Joint statement on the new WHO Air Quality Guidelines

To protect public health and the environment from the harmful effects of air pollution, ECDA joined forces with our member the European Respiratory Society in calling on policymakers to engage with the new WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines 2021 and implement ambitious clean air policies without delay.

In a new statement released on 22 September, over 100 organisations - representing public health experts, specialist healthcare professionals and patients - highlight their support for the recently published Guidelines and call on countries to use them as a guide for effective air quality and emission reduction policies around the world.

In particular, to:

  • Revise clean air legislation to lower the limit values for PM2.5 and NO2 in air pollution hot spots and align them closely with the WHO AQGs 2021.
  • Combine fixed limit values with binding policies for a continuous reduction of the average pollution levels in all places, and not only in pollution hot spots, to achieve progressive lowering of exposures of the entire population.
  • Invest, implement, and effectively monitor and enforce clean air policies to protect and improve public health and feed into efforts for climate neutrality.

Air pollution is a major cause of mortality and disability in the EU and globally. It is linked to major chronic diseases including lung and heart diseases, diabetes, cancer; as well as infant mortality, and emerging evidence points to harmful effects on pregnancy, cognitive development in children, dementia and mental health, as well as an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

There is no safe level of air pollution, as evidence has shown there are harms to human health even at the lowest observable levels of exposure.

Read the full joint statement here.


Implementing Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan means turning goals for improved chronic disease prevention into reality

Today, on the occasion of the last day of the European Week Against Cancer and the World No Tobacco Day, the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) issues a statement on the implementation of the Europe’s Beating Cancer plan and prevention measures.

The statement emphasises the importance of realising the preventive actions set out in the Plan without delay – to protect millions of Europeans from cancer and other major chronic diseases that share common risk factors. Prevention is central to protecting and improving people’s health and well-being. It is also the most cost-effective way of addressing the growing prevalence of chronic diseases in the EU.

Helping Europeans ‘Commit to Quit’: The EU should strive for reaching the ambition of less than 5% of the EU population using tobacco by 2040. Further, robust EU legislation that enhances tobacco control, but also addresses novel tobacco and emerging products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products; and ensures proper enforcement at national level is essential. The review of the EU Tobacco Products Directive is a unique opportunity to embed provisions in that regard.

Reducing alcohol consumption in the EU: Notably, new mandatory requirements for alcoholic beverages (set out in the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan) to indicate the list of ingredients, and provide nutrition declarations and health information labelling, should be implemented in full and without dilution.  The introduction of excise taxes and other pricing policies, such as Minimum Unit Pricing, is needed to decrease the affordability of alcohol. Increased harmonisation of these rules throughout EU countries should be promoted.

Protecting Europe’s current and future generations: stronger regulatory policy action to tackle the exposure to marketing and advertising of unhealthy food products and drinks is needed on broadcast media, digital media and through the sponsorship of events, particularly those aimed at young people. This should go hand-in-hand with addressing cross border sales challenges and enforcing mandatory harmonised labelling with evidence-based easy-to-understand information.

Implementing the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan means working in collaboration with all relevant actors within and beyond the cancer community, to maximise the benefits and impact of the Plan in other disease areas and co-morbidities.

Read the full statement here.


Extending the mandate of the ECDC towards an integrated public health approach: Joint letter from health organisations

Organisations from across the health spectrum call on the EU Council to extend the mandate of the EU agency to other areas of public health, as a response to the learnings of the COVID-19 pandemic and a forward-looking approach to improving public health in Europe that enhances multidisciplinary collaboration.

In a letter published today, a group of organisations (representing patients, healthcare professionals and medical societies, industry, public institutes and broader health advocacy groups) calls on the Council to consider the expansion of the mandate of the ECDC to other areas of public health that are linked to the current mission of the Centre, notably to cover the interconnections between communicable and non-communicable diseases. The letter is issued ahead of the Council Working Party on pharmaceuticals and medical devices that will discuss the Commission’s proposal to strengthen the Agency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted how interconnected disease areas are and how dismantling silos in healthcare leads to better results.

If Europe is to focus on greater strategic autonomy and be a geopolitical force that remains the healthiest region of the world - yet burdened by large health inequalities, it needs an excellent Centre for preventing and controlling diseases, a more effective ECDC that is all inclusive and that can collect and present information that is decisive for national health authorities, policymakers as well as healthcare professionals and the broader medical and scientific community.

