Depression – Let’s talk

World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization and it provides a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.

The theme of the 2017 World Health Day campaign is depression, which can affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. At worst, it can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds. The campaign is paying particular attention to three groups that are disproportionately affected:

  • adolescents and young adults
  • women of childbearing age (particularly following childbirth)
  • adults over 60

Materials targeting these audiences are available in the campaign materials.

For more information about the campaign – Depression, let’s talk – on the who.int website

Health Policy Journal

Health Policy is a journal produced by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. It is intended to enable a wide discussion of health policy issues and is aimed in particular at improving communication between health policy researchers, legislators, decision-makers and professionals concerned with developing, implementing and analysing health policy.

For more information about Health Policy and to download previous issues on the hspm.org website

UN European coalition on health

The UN European coalition on health is a coordination mechanism focusing on the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – in the pan-European Region, and of the health-related targets present in other SDGs.

At its initial meeting in 2016 the coalition identified four key workstreams to focus on:

  1. health throughout the life-course, with a focus on maternal and child health (contributing to SDG 3, 4, 5, 16);
  2. communicable diseases, with a focus on HIV and tuberculosis (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 6);
  3. universal health coverage, with a focus on medicines (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 5);
  4. migration, including aspects of emergencies (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 10, 11, 13).

For more information about the UN European coalition on health on the euro.who.int website

Tobacco Control Playbook counters aggressive tobacco industry tactics

The tobacco industry has become more focused, aggressive and sophisticated in its efforts to block tobacco control measures. However, no single source has yet provided the resources to understand how governments and the public health community can respond to the arguments of tobacco industry players. In light of this, WHO/Europe has developed the Tobacco Control Playbook, an online tool that counters common tobacco myths.

The Playbook is intended to be a living resource, regularly updated and extended with further arguments and on the basis of feedback. It will also be adjusted and expanded to take into account any new developments in tobacco industry approaches. Everyone concerned with tobacco control is invited to contribute to the Playbook’s success by continuing to offer arguments and responses, and by sharing their experiences of using the Playbook. Please send input to eurotobaccofree@who.int.

Download the Tobacco Control Playbook from the euro.who.int website

Guidance on endocrine disruptors

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are developing scientific guidance to enable identification of endocrine disruptors.

In 2016 the European Commission proposed science-based criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors in the context of EU legislation on pesticides and biocides. Discussions with Member States and experts are on-going and the criteria are expected to enter into force in 2017.

EFSA and ECHA, supported by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, will produce an outline of the guidance that will be published and will provide information on the drafting and endorsement processes.

For more information on endocrine disruptors on the efsa.europa.eu website

Putting a value on improvements to health

Ensuring global access to proven interventions – including vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics, as well as prioritising the development of new health technologies – requires an assessment of whether the improvement in health outcomes they offer exceeds the improvement in health that would have been possible if the resources required had, instead, been made available for other health care activities. So some assessment of these health opportunity costs is required if the best use is to be made of the resources available for health care, existing technologies and the development of new ones.

Evidence of the expected costs and health effects of making an intervention available to specific populations in
particular settings and health care systems are often summarised as cost per Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) ratios (Salomon et al, 2012). These provide a useful summary of how much additional resource is required to achieve a measured improvement in health (the additional cost required to avert one DALY), or how much health is delivered for an amount of additional resource (the DALYs averted per $1,000).
Download the full briefing paper on Health Opportunity Costs on the york.ac.uk website

Resistant bacteria spreading in hospitals across Europe

Antibiotic resistance is widespread across the whole of Europe. High resistance, often seen in the southern and eastern countries of the European Union, is also found in the eastern part of the European Region. In particular, resistant bacteria are spreading in hospitals and health care settings, putting patients at risk of contracting incurable diseases. This is the concerning picture painted by the second Central Asian and Eastern European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (CAESAR) report, published by WHO.

The aim of the report is to provide guidance and inspiration to countries that are building or strengthening their national AMR surveillance and to stimulate the sharing of data internationally. 19 non-EU countries are engaged in CAESAR (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.)

More information about Anti-Microbial Resistance in Europe on the euro.who.int website

Effective, accessible and resilient health systems

The European Commission’s Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health has just been renewed for three more years, running until May 2019. The aim of the Panel is to provide the Commission with independent advice from a variety of sectors  to support modern, responsive and sustainable health systems.

The Panel’s new members cover a wide range of disciplines, including human medicine, public health and economics. It will support the Commission’s efforts to provide evidence-based policy-making using both country-specific and cross-country knowledge and will support the agenda on effective, accessible and resilient health systems.

More information about the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health on the ec.europa.eu website.

Improving access to medicines

A new WHO report provides insight into how countries in the WHO European Region can improve access and reduce medicine prices through strategic and well-planned procurement processes. It also addresses collaboration within and across countries to improve availability of affordable medicines for patients in the Region.

Countries in the Region have varying capacity and negotiating power when it comes to procuring new medicines and health technologies. As a result, the prices that a given country is asked to pay for its medicines may be disproportionally high and incompatible with its purchasing power.

A study cited in the report illustrates this problem. It compares ex-factory prices of 2 new medicines used to treat hepatitis C – sofosbuvir and ledipasvir-sofosbuvir – and reveals that the cost of treating the entire hepatitis C-infected population in each of the 30 countries examined would range from 10.5% of the total pharmaceutical expenditure in the Netherlands to 190.5% in Poland. The price of a single course of sofosbuvir was equivalent to 5.28 years of the average annual wage in Turkey. The high price of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir in England led the National Health Service to restrict treatment to the most severely ill patients.

Download the report on Strategic Purchasing of Medicines from the euro.who.int website