Climate change and health

All populations will be affected by climate change, but some are more vulnerable than others. In Europe it will be people living on small islands, in coastal regions and on rivers who will be particularly vulnerable.

WHO have produced a fact sheet on climate change and health which provides key facts, outlines patterns of infection, measures health effects and details the WHO’s response.

The key facts include:

  • Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
  • Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
  • The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between US$ 2-4 billion/year by 2030.
  • Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
  • Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health, particularly through reduced air pollution.

In 2015, the WHO Executive Board endorsed a new work plan on climate change and health. This includes:

  • Partnerships: to coordinate with partner agencies within the UN system, and ensure that health is properly represented in the climate change agenda.
  • Awareness raising: to provide and disseminate information on the threats that climate change presents to human health, and opportunities to promote health while cutting carbon emissions.
  • Science and evidence: to coordinate reviews of the scientific evidence on the links between climate change and health, and develop a global research agenda.
  • Support for implementation of the public health response to climate change: to assist countries to build capacity to reduce health vulnerability to climate change, and promote health while reducing carbon emissions.

For more information on climate change and health on the who.int website

Human blood, tissues and cells

The European Commission has published two reports on the implementation of EU legislation which sets standards of quality and safety for both human blood and human tissues and cells.

According to the legislation, donations of human blood, tissues and cells should be voluntary and unpaid and all EU countries have taken measures to encourage this, although what is considered compensation and incentive vary between Member States.

The reports also point to some gaps and difficulties in applying and enforcing the rules. For both sectors, these difficulties relate to such things as the protection of donors, the inspections framework and testing and deferral criteria for new epidemiological and technological developments (eg testing for Malaria).

For more information, including links to both reports, on the ec.europa.eu website.

Securing health in Europe

The final Conference Report from the 18th European Health Forum Gastein “Securing health in Europe: balancing priorities, sharing responsibilities” has been published.

The yearly event hosted more than 500 health professionals over three days and focused on access to high-quality healthcare and innovative treatment in Europe.

To read the Conference Report on the ehfg.org website

Public Health threats to air safety

The AIRSAN Project looked at coordinated action in the aviation sector to control public health threats and has developed a range of tools to ensure a well- organised and coherent response. The Project targeted public health and civil aviation authorities, local public health authorities at airports, airport and airline management and medical services across EU member states.

AIRSAN Partners have developed:

  • an AIRSAN Network,
  • AIRSAN Communication Platform,
  • an AIRSAN Bibliography,
  • AIRSAN Guidance Documents, and
  • an AIRSAN Training Tool.

To access these and find out more about the AIRSAN project on the airsan.eu website

Zika virus in Europe

The WHO has declared the Zika virus outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.

The European Commission has created a central web page with information on the Zika outbreak and how it is being managed in the EU. It will be regularly updated in line with the latest developments.

To see more about the Zika virus in Europe on the ec.europa.eu website.

Serious cross-border threats to health

At the end of 2015, the EU implemented a decision to improve preparedness across the EU and strengthen the capacity for coordinated responses to health emergencies. This will improve health security in the EU and will help member states prepare for cross-border threates caused by communicable diseases, chemical, biological or environmental events.

The Decision has four major benefits:

  • to strengthen preparedness planning
  • to improve risk assessment and management of cross-border health threats
  • to establish the necessary arrangements for the development and implementation of a joint procurement of medical countermeasures
  • to enhance the coordination of response at EU level by providing a solid legal mandate to the Health Security Committee

To read more about this decision on the ec.europa.eu website

Bio-tech companies and drug-resistant bacteria

There is a feeling amongst small bio-tech companies that their skills are being overlooked in the initiatives being developed to confront the problem of drug-resistant bacteria. An alliance of 37 such companies across Europe have pledged to accelerate progress in dealing with this threat by bringing together expertise in the design and development of new antibiotics, the identification and implementation of preventative strategies against resistance and in the design of improved diagnostic technologies to facilitate more appropriate antibiotic treatment.

The BEAM Alliance says it will remain at the forefront of antibiotic drug, device and diagnostic discovery and development as a combined technical and scientific force across Europe. It also intends to stimulate research and development activities focused on combating antibiotic resistance and to promote new policies and regulation around the use and development of antimicrobial resistance strategies.

For more information, click here on http://beam-alliance.eu

Improving organ donation across Europe

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Council of Europe, along with 8 other partners are supporting the ‘ACCORD’ project which has involved 23 European countries. “Achieving Comprehensive Coordination in Organ Donation throughout the European Union” is a Joint Action coordinated by the Spanish National Transplant Organisation and aims to narrow the inequalities in organ donation by:

  1. Enhancing the protection of living donors by improving information systems and through common standards.
  2. Promoting deceased organ donation by facilitating the cooperation between critical care       professionals and donor transplant coordinators.
  3. Sharing practical knowledge, expertise and tools by implementing practical collaborations among countries – through a “twinnings” initiative.

For more information about ACCORD, click here on www.accord-ja.eu

Food fraud

With food fraud, the violations are mostly related to non-compliance with labelling rules, falsified certification and/or documents and ingredient substitutions. These are the main conclusions of the Food Fraud Network Activity Report, which follows up on 60 cases notified through the Network in 2014. The Commission will be equipping the Network with a dedicated IT tool to facilitate the handling of cases.

For more information, click here on http://ec.europa.eu

New EU rules on human tissues and cells increase patient safety

The Commission has adopted two sets of rules for human tissues and cells to protect patients in the EU by ensuring high quality and safety standards.

The first set of rules set out the technical requirements that will facilitate tracing of all tissues and cells between donor and recipient. This will happen through a so-called ‘Single European Code’ and a Commission-hosted IT-platform to ensure uniform labelling of all tissues and cells distributed in the EU. In the case of a safety alert, this label will ensure that all recipients who received material from the same donor can be traced and treated as needed. It will also allow for unused tissues or cells to be discarded.

The second directive covers imports and sets out procedures for ensuring that tissues and cells imported from third countries meet the same safety and quality standards as those procured, processed and distributed in the EU. These rules will ensure the safety of EU recipients in need of tissues and cells, regardless of the origin of the material.

For more information, click here on http://ec.europa.eu