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

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

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

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

France to colour-code nutrition labelling

France is recommending the Nutri-Score system –  a straightforward labelling system that uses colour codes to guide consumers at a glance on the nutritional value of food products. This marks an important achievement for nutrition in the WHO European Region and it will build on other ongoing efforts in the country to create healthy food environments.

The United Kingdom already recommends traffic light labelling, a system that uses red, amber and green to indicate levels of fat, salt and sugar contained in food products. The Nutri-Score system that France intends to use employs a nutrient profiling system, based on the UK Food Standards Agency model, and classifies foods and beverages according to five categories of nutritional quality, indicated via a colour scale ranging from Green (grade A) to red (grade E).

For more information about the Nutri-score system of food labelling on the euro.who.int website

Autism spectrum disorders

According to the latest factsheet from the WHO, 1 in 160 children world-wide has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and for most of them, the condition becomes apparent during the first 5 years of life.

ASD refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual and carried out repetitively. ASDs begin in childhood and tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood.

For more information about autism spectrum disorders and to download the Parent Skills Training Package on the who.int website