Deaths from drugs overdoses still rising

For the third year in row deaths from drugs overdose in Europe have increased, with the UK and Germany together accounting for around half of these deaths, according to the latest European Drug Report.

A total of 8,441 overdose deaths, mainly related to heroin and other opioids, are estimated to have occurred in Europe in 2015, a 6% increase on 2014. Increases were reported in almost all age groups and the UK accounted for 31% of the deaths, with Germany a distant second on 15%.

The report finds that the three European countries with the highest volume of drug online sales are Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, with stimulants, in particular MDMA and cocaine, accounting for most of the sales revenue.

For more information and to download the European Drug Report from the ec.europa.eu website

25% of Europeans still smoke

A recent survey shows no decrease in the overall smoking rate in the EU since 2014, with more than one in four Europeans still smoking. Amongst people aged 15 to 24 the rate has increased from 25% in 2014 to 29% in 2017.

Significant differences exist between EU countries, with the highest smoking rates in Greece (37%), Bulgaria, France (both 36%) and Croatia (35%). At 7%, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU. Regular e-cigarette use remains stable at 2%, with 15% having tried such products at some point. With regard to attitudes to tobacco and e-cigarette control measures, the majority of those surveyed (63%) think e-cigarette use should be banned in places where there are smoking bans; and 46% are in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes.

To read the full Eurobarometer on attitudes of Europeans to smoking and e-cigarettes on the ec.europa.eu website

Controlling speeding drivers

Around 1.25 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Studies indicate that:

  • almost half of all drivers exceed the speed limit
  • drivers who are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes
  • road traffic accidents (RTAs) are the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years
  • RTAs are estimated to cost countries from 3–5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.

‘Managing speed’, a new report from WHO, suggests that excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to 1 in 3 road traffic fatalities worldwide. Measures to address speed prevent road traffic deaths and injuries, make populations healthier, and cities more sustainable.

To read more about speed management to save lives from the who.int website

TV and internet marketing to children

The WHO have produced a protocol “Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children via television and the Internet” to help countries in the European Region gather data in a way that will support policy changes.
Most data on the prevalence of food and beverage marketing come from high-income, English-speaking countries,
specifically Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. They show that the marketing of HFSS foods (high in saturated fats, salt and/or sugar) to children is highly prevalent, actively uses persuasive techniques likely to appeal to children and is present across multiple media, including broadcast television and social media online.
Continued monitoring is needed in these countries, to ensure that up-to-date evidence is available to inform and strengthen policy and that policies are adequately evaluated.
More data are urgently needed from other countries, however, to support the domestic policy-making process and to build a more representative global picture of food-marketing activity.
Studies conducted in accordance with this protocol will interest policy-makers, academic researchers, public health
practitioners and advocacy groups in the WHO European Region and worldwide.
To download the protocol on Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children from the euro.who.int website

10 facts on physical activity

A lack of physical activity is a significant risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Less and less physical activity is occurring in many countries – globally, 23% of adults and 81% school-going adolescents are not active enough.

WHO have identified 10 facts about physical activity, including:

  • it reduces the risk of disease
  • it helps maintain a healthy body
  • it’s not the same as sport
  • 60 minutes a day for 5-17 year olds
  • 150 minutes a week for 18-64 year olds
  • Some physical activity is better than none

To see the full list and associated images on physical activity 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

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

Sun-beds – no safe limit for UVR exposure

The final Opinion on the biological effects of ultraviolet radiation relevant to health with particular reference to sunbeds for cosmetic purposes has been published by the European Commission and its Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER).

Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR), including that emitted by sunbeds, is considered a complete carcinogen, in that it can initiate and promote cancer. Based on the available scientific evidence, the SCHEER concludes that exposure to UVR in the context of sunbed use is:

  • strongly associated with skin melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, especially when first exposure takes place at a younger age;
  • moderately associated with basal cell carcinoma and ocular melanoma;
  • responsible for a significant proportion of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer cases associated with early onset melanoma.

As there is no threshold level of UV-irradiance and UV–dose for the induction of skin cancer, the SCHEER concludes that there is no safe limit for exposure to UVR from sunbeds.

Furthermore, as the risks outweigh the benefits, there is no need to use sunbeds to induce vitamin D production.

Read the full opinion on the Health Risks of Sunbeds on the ec.europa.eu 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

Over 2 million HIV cases in Europe

The cumulative number of HIV cases in the WHO European Region has risen to a new high of more than 2 million, with 153,000 new HIV cases identified in 2015 – a 7% increase compared to the previous year and the highest annual number since reporting began in the 1980s.

A new report “HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe 2015“, also states that 1 in 7 people living with HIV in the European Economic Area (122,000 people) are unaware of their condition.

The main transmission mode also varied by geographical area. HIV infections increased consistently among men who have sex with men in the western and central parts of the Region, while in the eastern part heterosexual transmission increased. Transmission through injecting drug use still accounted for one third of new cases in eastern European countries.

For more information about HIV/AIDS in Europe from the euro.who.int website