WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic

The World Health Organization (WHO), finds that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to no smoking areas. About 4.7 billion people – 63% of the world’s population – are covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure, which has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15% of the world’s population were covered. Strategies to implement such policies have saved millions of people from early death. The report, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, focuses on monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies. It finds that one third of countries have comprehensive systems to monitor tobacco use. While this is up from one quarter of countries monitoring tobacco use at recommended levels in 2007, governments still need to do more to prioritize or finance this area of work.

For more information about this report on the global tabacco epidemic from who.int website.

 

WHO urges action against HIV drug resistance threat

The World Health Organization (WHO) HIV drug resistance report 2017 shows that of the 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, 19.5 million people were accessing anti-retroviral therapy in 2016. The majority of these people are doing well, with treatment proving highly effective in suppressing the HIV virus. But a growing number are experiencing the consequences of drug resistance. In 6 of the 11 countries surveyed in Africa, Asia and Latin America, over 10% of people starting antiretroviral therapy had a strain of HIV that was resistant to some of the most widely used HIV medicines.

The Organization warns that this growing threat could undermine global progress in treating and preventing HIV infection if early and effective action is not taken.

Assessing pricing models for innovative medicines, access to healthcare and performance of primary care

The Expert Panel on effective ways of investing in health is preparing three opinions on priority topics of the EU health strategy: payment models for high-cost medicines, access to healthcare and the performance of primary care. The opinions will be ready in the second semester of 2017 and will feed into the further policy work of the Commission.

In the EU, the pharmaceutical legislation lays down harmonised regulatory standards and tools for the authorisation and supervision of medicines. However, efforts to invest on development and timely authorisation of innovative medicines face challenges, such as the sustainability of health systems, patient access and affordability.

In April 2017 the European Commission published a recommendation establishing the European Pillar of Social Rights. The recommendation includes a principle on access to good quality preventive and curative health care.

 

Strong primary care can contribute to consolidating the overall health system’s performance by providing affordable and accessible care, guiding patients through the health system to find the most appropriate care (substantially reducing avoidable hospital admissions), focusing on individual needs and offering tailored, patient-centred care.

For more information on the assessment of pricing models for innovative medicines, access to healthcare and performance of primary care from ec.europa.eu.

 

 

 

 

Public consultation on Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

The European Commission has asked SCHEER to assess the potential health risks associated with LED emissions in the general population. The review of the published research conducted by the Committee has resulted in valuable conclusions and identified certain gaps in the knowledge on potential risks to human health from LEDs.

The Committee concluded that there is no evidence of direct adverse health effects from LEDs in normal use (lightening and displays) by the healthy general population.

Vulnerable and susceptible population (young children, adolescent and elderly people) were studied separately. Children have a higher sensitivity to blue light. Although emissions may not be harmful, blue LEDs may be very dazzling and may induce photochemical retinopathy, which is a concern especially for children below three years of age. Moreover, elderly people may experience discomfort from exposure to LED systems, including blue LED displays.

Despite the existence of cellular and animal studies showing adverse effects of LED exposure, their conclusions derive from results obtained using exposure conditions that are difficult to relate to human exposures or using exposure levels greater than those likely to be achieved with LED lighting systems in practice.

Since the use of LED technology is still evolving, the Committee considers that it is important to closely monitor the risk of adverse health effects from long term LED use to the general population.

For more information on the public consultation of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

 

Pilot projects on Health Inequalities

The European Parliament funds a number of pilot projects designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action, develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance in the area of health inequalities.

One such pilot is VulnerABLE: Improving the health of those in isolated and vulnerable situations

It targets specific vulnerable and isolated populations such as children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds; those living in rural/isolated areas; those with physical, mental and learning disabilities or poor mental health; the long-term unemployed; the inactive; the ‘in-work poor’; older people; victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence; people with unstable housing situations (the homeless); and prisoners.

Due to their circumstances, these groups may be more at risk of poor health and/or face barriers in accessing healthcare services. The project will assess their particular health needs and challenges, as well as identify best practices to support them and ultimately improve their health.

