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.


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.


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.


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


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. 


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

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.