The European Code Against Cancer focuses on actions that individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing cancer. It lists 12 actions that will make a significant difference to a person’s health and longevity:
- Do not smoke. Do not use any form of tobacco.
- Make your home smoke free. Support smoke-free policies in your workplace.
- Take action to be a healthy body weight.
- Be physically active in everyday life. Limit the time you spend sitting
- Have a healthy diet: eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits; limit high-calorie foods (foods high in sugar or fat) and avoid sugary drinks; avoid processed meat; limit red meat and foods high in salt.
- If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.
- Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Use sun protection. Do not use sunbeds.
- In the workplace, protect yourself against cancer-causing substances by following health and safety instructions.
- Find out if you are exposed to radiation from naturally high radon levels in your home. Take action to reduce high radon levels.
- For women: Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s cancer risk so if you can, breastfeed your baby; Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the risk of certain cancers so limit use of HRT.
- Ensure your children take part in vaccination programmes for Hepatitis B (for newborns) and Human papillomavirus (HPV) (for girls).
- Take part in organised cancer screening programmes for:
- Bowel cancer (men and women)
- Breast cancer (women)
- Cervical cancer (women).
Print the full Code against Cancer from the cancer-code-europe.iarc.fr website
The European Parliament funds a number of pilot projects – projects which are experimental and designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action. They are intended to develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance for the benefit of possible future initiatives in the area of health inequalities.
This particular pilot project will increase understanding of how best to reduce specific health inequalities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) people, focusing in particular on overlapping inequalities stemming from discrimination and unfair treatment on other grounds (e.g. older, younger, refugee, immigrant, disability, rural, poverty).
The project will explore the particular health needs and challenges faced by LGBTI people and analyse the key barriers faced by health professionals when providing care for LGBTI people. The aim is to raise awareness of the challenges and provide European health professionals with the tools that give them the right skills and knowledge to overcome these barriers and contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.
More information about this project on health inequalities for LGBTI people is on the ec.europa.eu website
The WHO has produced an action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the European Region, focusing on priority action areas and interventions for the next decade in order to reduce premature mortality, reduce the disease burden, improve the quality of life and make healthy life expectancy more equitable.
The priority interventions, at population level are:
- promoting healthy consumption via fiscal and marketing policies on tobacco, alcohol and food
- product reformulation and improvement in terms of salt, fats and sugars
- salt reduction
- promoting active living and mobility
- promoting clean air
Download the action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs on the euro.who.int website
Nearly half the European population is thought to have difficulty identifying, understanding and using health information. As this has real and negative health consequences, improving health literacy is a crucial step in improving people’s health. Health literacy skills are best developed early in life, which means the education sector is an important player, but it is not always easy to secure investment across sectors or to persuade the education sector to engage.
However, there is evidence that investing in health literacy in schools helps with outcomes beyond health. Some of the co-benefits include the possibility of better educational outcomes in school, leading to enhanced career opportunities and increased economic benefits for children when they reach adulthood. These co-benefits also contribute to better physical and emotional health and can be passed down to future generations.
The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies has produced a report on these co-benefits and outlines the evidence on how to secure them, in the hope this will increase support from outside the health sector and facilitate the implementation of health literacy programmes.
To download the report on the benefits of health literacy from the euro.who.int website
People in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s are having sex with new partners but many don’t think safer sex applies to them, perhaps because they are past child-bearing age and/or because they have recently come out of a long-term relationship and haven’t had to think about safe sex issues for many years.
As a result, sexually transmitted infections are increasing in this age group. However many older adults missed out on safe sex education and the result is they are diagnosed with an STI when it is too late to benefit from the medications available for treatment of diseases in their early stages.
This project (SHIFT) is looking for funding from the Interreg 2Seas programme to raise awareness and knowledge of both clinicians and the general public so that attitudes are changed, the older generation is engaged and empowered through the provision of better information, and delivery strategies are improved.
This will lead to reduced rates of STIs, and therefore lower health care costs and a better trained healthcare workforce able to offer fit-for-purpose services.
We are actively looking for partners but already have interest from Medway Council, Canterbury Christ Church University, KCC, KentCHT, Brighton and Hove and the Metro charity in the UK as well as Eurasante in France and Vives in Belgium.
The European Health Parliament is a platform of 55 young professionals from across Europe, which aims to deliver high-level policy-oriented recommendations to positively influence and change the future of healthcare in Europe. It has just published ‘Rethinking European Healthcare: recommendations by the next generation’.
It covers proposals on:
- antimicrobial resistance
- climate change and health
- digital skills for health professionals
- migration and health
- prevention and self-care
For more information and to download the full report or the executive summary of Rethinking European Healthcare from the healthparliament.eu website
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
The WHO Regional Office for Europe has prepared a physical activity strategy to support the voluntary global targets set out in the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013–2020.
The strategy focuses on physical activity as a leading factor in health and well-being in the European Region, with particular attention being paid to the burden of noncommunicable diseases associated with insufficient activity levels and sedentary behaviour. It aims to cover all forms of physical activity throughout an ordinary person’s life.
For more information and to download the physical activity strategy on the euro.who.int website.
The nutritional well-being of pregnant women affects not only their fetuses’ development but also children’s long-term risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or obesity, according to a new report from WHO/Europe “Good maternal nutrition. The best start in life”.
While the importance of good nutrition in the early development of children has been recognized for decades, the report offers a systematized review of the most recent evidence on maternal nutrition and obesity and NCD prevention. The findings confirm that a mother’s nutritional status – including overweight and obesity, excessive gestational weight gain and gestational diabetes – affects not only her child’s health as an infant but also the child’s risk of obesity and related chronic diseases as an adult. In short, maternal nutrition can truly have an intergenerational impact.
The findings of this report further emphasize the need to implement strategies to optimize the nutrition of reproductive-age women. The evidence suggests that such interventions are among the most effective and sustainable means of achieving positive effects on health and reducing health inequalities across the next generation.
For more information about the impact of maternal nutrition on children on the euro.who.int website
Tara Duthie, who lives in Stirling, Scotland tried to quit smoking four times in 5 years. Then, in 2015 aged just 49, she had a heart attack – it was a wake-up call she could not ignore. She started using an app to help her stop smoking which not only gave her information about physiological changes but also had little games that she could play to distract herself for the 3 or 4 minutes a craving for a cigarette would last.
Smart phone apps that help with lifestyle change are growing in popularity. However, few public health authorities have mechanisms in place to regulate their quality or have a strategy to guide how they could be used for health promotion.
According to the latest e-health report, “From innovation to implementation – e-health in the WHO European Region“, the health authorities of 22 countries in the Region promote the development and adoption of m-health (mobile health) in the health sector. Around a quarter (11 countries) report that their health authorities regulate mobile devices and software for quality, safety and reliability. In 7 countries the health authorities play no role in the development or adoption of m-health. The report further shows that, when governments sponsor m-health programmes, they are also more likely to provide incentives and guidance on innovation and evaluation, as well as regulation for their use.
For more information about mobile health and smoking on the euro.who.int website