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

Toxoplasmosis: greater awareness needed

Toxoplasmosis, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, is estimated to affect more than 2 million people every year in the European Region. Although most people do not have symptoms, if a woman becomes infected just before or early in her pregnancy, it can have very serious health consequences for her child.

Toxoplasma can be acquired trans-placentally (mother to baby), through contact with infected soil or water, ingestion of contaminated food, or in very rare cases through blood/organ donation. It is assumed that half the cases come from eating contaminated food, such as inadequately cooked animal meat, or raw fruits and vegetables. Infection can also occur through contact with cat faeces in the environment, but cats only shed oocysts for a few weeks of their life, usually when kittens. Cats play an important role in the life cycle of the parasite, but they are not the main vehicle of infection.

To prevent food-borne toxoplasmosis, hand-washing and the use of clean water in food production and preparation is critical. Pregnant women should avoid undercooked meat. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed with clean water.

For more information about Toxoplasmosis on the euro.who.int website

Tackling Childhood Obesity

Tackling Childhood Obesity in Europe through Awareness and Prevention 

Thursday 12th October 2017 at the Thon Hotel, Brussels

Around one-third of 11-years-olds in Europe are overweight or obese according to the WHO. More than 60% of overweight children will stay overweight into adulthood, imposing a major burden on public spending. Indeed, around 7% of the national health budgets across the EU are spent each year on diseases linked to obesity.

This symposium will enable attendees to examine the factors underpinning childhood obesity and discuss the current strategies for prevention and treatment. The symposium will further offer delegates a platform to share ideas and best practice from across Europe.

For more information and to register for Tackling Childhood Obesity on the publicpolicyexchange.co.uk website

How active are our children?

Report cards on the physical activity of children and youth across the world have been released revealing how countries compare in getting their youth active. The Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance was responsible for organising the cards which graded countries on nine common indicators, overall physical activity, organized sport participation, active play, active transportation, sedentary behaviour, family and peers, school, community and the built environment and government strategies and investment.

The cards reflect standardised grading across countries ranging from  A= excellent to F = failing. Average grades for both physical activity and sedentary behaviour around the world are D. There is no data available for Northern Ireland, but both England and Scotland have been graded as D while Scotland is graded as F.

For more information about children’s physical activity and health on the bhfactive.org.uk website

Children’s medicines

Do you have an interest in safe medicines for children – as a parent, researcher or prescriber? If so, you are invited to participate in a stakeholder consultation launched by the European Commission. The aim is to gather real-life experiences and opinions on the Paediatric Regulation which came into force a decade ago and has three main objectives:

  • to ensure high-quality research into the development of medicines for children
  • to ensure that the majority of medicines used by children are specifically authorised for such use and so reduce the level of off-label use
  • to ensure the availability of high-quality information about medicines used by children.

The consultation is open until 20 February 2017.

More information about medicines for children and to contribute to the consultation on the ec.europa.eu website.

Pilot health projects funded by the EU

A pilot project is simply an experimental initiative designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action. It is meant to try different approaches, develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance for the benefit of possible future initiatives in the area of nutrition and physical activity.

Boards of scientific experts have been set up from a variety of disciplines for each project to provide robust guidelines for the project intervention and to validate its tools including the project websites which reflect the views of the authors and not necessarily the official opinion of the Commission.

Examples of pilot projects include ‘My healthy family’; ‘ We love eating’ and ‘Taste booster’.

Read more about some pilot projects on healthy living on the ec.europa.eu website

Children and the digital marketing of food

Food marketing has been identified as an important contributor to the “obesogenic” environment, in which foods high in fats, salt and sugars are promoted extensively, are more visible and are cheaper and easier to obtain than healthy options. Food marketing has been shown consistently to influence children’s food preferences and choices, shape their dietary habits and increase their risk of becoming obese.

In the absence of effective regulation of digital media in many countries, children are increasingly exposed to persuasive, individually tailored marketing techniques through, for example, social media sites and “advergames”.

For the first time, researchers and health experts have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of digital marketing to children of foods high in fats, salt and sugars. The findings are published in a new report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, ‘Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives’, which calls for immediate action by policy-makers to recognize and address the growing issue of marketing targeted to children via digital media.

Download the report on Children and the Digital Marketing of Food from the euro.who.int website

Where is it hardest to be a girl?

A girl under 15 is married every seven seconds; others are forced to live a life of modern-day slavery. Around the world, girls are at risk of trafficking, forced labour and sexual violence – especially if a war, earthquake or flood tears their homes apart.

Save the Children has produced a report that throws new light on the many discriminations faced by girls in 144 countries around the world. They have also produced an interactive map enabling readers to compare and contrast the quality of girls’ lives in different countries.

Use the map showing where it is hardest to be a girl on the savethechildren.org website

Investing in health literacy

Nearly half the European population is thought to have difficulty identifying, understanding and using health information. As this has real and negative health consequences, improving health literacy is a crucial step in improving people’s health. Health literacy skills are best developed early in life, which means the education sector is an important player, but it is not always easy to secure investment across sectors or to persuade the education sector to engage.

However, there is evidence that investing in health literacy in schools helps with outcomes beyond health. Some of the co-benefits include the possibility of better educational outcomes in school, leading to enhanced career opportunities and increased economic benefits for children when they reach adulthood. These co-benefits also contribute to better physical and emotional health and can be passed down to future generations.

The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies has produced a report on these co-benefits and outlines the evidence on how to secure them, in the hope this will increase support from outside the health sector and facilitate the implementation of health literacy programmes.

To download the report on the benefits of health literacy from the euro.who.int website

Perinatal mental health

Perinatal mental illnesses affect at least 10% of new mothers and can have a devastating impact on them and their families. When mothers suffer from illnesses such as anxiety, depression and postnatal psychotic disorders it increases the likelihood of their children experiencing behavioural, social or learning difficulties and failing to fulfil their potential.

This project (PATH) is applying for funding from the Interreg 2Seas programme and will devise and pilot a range of services within local areas to ensure that women who are at risk of, or suffering from, perinatal mental illnesses are given appropriate support at the earliest opportunity. These services will support new mothers in their return to work and will have a clear cost benefit to them, their families and to health systems. Perinatal mental illnesses in the UK are estimated to cost society around £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births, with 72% of this cost relating to adverse, long-term  impacts on the child.

We have only just started looking for partners but already have interested organisations in the UK including KMPT, Plymouth MIND and the Institute of Health Visitors as well as Odisee and Karel de Grote University in Belgium.