Ending the chronic disease epidemic

Chronic diseases affect one third of the European population aged 15 and over, and nearly a quarter of working-age Europeans. Many good practices in prevention and control are available and already implemented in different countries but more needs to be done.

The European Public Health Alliance believes that fiscal measures should be directed toward incentivising healthy diets and lifestyles, and reducing alcohol consumption. Together with interventions aimed to limit citizens’ exposure to marketing of unhealthy food and drink products and promote physical activity, they have the potential to create health-friendly environments, conducive to healthy lives and facilitating healthy choices. This is particularly important when data show that in all EU countries, citizens’ mean daily salt intake exceeds the recommended levels, millions of Europeans still consume trans fats at levels that significantly increase their risk of coronary heart disease, exposure to high levels of air pollution is causing the premature death of over 400 000 Europeans annually and half of the EU population is reported to never exercise or play sport.

To read the full report on the EPHA website: Putting an end to the chronic disease epidemic in Europe and beyond – what are we waiting for? 

4% annual decrease too slow to end TB by 2030

A new report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe indicates that the number of new tuberculosis (TB) patients has been decreasing at an average rate of 4.3% yearly in the last decade in the WHO European Region.

Despite being the fastest decline in the world, this trend is insufficient to achieve the target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030, as envisioned in the End TB Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals. The new report was released ahead of World Tuberculosis Day, which this year called on global leaders to accelerate efforts to end TB once and for all.

To read more about efforts to end the TB epidemic on the WHO Europe website, go to: http://www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/sections/press-releases/2018/who-europeecdc-joint-press-release-4-annual-decrease-too-slow-to-end-tb-by-2030-call-for-europes-commitment-to-increase-investment-to-end-tb?utm_source=WHO%2FEurope+mailing+list&utm_campaign=b0784de77d-News_highlights_January_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_60241f4736-b0784de77d-93292493

Greater efforts to protect people from vaccine-preventable diseases

The WHO European Region has made real, but uneven, progress towards EVAP goals and objectives, including measles and rubella elimination. As of the end of 2016, 42 of 53 countries had interrupted endemic measles transmission. However, following a record low of around 5000 cases in 2016, the disease rebounded in 2017, affecting more than 21 000 people.

Health ministries of 12 countries in south-eastern Europe and beyond have endorsed a statement of intent to speed up progress towards the goals and strategic objectives of the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020 (EVAP).

To read this report in full on the WHO/Europe website go to: WHO/Europe | Vaccines and immunization – 12 European countries commit to greater efforts to protect people from vaccine-preventable diseases

Helping people with chronic disease stay in the workforce

People with long-term health problems are at higher risk of poverty, social exclusion, severe material deprivation and unemployment. The rising prevalence of chronic diseases coupled with economic uncertainty exacerbates the problem.

Innovative strategies are needed to help people with chronic diseases to remain professionally active. In 2015, in response, the Commission co-funded the PATHWAYS Project – “Participation To Healthy Workplaces And inclusive Strategies in the Work Sector”. It identified integration and re-integration strategies that are available in Europe for people with chronic diseases and aimed to determine their effectiveness, to assess specific employment-related needs of people with chronic diseases and to develop guidelines to help implement effective professional integration and reintegration strategies.

To read more go to: Health-EU Newsletter 210 – Focus – European Commission

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