To truly safeguard the health of Europeans, there is a need for an integrated approach to health challenges and threats.

The potential of increasing ECDC’s scope of work to other areas of public health has been highlighted in the 2019 independent evaluation of the Centre. The European Parliament further asked in a resolution of July 2020 that ECDC be empowered to tackle the gaps in chronic disease epidemiology.

The ongoing revision of the ECDC mandate is a unique opportunity to act change. It is time to break siloes, both across medical disciplines and with regards to EU vs national efforts, in order to increase sustainability and efficiency of EU-level activities while protecting public health in Europe.

Read the joint letter here

Co-signatories:

  • All.Can
  • BioMed Alliance
  • European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA)
  • EU4Health Civil Society Alliance
  • EU Health Coalition
  • European Health Union Initiative
  • EuroHealthNet
  • European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)
  • European Public Health Association (EUPHA)
  • European Diabetes Forum (EUDF) 
  • Self Care In Europe (SCiE)
  • Senior International Health Association (SIHA)

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan provides hope for chronic disease prevention

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) welcomes the prevention pillar of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, published on 3rd February 2021, that places prevention at the heart of the EU’s fight against cancer and other chronic diseases.

ECDA supports the targets and measures set out in the plan, which are expected to significantly help to improve the health of all EU citizens. Goals for a tobacco-free generation, and commitment to action in the areas of food and alcohol labelling are much required. Together they have the potential to unlock enormous progress in Europe’s agenda of disease prevention and should be implemented swiftly.

Cancer and co-morbidities present a significant challenge across Europe. In 2020, 2.7 million EU citizens were diagnosed with cancer and 1.3 million died from it, accounting for the second cause of death in the EU after cardiovascular diseases.

In a statement published today on the occasion of the World Cancer Day, the Alliance particularly emphasizes the importance of:

  • Prevention: a crucial pillar that can have a far-reaching impact
  • Harnessing the benefits of early detection and diagnosis
  • Systemizing multidisciplinary and integrated care for better health outcomes
  • Supporting an improved quality of life for patients and their families

It is ECDA’s view that the plan in its current form is a strong basis to successfully improve the prevention and control of cancer and other chronic diseases in Europe.

While the plan is focused on the response to cancer, ECDA encourages the European Commission and policymakers to keep an inclusive mindset in the implementation and roll out of the plan, in order to maximise its benefits and impact in other disease areas. This will be particularly crucial for all proposed actions and initiatives that are linked to or have consequences on cancer co-morbidities – in all sections of the plan.

ECDA remains committed to supporting the implementation of the plan - in particular the prevention pillar - in cooperation with other stakeholders; and re-emphasizes that it will be important to monitor and track the implementation of the flagship initiatives and supportive actions set out in it.

Read the full statement of the ECDA here.


Extending the mandate of the ECDC to cover non-communicable diseases

The Commission’s legislative proposal to extend the mandate of the ECDC is expected on 11 November.

The European Chronic Disease Alliance recommends the extension of the mandate to chronic diseases, in alignment with the Parliament’s resolution on the “EU’s public health strategy post COVID-19” adopted in July 2020 and the conclusions of the independent external evaluation of the ECDC in 2019.

The evaluation highlighted that the “opportunities stemming from an extension of the mandate to the non-communicable diseases are related to the expected increased sustainability and efficiency of EU-level activities in these areas and the potential for link and synergies with ECDC’s communicable diseases related work, that could also encourage more integration at national level”. The COVID-19 crisis further amplifies how relevant this conclusion is.

There is a critical lack of comparable data and guidance to Member States in the area, responsibilities which ECDC is naturally well placed to take up notably due to its renown expertise, experience and pre-established networks amongst national public health authorities.

ECDA hopes that consideration is given to this recommendation in the context of the Council Working Party on Public Health meeting taking place on the 29th of October to discuss draft Council Conclusions on COVID-19 lessons learned in health; and while the Commission introduces a COVID-19 health response package.

Read the full paper here.

This paper is supported by MEPs Kateřina Konečná (Czechia, GUE/NGL) and Brando Benifei (Italy, S&D). 


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.