Why and how Europe’s food systems need to change?

What can be done to prepare Europe’s food systems for the future? In a new Policy Précis, EuroHealthNet examines pathways, solutions and best practices to move towards healthier and more sustainable and inclusive food systems in Europe and beyond. 

Despite growing concern about sustainability, Europe’s food systems still put undue stress on our environment. By restraining access to decent and affordable nutrition, our food systems perpetuate and drive up health inequalities. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) continues to subsidise intensive production of alcohol, meat, dairy fats and sugars, products that are known to contribute to the growing prevalence of obesity, and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

To read the Policy Précis in full, go to: https://eurohealthnet.eu/sites/eurohealthnet.eu/files/publications/Towards%20healthy%2C%20sustainable%20and%20inclusive%20European%20food%20systems.pdf#overlay-context=

National policy experts call for bold action for healthy ageing in the Region

National policy experts on healthy ageing have called for bold action to promote healthy ageing and to invest in a future where all older people have the freedom to live an active and healthy life that allows them to continue doing what they value. The call was made during a meeting held on 26–27 February 2019 in Moscow, Russian Federation, where participants from more than 30 countries of the WHO European Region came together to take stock of the policies and strategies across the Region.

WHO supports countries in leading the way towards a world for all ages. In the next 10 years, healthy ageing will be high on the global health agenda, with plans to launch a Decade of Healthy Ageing from 2020 to 2030.

To read more about this on the WHO/Europe website, go to: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Life-stages/healthy-ageing/news/news/2019/03/national-policy-experts-call-for-bold-action-for-healthy-ageing-in-the-region

New WHO factsheets reveal Europe struggles to implement policies to reduce alcohol consumption

The WHO European Region struggles with one of the highest levels of alcohol-related deaths in the world. To discuss effective and evidence-based ways to reverse this trend, Member States met in Stockholm, Sweden, at the first regional consultation focused on the implementation of the European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol 2012–2020.

Participants reviewed ways to bring critical support to this process. The European action plan has supported the reduction of alcohol consumption since its adoption, but room for improvement remains. More than 3 million people died worldwide as a result of alcohol abuse in 2016, and 1 million of those deaths occurred in the European Region.

Read more about this on the WHO/Europe website: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/alcohol-use/news/news/2019/01/new-who-factsheets-reveal-europe-struggles-to-implement-policies-to-reduce-alcohol-consumption

European Union history in the making with legalising medical cannabis

Laying the groundwork for legalising medical cannabis, the European Union is beginning to outline a harmonised set of laws across Europe.

Medical cannabis is inching its way into the European Union agenda as legislators prepare to funnel cash into research of the drug and begin laying the groundwork for a harmonised set of laws across Europe. In late 2018, health committee politicians in the European Parliament, voted to approve a draft resolution on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and now the proposals are going to become a concrete motion.

To read more about this go to: European Union history in the making with legalising medical cannabis

One step closer to digitalise children’s vaccination status on a European level

The ‘Digital health policies for Children’s Health’ workshop was about strengthening children’s immunisation in Europe through health data standards and about connecting patient summaries to EU vaccination cards and immunisation registries.
Immunisation information of children could be vital in emergency situations, to determine the level of immunity of a child who has been exposed to an infection risk, such as tetanus or meningitis. It can also be useful for the care professional to advise a child or parent if the child is due for a vaccine or booster or has fallen behind schedule.
This fits within the context of both the European Union and the World Health Organisation (WHO) seeking to drive higher child immunisation uptake, and effective holistic child health care.

To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: One step closer to digitalise children’s vaccination status on a European level – European Commission

The state of health in the EU

Every two years, the OECD prepares an assessment of the state of health in the EU for the European Commission. The latest report has been published and includes statistical indicators for 35 European countries, as well as two cross-cutting chapters on EU political priorities: promoting mental health and reducing inefficient spending. The report shows stalled increase in life expectancy in many EU Member States, marked by persistent and large inequalities in health gains.

Since a steady 2-3 year life expectancy increase between 2001-2011, improvements slowed down to just half a year between 2011-2016. The progress is slower in the Western European countries. People with a low level of education can expect to live six years less than those with a high level of education. “These gaps largely reflect differences in exposure to risk factors, but also indicate disparities in access to care.” In 2017, health spending accounted for 9.6% of GDP in the EU as a whole, up from 8.8% in 2008 but slightly down from the latest estimates of 9.9%. After years of cuts in healthcare budget devoted to prevention (with a post-economic crisis dip 2008-2012), between 2012-2016, an average of 2.5% of total health expenditure was spent on preventive measures. It is still way below the 2004-2008 levels of 4.7%.

