European Reference Networks (ERNs) are unique and innovative cross-border cooperation platforms between specialists for the diagnosis and treatment of rare or low prevalence complex diseases.
In 2017 24 thematic ERNs, gathering over 900 highly specialised healthcare units from 26 countries, will begin working together on a wide range of issues, from bone disorders to haematological diseases, from paediatric cancer to immunodeficiency. Joining up of EU’s best expertise on this scale should benefit thousands of patients with diseases requiring a particular concentration of highly specialised healthcare in medical domains where the expertise is rare.
For more information on European Reference Networks on the europa.eu website
Although air pollutants are invisible killers, people are increasingly aware and concerned about the quality of the air they breathe. From 31st December 2016 a new National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive became law, which sets stricter limits on the five main pollutants in Europe – sulphur dioxide, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter.
The aim is to reduce these five pollutants by 79%, 19%, 40%, 63% and 49% respectively by 2030.
When fully implemented, the Directive will reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution, such as respiratory diseases and premature death. It will also have substantial benefits for the quality of fresh water, soil, and ecosystems and help address the impacts of harmful particles causing climate change like black carbon.
More information about air pollution and the Emissions Directive on the europa.eu website
EU legislation on quality and safety standards for blood, tissues and cells has been in place for more than a decade and in view of the changing landscape – greater use of technology, more disease outbreaks, and a more connected world – the Commission is going to evaluate whether this legislation has achieved its original objectives, is still fit for purpose, or whether there are gaps to be filled.
There will be a public consultation later in 2017 and the final report should be published in 2018
For more information about the process of evaluating blood, tissues and cells legislation on the ec.europa.eu website
Following a brief pause after the economic crisis, health expenditure is rising again in most OECD countries, yet a considerable part of this health expenditure makes little or no contribution to improving people’s health. In some cases, it even results in worse health outcomes. S0, as this report points out, countries could potentially spend significantly less on health care with no impact on health system performance, or on health outcomes. The report ‘Tackling Wasteful Spending on Health‘ reviews strategies put in place by countries to limit ineffective spending and waste.
To find out more about the report on Tackling Wasteful Spending on Health on the keepeek.com website
The proliferation of high-cost medicines and rising drug prices are increasing pressures on public health spending and calling into question the pharmaceutical industry’s pricing strategies.
According to a new report from the OECD, ‘ New Health Technologies: Managing Access, Value and Sustainability’, pharmaceutical spending is increasingly skewed towards high-cost products. The launch prices of drugs for cancer and rare diseases are rising, sometimes without a commensurate increase in health benefits for patients. For instance in the United States the launch price of oncology drugs per life-year gained has been multiplied by four in less than 20 years and now exceeds $200,000.
For more information on Pharmaceutical Price Rises on the oecd.org website
The EU has funded a number of pilot projects in the field of health inequalities to develop evidence-based strategies, identify good practices and provide policy guidance for the benefit of possible future initiatives.
To find out more about these particular projects on Health Inequalities on the ec.europa.eu website
A new study on Big Data in Public Health, Telemedicine and Healthcare identifies examples of the use of Big Data in Health, and puts forward recommendations covering 10 relevant fields: awareness raising, education and training, data sources, open data and data sharing, applications and purposes, data analysis, governance of data access and use, standards, funding and financial resources, and legal and privacy aspects.
In the context of this study, “big data in health” refers to large routinely or automatically collected datasets, which are electronically captured and stored. Using Big Data in health has many potential benefits. It may contribute to, for example, increasing the effectiveness and quality of treatments available for patients, widening possibilities for disease prevention by identifying risk factors at population, sub-population, and individual levels, improving pharmacovigilance and patient safety, and reducing inefficiency and waste.
The study’s 10 recommendations are aimed at maximising opportunities Big Data can bring to public health in the EU – to improve the health of individual patients as well as the performance of Member States’ health systems. All recommendations are underpinned by principles such as the need to uphold ethical standards and the privacy or safety of citizens, and to include stakeholders – such as patient advocacy groups, when implementing them.
To read the full report on Big Data in Health on the ec.europa.eu website
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are developing scientific guidance to enable identification of endocrine disruptors.
In 2016 the European Commission proposed science-based criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors in the context of EU legislation on pesticides and biocides. Discussions with Member States and experts are on-going and the criteria are expected to enter into force in 2017.
EFSA and ECHA, supported by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, will produce an outline of the guidance that will be published and will provide information on the drafting and endorsement processes.
For more information on endocrine disruptors on the efsa.europa.eu website
Toxoplasmosis, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, is estimated to affect more than 2 million people every year in the European Region. Although most people do not have symptoms, if a woman becomes infected just before or early in her pregnancy, it can have very serious health consequences for her child.
Toxoplasma can be acquired trans-placentally (mother to baby), through contact with infected soil or water, ingestion of contaminated food, or in very rare cases through blood/organ donation. It is assumed that half the cases come from eating contaminated food, such as inadequately cooked animal meat, or raw fruits and vegetables. Infection can also occur through contact with cat faeces in the environment, but cats only shed oocysts for a few weeks of their life, usually when kittens. Cats play an important role in the life cycle of the parasite, but they are not the main vehicle of infection.
To prevent food-borne toxoplasmosis, hand-washing and the use of clean water in food production and preparation is critical. Pregnant women should avoid undercooked meat. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed with clean water.
For more information about Toxoplasmosis on the euro.who.int website