Deafness and hearing loss

The WHO have updated their factsheet about deafness and hearing loss and key facts in it include:

  • 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss and 32 million of these are children
  • Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing
  • 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes
  • 1billion young people (aged between 12–35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings
  • Approximately one third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss

For more information and to download the factsheet on deafness and hearing loss from the who.int website

Global Action Plan to Prevent & Control NCDs

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – are the biggest cause of death worldwide. More than 36 million die annually from NCDs (63% of global deaths), including 14 million people who die too young before the age of 70. More than 90% of these premature deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries, and could have largely been prevented. Most premature deaths are linked to common risk factors, namely tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.

The World Health Organisation has launched a Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, which provides a road map and menu of policy options for countries, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and the private sector. If these are implemented by 2020, a number of global targets will be reached, including a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025.

For more information about the Action Plan to prevent NCDs on the who.int website

EU support for public health priorities

In Europe, six of the seven biggest risk factors for premature death are directly linked to how we eat, drink and move. Moreover, rising levels of obesity across Europe is a great concern and can contribute to or aggravate many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

More than 20 pan-European actions have been co-financed under the 2nd and 3rd EU Health Programmes, to exchange best practices, develop recommendations and improve standardized methods of data collection about nutrition and physical activity promotion.

At the end of 2016 a three day meeting was organised to share the results from more than 30 successful projects in the areas of nutrition and physical activity that can be carried out by policy makers, schools and the community.

To download the presentations on nutrition and physical activity on the ec.europa.eu website

Longer life, but not necessarily healthier life

Life expectancy now exceeds 80 years in most EU countries according to the new report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016“, but these are not always healthy life years. Around 50 million people in the EU suffer from several chronic diseases, and more than half a million people of working age die from them every year, representing an annual cost of some €115 billion for EU economies. Three fundamental changes are needed if this is going to change:

  • more effective health systems: 550,000 people of working age die every year from potentially avoidable diseases. 16% of adults are obese now (up from 11% in 2000) and one in five is still smoking. Many lives could be saved firstly, by focusing more resources on health promotion and disease prevention strategies and secondly, by improving the quality of acute and chronic care.
  • more accessible health systems: 27% of patients go to A & E due to the lack of availability of primary care; an average of 15% of health spending is paid directly out-of-pocket by patients with large disparities between countries; and poor Europeans are on average 10 times more likely to have problems in getting proper healthcare for financial reasons than more affluent ones. Member States’ policies should focus on reducing financial barriers to healthcare, strengthening access to primary care, and reducing excessive waiting times.
  • more resilient health systems: Across the EU the share of the population over 65 has increased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and is projected to increase to nearly 30% by 2060. Population ageing, combined with increasing rates of chronic diseases and budgetary constraints, will require changes in how we deliver healthcare, including developing eHealth, reducing hospital stays by organising services better in primary and community care, and spending more wisely on pharmaceuticals, including by making full use of opportunities for generic substitutions.

More information about Improving Health Systems on the europa.eu website

Air pollution kills 467,000 Europeans a year

Air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned. People in urban areas are especially at risk, with around 85% exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at levels deemed harmful by the World Health Organization (WHO).

These particles are too small to see or smell, but can have a devastating impact, causing or aggravating heart disease, asthma and lung cancer.

Download the Air Quality in Europe 2016 report from the eea.europa.eu website

 

Less meat = better health and better planet

Unhealthy levels of meat consumption and production are simultaneously driving climate change, diet-related chronic diseases and resistance to antibiotics, according to the European Public Health Alliance.

They argue that a transition towards sustainable diets is necessary for a realistic climate strategy and represents the agricultural sector’s main climate mitigation opportunity.

Studies suggest that realistic changes in eating patterns in high income countries could reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 25-50%.

To read the full article on meat consumption and climate change on the epha.org website

Protecting health through tobacco control

An international tribunal has upheld the sovereign authority of states to protect health through tobacco control.

The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has confirmed that tobacco control measures applied by the Government of Uruguay did not violate the terms of an investment agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland, under which the dispute was initiated.

The decision was informed by a submission from the World Health Organization that gave an overview of global tobacco control and set out the public health evidence underlying Uruguay’s tobacco packaging and labelling laws and detailed state practice in implementing similar measures.

The tribunal’s award affirms that Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control can confidently implement the Convention and its Guidelines to protect present and future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption.

For more information on the right of states to protect health through tobacco control on the who.int website

Chronic diseases in the EU

In the EU:

  • More than 60% of people over the age of 65 suffer from one or more chronic diseases
  • 32 million adults  are living with diabetes
  • One in four deaths are due to cancer
  • More than 70% of health system budgets are spent on chronic diseases
  • One in three children is obese or overweight
  • On average, nearly one in four adults are smokers

A recent conference “Towards better prevention and management of chronic diseases” set out an EU approach to promote good health and prevent and manage chronic diseases in ways that complement national policies in the 28 Member States.

For more information about the EU’s chronic diseases policy on the ec.europa.eu website

Rare Diseases and Social Services

The European Commission’s Expert Group on Rare Diseases has published its recommendations to support the incorporation of rare diseases into social services and policies.

Studies have demonstrated that the quality of life for someone with a rare chronic disease is worse than that of someone affected by more common chronic disorders, both physically and psycho-socially. They also show that patients with rare diseases have more negative experiences in terms of medical care and loss of social-economic activities.
Effectively coordinated integrated care and support services involving health, social and local services as well as the community at large, are essential to overcome the particular challenges of Rare Diseases and to ensure that people affected by a rare disease can secure the assistance they require from mainstream social and local services.
To read the full Recommendations on the ec.europa.eu website

The labour market impact of chronic disease

The OECD has produced a paper examining the labour market impacts of lifestyle risk factors and associated chronic diseases, in terms of employment opportunities, wages, productivity, sick leave, early retirement and receipt of disability benefits.

It provides a review of the evidence of the labour market outcomes of key risk factors (obesity, smoking and hazardous drinking) and of a number of related chronic diseases, along with findings from new analyses conducted on data from a selection of OECD countries.

Some of its key findings include:

  • Obesity and smoking clearly impair employment prospects, wages and labour productivity
  • Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes have negative impacts on employment prospects and wages, and diabetes, cancer and arthritis lower labour productivity
  • Alcohol use, cancer, high blood pressure and arthritis have mixed effects on employment and wages, and are not always linked with increased sickness absence.

Finally, this paper stresses the importance of these findings for the economy at large, and supports the use of carefully designed chronic disease prevention strategies targeting people at higher risk of adverse labour market outcomes, which may lead to substantial gains in economic production through a healthier and more productive workforce.

To read the full report on the labour market impact on the oecd-ilibrary.org website