Initial research has found that unmet health needs are a significant factor for those living in vulnerable and isolated situations. For example:

  • Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) show that in older people socioeconomic factors such as a lower level of education and lower income increase the likelihood of older people experiencing limitations to their mobility, and the prevalence of eyesight, hearing and chewing problems
  • Those living in rural areas are less likely than urban residents to seek the healthcare they need because of cost, distance, and/or a lack of health facilities and professionals
  • Most prisoners have pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as substance abuse and mental health needs, which overcrowding and poor hygiene in prison may make worse
  • Those with lower levels of education are more likely to have a lower life expectancy
  • Long-term unemployment and inactivity is associated with a range of poor health outcomes

Over its two-year lifetime, the ‘VulnerABLE’ project will create training materials and capacity-building workshops for national and regional authorities who deliver healthcare services and have a vital role to play in tackling health inequalities

For more information about Pilot projects to tackle Health Inequalities on the ec.europa.eu website

The ethics of PH surveillance

Public health officials regularly collect and analyse data to map disease, spot patterns, identify causes and respond to outbreaks. Surveillance, when conducted ethically, is the foundation for programs to promote human well-being at the population level and can contribute to reducing inequalities.

However, it is not without risks for participants and sometimes poses ethical dilemmas. It can lead to harm if people’s privacy is violated, or they are stigmatized on the basis of the information they provide about themselves.

The WHO have produced Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance – the first international framework of its kind. It outlines 17 ethical guidelines that can assist everyone involved in public health surveillance, including officials in government agencies, health workers, NGOs and the private sector.

To read the Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance

National mental health strategy in Sweden

The Swedish government has introduced a new national mental health strategy for 2016-2020. It is based on five focus areas identified as the most important to strengthen mental health and prevent mental illness:

  1. Prevention and promotion efforts
  2.  Accessible early interventions
  3. Focus on vulnerable groups
  4. Participation and rights
  5. Organization and leadership

Each focus area includes people of all ages – children, young people, adults, and the elderly. Just as the focus areas were developed in collaboration between many different stakeholders, the government emphasises that all development work in the field must be conducted simultaneously and collaboratively. The Public Health Agency of Sweden plays a leading role in this effort.

For more information about Sweden’s National Mental Health Strategy on the eurohealthnet-magazine.eu website

Air pollution deaths in Europe

Each year, at least 1.4 million Europeans die prematurely due to polluted environments; this corresponds to at least 15% of Europe’s total deaths. Around half of these deaths are due to outdoor and indoor air pollution. Altogether, European citizens lose annually 50 million years of healthy life from environmental risks.

Environmental risk factors are responsible for around 26% of ischemic heart disease, 25% of strokes and 17% of cancers in Europe. Air pollution is the leading environmental killer, responsible for 620,000 deaths every year from outdoor (transport, industry, energy production) and indoor (solid fuel combustion for heating and cooking, poor ventilation, second-hand tobacco smoke) exposure.

For more information about the risks to public health of air pollution on the euro.who.int website

Where to swim in Europe

More than 85% of bathing water sites monitored across Europe in 2016 met the most stringent ‘excellent’ quality standards — meaning they were mostly free from pollutants harmful to human health and the environment, according to the latest annual bathing water quality report.

Over 96% of bathing water sites met the minimum quality requirements set out under European Union rules.

The report covers bathing water locations across the EU, Albania and Switzerland. European bathing waters are much cleaner than forty years ago when large quantities of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste water were discharged into water. The assessment compiled analyses of water sampled at more than 21,000 coastal and inland bathing sites and gives a good indication where the best sites with the highest water quality are likely to be found this summer.

For more information including country reports on clean bathing water sites in Europe on the europa.eu website

Healthier, fairer, safer: the global health journey 2007–2017

This independent report, commissioned by WHO and written by Sir Liam Donaldson, reflects on the trends, achievements and challenges in global health over the past decade. It discusses the role of WHO in dealing with such issues as the rise of noncommunicable diseases, leaps in life expectancy, and emerging threats like climate change and antimicrobial resistance.

The sections include:

  • Saving mothers and children
  • Microbes: old and new
  • The ascendancy of noncommunicable diseases
  • Healthy ageing

To download the full report ‘Healthier, fairer, safer: the global health journey 2007–2017′ from the who.int website