Evidence is presented for strengthening prevention and health promotion measures; prioritising effective and people-centered health systems; improving access to health care; and building more resilient health systems.

To read more about this on the European Commission website, go to: https://ec.europa.eu/health/state/glance_en


Antimicrobial resistance

The latest Euro-barometer study shows that there has been a positive evolution in the use of antibiotics: 32% of people said they had taken antibiotics in the last twelve months, compared to 40% in the 2009 survey. However, many of these antibiotics were taken unnecessarily: 20% of  antibiotics were taken for flu or a cold and 7% took them without a medical prescription. 66% of the respondents know that antibiotics are of no use against colds, and 43% are aware that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. Over two thirds of people would like to have more information about antibiotics.

An important milestone will be the forthcoming European legislation on veterinary medicines and medicated feed, which lays down a wide range of concrete measures to fight antimicrobial resistance and to promote the prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials. As of 2022 in the EU, the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion in animals will be prohibited, as well as the preventive use of antimicrobials via medicated feed and in groups of animals. There will also be restrictions on metaphylactic use of antimicrobials, and the possibility to reserve certain antimicrobials for human use only. In addition, for their exports into the EU, non-EU countries will have to respect the ban on antimicrobials for growth promotion, as well as the restrictions on antimicrobials reserved for human use. The new EU regulations will thereby improve the protection of European consumers against the risk of spread of antimicrobial resistance through imports of animals or of products of animal origin

Source: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-6405_en.htm

EU Health Award for NGOs 

The 2018 EU Health Award for NGOs Working to Prevent Tobacco Use has now closed. The first prize of €20,000 was awarded to the Irish Cancer Society for the innovative social dimension of their campaign, the peer-to-peer approach, tackling also vulnerable groups in their “X-HALE Youth Smoking Prevention Programme”. The second prize of €15,000 was awarded to “Education Against Tobacco” from Germany for a well-structured and well-studied initiative in the form of a multinational network driven by over 3,500 volunteering medical students and physicians from 82 medical schools located in 14 countries worldwide. The third prize of €10,000 was awarded to the “Youth Network No Excuse” from Slovenia for their strong policy and advocacy component and young leadership which included an educational training programme for their activists to become active citizens, by raising awareness in primary and secondary schools, engaging in research activities, and advocating for stronger tobacco-control legislation. 

To read more about the award go to : EU Health Award for NGOs 2018 – European Commission

Sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals drop across the EU 

A PDF iconreport published today by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) shows that the overall sales of veterinary antimicrobials across Europe have decreased by more than 20% between 2011 and 2016. This continues the downward trend seen over the last few years and confirms that European Union (EU) guidance and national campaigns promoting prudent use of antibiotics in animals to fight antimicrobial resistance are having a positive effect.

The results are part of EMA’s report of the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) project, which presents detailed sales data for the year 2016 and records yearly changes in the consumption of veterinary antimicrobials dating back to 2010. For the 8th ESVAC report, 30 countries from the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) plus Switzerland provided data on sales or prescriptions of veterinary antimicrobials for 2016. Of these, 25 EU Member States submitted data for the entire period between 2011 and 2016. Participation in the ESVAC project has grown substantially, from nine countries initially to 30 today.

Reduction in sales is the result of combined efforts of the European Commission, EMA, EU Member States, veterinarians, farmers and other actors in the livestock sector. EU guidance together with national campaigns for prudent use of antibiotics in animals, sales targets and restriction of use of some antimicrobials in food-producing animals are among the actions implemented to reduce the sales of veterinary antimicrobials across Europe under the umbrella of the EU One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance. Led by the European Commission, the overarching goal of this plan is to preserve the possibility of effective treatment of infections in humans and animals through a framework for continued, more extensive action to reduce the emergence and spread of AMR.

Source: Sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals drop across the EU | European Medicines Agency

AMR action in Europe

In June 2017 the Commission adopted its second Action Plan against AMR. This ambitious action plan builds on the previous one, focusing on activities with a clear EU added value and, where possible, on measurable and concrete outcomes. The key objectives are built on three main pillars:

  • Making the EU a best practice region
  • Boosting research, development and innovation
  • Shaping the global agenda

The bi-annual EU AMR One-Health Network meetings provide members with a platform to present national action plans and strategies and keep each other up to date on their progress, to share best practices, and to discuss policy options and how to enhance cooperation and coordination.

To read more about AMR in Europe, go to: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/sante/newsletter-specific-archive-issue.cfm?archtype=specific&newsletter_service_id=327&newsletter_issue_id=11398&page=1&fullDate=Thu%2025%20Oct%202018&lang=default