Ending the chronic disease epidemic

Chronic diseases affect one third of the European population aged 15 and over, and nearly a quarter of working-age Europeans. Many good practices in prevention and control are available and already implemented in different countries but more needs to be done.

The European Public Health Alliance believes that fiscal measures should be directed toward incentivising healthy diets and lifestyles, and reducing alcohol consumption. Together with interventions aimed to limit citizens’ exposure to marketing of unhealthy food and drink products and promote physical activity, they have the potential to create health-friendly environments, conducive to healthy lives and facilitating healthy choices. This is particularly important when data show that in all EU countries, citizens’ mean daily salt intake exceeds the recommended levels, millions of Europeans still consume trans fats at levels that significantly increase their risk of coronary heart disease, exposure to high levels of air pollution is causing the premature death of over 400 000 Europeans annually and half of the EU population is reported to never exercise or play sport.

To read the full report on the EPHA website: Putting an end to the chronic disease epidemic in Europe and beyond – what are we waiting for? 

Germany debates opt-out system for organ donations

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn is pushing for the country to adopt an opt-out policy for organ donations as the number of donors sink to its lowel-ever level.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper on Sunday, Spahn declared himself in favour of an opt-out scheme for organ donation which would make organ harvesting and transplanting automatic unless people register their wish not to donate.

“We should have this discussion in the Bundestag now,” Spahn told the tabloid. “That’s where this topics belongs.”

The health minister made his announcement after introducing a draft bill to reform the system, warning that one patient on the organ waiting-list dies every eight hours.

To read more about this on the Euronews website go to: http://www.euronews.com/2018/09/03/germany-debates-opt-out-system-for-organ-donations

Smoking and drinking damage teenagers’ arteries by age of 17

The arteries of teenagers who drink alcohol and smoke, even very occasionally, begin to stiffen by the age of 17, according to a new study. Such stiffening has been linked to heart and blood vessel problems later in life, such as heart attacks and strokes.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday, was based on data collected from more than 1,000 British adolescents, who provided details of their smoking and drinking habits at ages 13, 15 and 17.

“We found that in this large contemporary British cohort, drinking and smoking in adolescence, even at lower levels compared to those reported in adult studies, is associated with arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis progression,” the study’s senior author, Professor John Deanfield of University College London’s Institute of Cardiovascular Science, said in a statement.

To read more about this study to go: http://www.euronews.com/2018/08/29/smoking-and-drinking-damage-teenagers-arteries-by-age-of-17-study

No-deal Brexit: Plan to maintain medicine supplies ‘could cost £2bn’

The health secretary’s plan to set aside six weeks’ worth of vital medicines to avoid supply disruptions in the event of a no-deal Brexit could cost up to £2bn, campaign group Best for Britain warns.

Matt Hancock wrote to healthcare providers last week, saying the government would set in motion plans to “ensure the UK has an additional six weeks’ supply of medicines in case imports from the EU through certain routes are affected”.

Data collated by thinktank the King’s Fund earlier this year suggested the total drugs bill for the NHS in 2016-17 was £17.4bn. Best for Britain suggests that could make the cost of the temporary stockpile – which would presumably then be run down over future months – £2bn.

To read more about this go to: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/29/no-deal-brexit-plan-medicine-supplies-cost-2bn

Fight against food fraud: 45 tons of illegally treated tuna seized in Spain

On 11 August, the environmental protection service of the Spanish civil guard SEPRONA announced the seizure of 45 tons of illegally treated tuna fish. Four people were investigated and face possible criminal penalties of up to four years in prison for endangering public health, as well as administrative sanctions. The investigation has so far uncovered three companies and three fishing vessels involved in the fraudulent scheme.

Investigators found that frozen tuna only suitable for canning had been illegally treated with substances that enhance the colour and then been diverted to the market to be sold as fresh fish. This treatment can pose a serious public health risk associated with allergic reactions to histamine.

To read more about this go to: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/sante/newsletter-specific-archive-issue.cfm?archtype=specific&newsletter_service_id=327&newsletter_issue_id=10314&page=1&fullDate=Mon%2013%20Aug%202018&lang=default

Combatting HIV/AIDS

The EU has published a staff working document on combatting HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis in the European Union and neighbouring countries.

These diseases pose the greatest risk to populations that are often also socially marginalised, such as prisoners, injecting drug users, homeless people, migrants and the poor and groups potentially subject to social stigma like men who have sex with men (MSM). Exacerbated social conditions make it even harder to reach out to these groups, necessitating specific tailored measures to ensure that prevention and medical care efforts are effective.

The staff working document takes stock of the EU support to Member States across several policy areas: public health, research, drugs policy, development cooperation, accession and neighbourhood policy, European structural funds, etc. It also presents EU-funded good practices related to early diagnosis, encouragement of testing, wider outreach to vulnerable groups, integrated care across the diseases, rapid linkage to care, treatment as prevention, health promotion and support to networks and civil society organisations.

To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/communicable_diseases/docs/swd_2018_387_en.pdf


Steering Group on Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases 

To support countries in reaching the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Commission has established a Steering Group on Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases.

The Steering Group will have a broad overview of public health policy and may set up subgroups to work on specific issues for limited time periods. Therefore, existing Commission expert groups set up for particular diseases, for example, those on cancer control and rare diseases, will now be replaced by the Steering Group.

In practice, the Steering Group will provide expert advice to the Commission on developing and implementing activities in the field of health promotion, disease prevention and the management of non-communicable diseases. It will also foster exchanges of relevant experience, policies and practices between the Member States.

To read more about this on the European Commission website, go to: Steering Group on Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases – European Commission

Spending hours sitting in meetings? Consult WHO’s new guide to planning healthy and sustainable meetings

“We somehow consider meetings to be an exception to the general healthy lifestyle we try to follow,” says Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and Programme Manager ad interim of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at WHO/Europe. “But this is mostly because the way they are organised often doesn’t give us much of a choice. Making meetings healthier does not have to be complicated or expensive – and often makes them more enjoyable.”

To read WHO’s guide on planning healthy and sustainable meetings go to: WHO/Europe | Obesity – Spending hours sitting in meetings? Consult WHO’s new guide to planning healthy and sustainable meetings

Health risks of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) 

The EU Scientific Committee has concluded that there is no evidence of direct adverse health effects from LEDs in normal use by the general population. Cellular and animal studies showing adverse effects appeared to be conducted under exposure conditions that were difficult to relate to human exposures or used exposure levels in excess of internationally agreed exposure limits.

There is a low level of evidence that exposure to light in the late evening, including that from LED lighting and/or screens, may have an impact on the circadian rhythm. At the moment, it is not yet clear if this disturbance of the circadian system leads to adverse health effects. Children have a higher sensitivity to blue light and although emissions may not be harmful, blue LEDs (between 400 nm and 500 nm) including those in toys may be very dazzling and may induce photochemical retinopathy, which is a concern especially for children below three years of age. Older people may experience discomfort from exposure to light that is rich in blue light.

To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: Final Opinion on Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) – European Commission

How Pharmaceutical Systems are organized in Asia and the Pacific 

There are important differences in the markets for medicines in countries in Asia and the Pacific in this study. These are mainly due to the political, financial and regulatory environments as well as characteristics of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. However, all countries face the test of transition brought about by demographic changes, shifting epidemiological trends and increasing inequities, among others. As with other regions of the world, a characteristic of lower- and upper-middle-income countries is that pharmaceuticals account for a high proportion of health expenditures. Medicines account for a larger share of the health budgets in resource-constrained countries.

To read more about pharmaceutical systems in Asia and the Pacific go to: How Pharmaceutical Systems are organized in Asia and the Pacific – en – OECD