EU Council Conclusions on the Future of the European Health Union: A step forward for prevention of non-communicable diseases

ECDA congratulates the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU for adopting conclusions that include a strong commitment to preventative action against non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The conclusions represent an important step forward in addressing the growing impact of NCDs on European populations, societies and economies. ECDA welcomes the promotion of preventative strategies and commends the Council’s recommendation to combat NCDs in a cross-sectoral and holistic manner.

In particular, the Conclusions call for tackling the root causes of NCDs and encourage Member States to promote healthy environments and communities, adequately address tobacco and alcohol consumption, and maintain focus on the psychosocial and mental health factors that contribute to high NCD rates. These aspects are particularly important to protect our current and future generations from developing a disease or complications from pre-existing conditions, and their right to live in good health. ECDA encourages greater investment in health promotion and disease prevention, including by leveraging fiscal policies to address socio-economic and environmental determinants of health, and related health inequalities.

Additionally, Conclusions call on the European Commission to address the marketing of harmful and addictive substances to children on social media platforms, to continue its commitment to Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, and to strengthen the work of the Healthier Together – EU Non-Communicable Diseases Initiative. These measures should be at the heart of the EU’s health action for the next years – in particular, the long-awaited revision of EU tobacco control policies, legislations on food and alcohol labelling need to be prioritized; and the Healthier Together initiative shall allow to advance the response to additional types of NCDs. A focus on the five main types with higher mortality rates and a heavy comorbidity burden is critical, yet lack of action to address other – often underestimated – NCDs impacts negatively overall efforts. Existing data gaps in certain disease areas can result in a misevaluation of the prevalence of these diseases or their burden, which has yet to be studied. Further, in some cases, mortality can be under-estimated as it only considers death from acute rather than long-term complications directly resulting from the condition.

Speaking on behalf of ECDA, chairman Raymond Vanholder stated, “Today’s adoption of the Council Conclusions is a significant recognition of the need to stimulate Europe’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of NCDs in our societies and commitment to achieve progress. ECDA thanks the Council for maintaining political focus and urgency on this issue and is confident that the recommendations provided will serve as actionable guidance to Member States in their efforts to build NCD-resilient communities and healthcare systems, ahead of the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs in 2025.”

Beyond underscoring the need for preventative measures, the Council Conclusions also highlight the link between public health and climate policy, pointing to climate change’s contribution to higher rates of NCDs and calling for increased efforts to decarbonize the EU health system. ECDA also strongly supports the Council Conclusions’ emphasis on research, particularly regarding the EU’s research agenda on the relationship between climate and health, and believes such research is vital to creating effective prevention policies and preparing for potential future health threats. ECDA encourages further research into the interactions between NCDs and into co-morbidities to address current knowledge gaps, and on the best measures to address the impact of co-occurring risk factors on people’s health, disease onset and premature mortality from NCDs.

As the Council leadership prepares to shift, ECDA encourages future Presidencies to maintain NCD prevention as a key cornerstone of their health agenda. By focusing on reducing not only the mortality but also the prevalence of NCDs, the next Council Presidencies can continue to make progress towards healthier communities, stronger workforces, and more resilient national healthcare systems. ECDA welcomes the efforts of the Hungarian Presidency in addressing cardiovascular health in the next 6 months with a strong focus on prevention.

Our Alliance looks forward to supporting Member States in implementing the conclusions related to NCDs and in furthering EU-level collaboration towards a Europe free of preventable NCDs and which provides the adequate health care to those affected, to improve their health outcomes and quality of life.

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