European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer

European women’s probability of developing breast cancer over a lifetime is approximately 1 in 8*. A woman’s individual risk of breast cancer may be higher or lower than this average, depending on a number of factors, including age, family history, reproductive history (such as menstrual and childbearing history), race/ethnicity, and others.

The ECIBC is developing recommendations for breast cancer screening and diagnosis. Each recommendation is specifically tailored to the needs of citizens and patients, health professionals, and policy makers. All recommendations are based on the female population at ‘average’ and ‘below average’ risk of developing breast cancer.

To read more about this initiative on the Europa.eu site: http://ecibc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/recommendations/

International comparisions of health prices and volumes

Cross-country variation in health expenditure may be the result of differences in the prices of goods and services or differences in the volume of care, or a mix of both. Separating health spending into volume and price measures helps policy makers better understand the drivers of cross-country variations, and helps them decide what policy responses should be put in place to address health spending trends. Such policies may differ if, for example, a country’s high health care spending is due to relatively high volume of goods and services consumed or to the relatively high price a country pays for those goods or services.

The OECD have recently published new findings on these international comparisons.

To download the document on International comparisons of health prices and volumes from the oecd.org website

Pilot projects on Health Inequalities

The European Parliament funds a number of pilot projects designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action, develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance in the area of health inequalities.

One such pilot is VulnerABLE: Improving the health of those in isolated and vulnerable situations

It targets specific vulnerable and isolated populations such as children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds; those living in rural/isolated areas; those with physical, mental and learning disabilities or poor mental health; the long-term unemployed; the inactive; the ‘in-work poor’; older people; victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence; people with unstable housing situations (the homeless); and prisoners.

Due to their circumstances, these groups may be more at risk of poor health and/or face barriers in accessing healthcare services. The project will assess their particular health needs and challenges, as well as identify best practices to support them and ultimately improve their health.

Initial research has found that unmet health needs are a significant factor for those living in vulnerable and isolated situations. For example:

  • Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) show that in older people socioeconomic factors such as a lower level of education and lower income increase the likelihood of older people experiencing limitations to their mobility, and the prevalence of eyesight, hearing and chewing problems
  • Those living in rural areas are less likely than urban residents to seek the healthcare they need because of cost, distance, and/or a lack of health facilities and professionals
  • Most prisoners have pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as substance abuse and mental health needs, which overcrowding and poor hygiene in prison may make worse
  • Those with lower levels of education are more likely to have a lower life expectancy
  • Long-term unemployment and inactivity is associated with a range of poor health outcomes

Over its two-year lifetime, the ‘VulnerABLE’ project will create training materials and capacity-building workshops for national and regional authorities who deliver healthcare services and have a vital role to play in tackling health inequalities

For more information about Pilot projects to tackle Health Inequalities on the ec.europa.eu website

The ethics of PH surveillance

Public health officials regularly collect and analyse data to map disease, spot patterns, identify causes and respond to outbreaks. Surveillance, when conducted ethically, is the foundation for programs to promote human well-being at the population level and can contribute to reducing inequalities.

However, it is not without risks for participants and sometimes poses ethical dilemmas. It can lead to harm if people’s privacy is violated, or they are stigmatized on the basis of the information they provide about themselves.

The WHO have produced Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance – the first international framework of its kind. It outlines 17 ethical guidelines that can assist everyone involved in public health surveillance, including officials in government agencies, health workers, NGOs and the private sector.

To read the Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance

EU Action Plan on AMR

The EU has published its Action Plan to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – a growing threat that is responsible for 25,000 deaths and a loss of €1.5 billion in the EU every year.

The plan includes guidelines for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospital administrators and others who play a role in antimicrobial use to promote their prudent use in people. These guidelines complement infection prevention and control guidelines which may exist at national level. In addition, the plan foresees more than 75 actions built on three main pillars:

  • making the EU a best-practice region
  • boosting research, development and innovation
  • shaping the global agenda

For more information on the Action Plan to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance on the ec.europa.eu website

The economic costs of unhealthy diets and low physical activity

Unhealthy diets and low physical activity contribute to many chronic diseases and disability; they are responsible for some 2 in 5 deaths worldwide and for about 30% of the global disease burden. Yet surprisingly little is known about the economic costs that these risk factors cause, both for health care and society more widely.

This study pulls together the evidence about the economic burden that can be linked to unhealthy diets and low physical activity.

The study’s findings are a step towards a better understanding of the economic burden that can be associated with two key risk factors for ill health and they will help policymakers in setting priorities and to more effectively promoting healthy diets and physical activity.

To download the report Assessing the costs of unhealthy diet and low physical activity from the euro.who.int websit

Where to swim in Europe

More than 85% of bathing water sites monitored across Europe in 2016 met the most stringent ‘excellent’ quality standards — meaning they were mostly free from pollutants harmful to human health and the environment, according to the latest annual bathing water quality report.

Over 96% of bathing water sites met the minimum quality requirements set out under European Union rules.

The report covers bathing water locations across the EU, Albania and Switzerland. European bathing waters are much cleaner than forty years ago when large quantities of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste water were discharged into water. The assessment compiled analyses of water sampled at more than 21,000 coastal and inland bathing sites and gives a good indication where the best sites with the highest water quality are likely to be found this summer.

For more information including country reports on clean bathing water sites in Europe on the europa.eu website

EU rules on medical devices

The EU has produced new rules on medical devices to enhance patient safety and modernise public health.

There are over 500,000 types of medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic medical devices on the EU market. Examples of medical devices are contact lenses, x-ray machines, pacemakers, breast implants and hip replacements and sticking plasters. In vitro diagnostic medical devices, which are used to perform tests on samples, include HIV blood tests, pregnancy tests and blood sugar monitoring systems for diabetics.

The new Regulations will help to ensure that all medical devices – from heart valves to sticking plasters to artificial hips – are safe and perform well. The new rules will improve market surveillance and traceability as well as make sure that all medical and in vitro diagnostic devices are designed to reflect the latest scientific and technological state-of-the art. The rules will also provide more transparency and legal certainty for producers, manufacturers and importers and help to strengthen international competitiveness and innovation in this strategic sector.

For more information on the new rules about medical devices on the europa.eu website

Blood management

The European Commission has produced two new guides about blood management:

  • Building national programmes of patient blood management (PBM) in the EU – a guide for health authorities
  • Supporting patient blood management (PBM) in the EU – a practical implementation guide for hospitals

To download these guides on patient blood management from the ec.europa.eu website

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