hosts EU policy dialogue on employment and chronic conditions

On the 12th of November 2019, the CHRODIS + Joint Action Work Package 8 organised an event in the European Parliament to discuss employment and reintegration into work issues for people with chronic diseases. Hosted by MEP Massimiliano Salini, the meeting aimed to:

  • bring together EU stakeholders for a common understanding of the benefits of the workplace inclusion, integration and reintegration of people with chronic conditions
  • present the Toolbox on Employment and Chronic Conditions developed within the EU Joint Action. This Toolbox includes a Training Tool for managers on workplace inclusion and work ability and a Toolkit for workplace adaptation, health promotion and disease prevention.

The event included a roundtable discussion on practical steps for EU policy to support employment for people with chronic diseases, to which ECDA Chairman Prof. Raymond Vanholder contributed. ECDA is a collaborating partner of the Work Package 8.

More information on the event and outcomes can be found here.

The CHRODIS + Toolbox will be launched in April 2020 and available on the CHRODIS + Joint Action website.

Guide for incoming Health Commissioner - Chronic disease prevention

This initiative aims to draw the attention of Stella Kyriakides, as Commissioner designate for Health, to the importance of investing and acting on health promotion and disease prevention and encourage the setup of an EU Strategic Framework for Prevention taking a cross-sectoral approach.

The guide provides a brief summary of the status of the EU response to the main risk factors, as well as ECDA vision – shared by many other health organisations – on the way forward to bring progress and further protect Europe’s population from the main preventable chronic diseases, one of today's greatest health challenges. ECDA hopes that the recommended actions can inform the “prevention” side of the European plan against cancer and help initiate additional policy instruments and legislation.


Dr Kyriakides will be responsible for a portfolio which not only is the corner stone of any inclusive, strong and sustainable society: people’s health, but also of key importance to restore citizens’ faith in the value of the European Union and their confidence in a healthy future.

Chronic diseases have a high impact on individuals, while incurring significant societal and economic costs. Strong EU commitment will improve the health of millions of citizens, but also sustain progress towards Sustainable Development Goals in many other areas. As evidence shows, investing in prevention and people’s health and well being brings high economic benefits. 

European Chronic Disease Alliance welcomes United European Gastroenterology as new member

The European Chronic Disease Alliance announces that United European Gastroenterology (UEG) has joined the Alliance, with the common goal of improving the response to preventable chronic diseases through European policies that impact health.

This new addition brings the total number of members of the Alliance to 11.

United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation combining all the leading European medical specialist and national societies focusing on digestive health. UEG represents more than 30,000 specialists from every field in gastro enterology; and is committed to fostering understanding of digestive health issues, research, education and awareness raising to improve quality of care and diagnosis across Europe.

“We are excited to join forces with UEG and look forward to working together to continue promoting improvements in the response to chronic diseases and policy at EU level. UEG’s expertise and activities in the field of nutrition and physical inactivity will be valuable to ECDA’s work on prevention”.

Prof. Em. Raymond Vanholder, Acting Chairman, European Chronic Disease Alliance

ECDA questions for European Parliament hearings – Legislature 2019-2024

Commission-President elect Dr Ursual Von der Leyen has unveiled the proposed composition of the European Commission 2019-2024 and allocation of porfolios. The European Parliament will audit Commissioner-designates in the next weeks before validating the College of Commissioners as a whole during a plenary vote in the next months. The European Commission is expected to take office on 1 November 2019.

These hearings constitute a major opportunity for Commissioners-designate to express their commitment to protect people's health, Europe's most valuable resource and the backbone of any strong and sustainable society.

ECDA has prepared dedicated sets of questions for Commissioners-designates:

  • Questions for Commissioner-designate for Health and the Commissioner-designate for Environment and Oceans
  • Questions for the Commissioner-designate for Equality and the Commissioner-designate for Jobs
  • Questions for the Commissioner-designate for Innovation & Youth
  • Questions for the Commissioner-designate for Internal Market and Executive Vice-President-designate for a Europe fit for the Digital Age
  • Questions for Commissioner-designate for Economy
  • Questions for Commissioner designate for Trade

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.


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.

ECDA-EPHA Joint Report 'Towards an EU Strategic Framework for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases'

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: