Noncommunicable diseases – 45 successful years in Finland

In 1972, Finland had the highest rate of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in the world, and the region of North Karelia in eastern Finland had the highest rate in the country. To address this issue, the region initiated what is known as the North Karelia Project, a far-reaching, community-based intervention that aims to reduce CHD mortality by encouraging healthier habits and cutting down on risk factors such as high cholesterol intake and smoking.

The project is still active today and has produced remarkable results. During the 40-year period from 1972 to 2012, CHD mortality in North Karelia decreased by 82% among working-age men and 84% among women.

To read more about Finland’s method of reducing noncommunicable diseases from the euro.who.int website

Integrated care for people with multi-morbidity

Some 50 million Europeans live with multi-morbidity and their numbers are likely to grow. As they have complex health problems and need ongoing care, policymakers are alarmed by the challenge this poses to their health systems and social services.

The ICARE4EU project has looked at new approaches to integrated care  and its findings are shared in five policy briefs:

  • How to improve care for people with multi-morbidity?
  • How to strengthen patient-centredness in caring for people with multi-morbidity
  • How to strengthen financing mechanisms to promote care for people with multi-morbidity
  • How can eHealth improve care for people with multi-morbidity
  • How to support integration to promote care for people with multi-morbidity

To read more about the project and download the five policy briefs on caring for people with multi-morbidity from the euro.who.int website

Controlling speeding drivers

Around 1.25 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Studies indicate that:

  • almost half of all drivers exceed the speed limit
  • drivers who are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes
  • road traffic accidents (RTAs) are the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years
  • RTAs are estimated to cost countries from 3–5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.

‘Managing speed’, a new report from WHO, suggests that excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to 1 in 3 road traffic fatalities worldwide. Measures to address speed prevent road traffic deaths and injuries, make populations healthier, and cities more sustainable.

To read more about speed management to save lives from the who.int website

25 Years of Protecting our Health

Since 1992 when the Maastricht Treaty specifically stated that ‘The community shall contribute towards ensuring a high level of human health protection’ the EU has been protecting our health.

It has helped national governments to make healthcare more accessible and efficient, provided scientific advice and data, financed local and cross-border health projects and promoted investments in innovation, research and training.

Current challenges include:

  • Guaranteeing accessible, efficient and resilient healthcare
  • Investing more in innovation, research and eHealth
  • Tackling antimicrobial resistance
  • Promoting innovative health products and technologies
  • Preparing for new global health threats

To download the infographic on 25 years of protecting our health from the ec.europa.eu website

Medicine packaging

Since 2001, EU rules have required the medicines we buy in the EU to contain a package leaflet which should provide us – the user, with clear information on the medicines we are taking – including the name of the product and the manufacturer, therapeutic indications, dosage, shelf life and adverse reactions.

The Commission has recently put forward recommendations on how they could be improved to better meet the needs of patients and healthcare professionals.

To read the recommendations on improved medicine packaging on the ec.europa.eu website

Health care without harm

Pharmaceuticals in the environment represent a global pollution problem – over 631 different pharmaceutical agents (or their metabolites) have been detected in at least 71 countries covering all continents. Pharmaceutical residues have been detected in surface water, sewage effluents, groundwater, drinking water, manure, soil, and other environmental matrices. Antibiotics in the environment can promote the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens – a major global health threat. Also, little is known about the effects on humans from continuous, long-term exposure to low concentrations of pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical substances are often engineered so
that they remain unchanged during their passage through the human body; unfortunately this stability means they also persist outside the human body and, as a consequence, can build up in the environment. Several studies have confirmed that medicines pose environmental risks, and that concentrations found in the environment can have detrimental effects on aquatic systems and wildlife.
The Dutch organisation – health care without harm Europe – has produced a report outlining what steps are being taken in Europe to reduce anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and offers opportunities for countries to work together on this shared problem.
To download the summary report on health care without harm from the ec.europa.eu website

The economics of patient safety

The latest report in the OECD’s series ‘Better policies for better health’ is “The Economics of Patient Safety: strengthening a value-based approach to reducing patient harm at national level”.

It makes the point that a principal objective of health care is to do no harm and to ensure that the benefits of treatment outweigh its deleterious effects. However, unnecessary harm to patients has been part of health care for as long as medicine has been practiced and continues to occur. In recent decades a greater research focus has examined and quantified the extent and costs of patient safety failure across countries and healthcare settings. The increasing complexity of health care also means a higher risk of harm requiring greater vigilance, focus and investment to ensure care is as safe and effective as possible.This report:

  • estimates the cost of patient harm
  • outlines a strategy for policy-makers and healthcare leaders to improve patient safety with limited resources.

To download the full report on the Economics of Patient Safety from the oecd.org website

Measles outbreaks across Europe

Over 500 measles cases were reported for January 2017 in Europe with 85% of them coming from 7 of the 14 endemic countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine). Measles continues to spread within and among European countries, with the potential to cause large outbreaks wherever immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%.

As the WHO Regional Director for Europe pointed out:   “Today’s travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus. Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”

Preliminary information for February indicates that the number of new infections is sharply rising. In all of the countries listed above, estimated national immunization coverage with the second dose of measles-containing vaccine is less than the 95% threshold.

For more information about measles in Europe from the euro.who.int website

Risk assessment in the EU

The EU has produced an infographic to show how the EU’s Scientific Committees assess risks. It not only shows in a clear and concise way how the Committees function but also provides concrete examples of how their work impacts EU legislation.
To download the infographic on Risk Assessment from the ec.europa.eu website

Youth in Health in Action

The European Solidarity Corps offers young Europeans from 18 to 30 years old the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Aiming for 100,000 placements by 2020, NGOs, Member State authorities and other organisations can offer quality placements for volunteering, traineeships or jobs.

Health is an integral part of this initiative. There are many ways young people could play a part in health projects, making use of their skills be it language, communication, IT or medical skills. If you have ideas and projects which you think could provide young people from the Solidarity Corps with opportunities to learn and demonstrate solidarity, the Corps would like to hear from you.

For more information on the European Solidarity Corps on the ec.europa.eu website