Measles outbreaks across Europe

Over 500 measles cases were reported for January 2017 in Europe with 85% of them coming from 7 of the 14 endemic countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine). Measles continues to spread within and among European countries, with the potential to cause large outbreaks wherever immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%.

As the WHO Regional Director for Europe pointed out:   “Today’s travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus. Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”

Preliminary information for February indicates that the number of new infections is sharply rising. In all of the countries listed above, estimated national immunization coverage with the second dose of measles-containing vaccine is less than the 95% threshold.

For more information about measles in Europe from the euro.who.int website

Risk assessment in the EU

The EU has produced an infographic to show how the EU’s Scientific Committees assess risks. It not only shows in a clear and concise way how the Committees function but also provides concrete examples of how their work impacts EU legislation.
To download the infographic on Risk Assessment from the ec.europa.eu website

Pharmacovigilance

All medicinal products in the EU are subject to a strict testing and assessment of their quality, efficacy and safety before being authorised. Once placed on the market they continue to be monitored to ensure that any aspect which could impact the safety profile of a medicine is detected and assessed and that necessary measures are taken. This monitoring is called pharmacovigilance.

Pharmacovigilance activities include:

  • Collecting and managing data on the safety of medicines.
  • Looking at the data to detect “signals” (any new or changing safety issue).
  • Evaluating the data and making decisions with regard to safety issues.
  • Pro-active risk management to minimise any potential risk associated with the use of the medicine.
  • Acting to protect public health (including regulatory action).
  • Communicating with and informing stakeholders and the public.
  • Audit, both of the outcomes of action taken and of the key processes involved.

For more information about pharmacovigilance on the ec.europa.eu website

Harnessing big data for health

The latest edition of the Eurohealth Observer includes articles on:

  • connecting the dots: putting big data to work for health systems
  • big data for better outcomes: supporting health care system transformation in Europe
  • the Trump Administration launches health law changes into heavy seas
  • what does Brexit mean for health in the UK

To download the publication on Big data and health systems from the euro.who.int website

The Innov8 approach for reviewing national health programmes

The Innov8 technical handbook is a user-friendly resource as part of the Innov8 approach for reviewing national health programmes to leave no one behind. It gives detailed guidance and exercise sheets for each of the 8 steps of analysis that comprise the review process and includes background readings, country examples and analytical activities.

For more information and to download the handbook on the Innov8 approach for reviewing national health programes from the who.int website

The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year

More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments.

Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, according to the WHO.

The top 5 causes of death in children under 5 are:

  • respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke (570,000 children a year)
  • diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (361,000 children a year)
  • conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution (270,000 children a year in their first month of life)
  • malaria that could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage (200,000 children a year)
  • unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning (200,000 children a year)

For more information on the causes of death for children under 5 from the who.int website

Strategic investments for the future of healthcare

National health systems in the EU face common challenges: ageing populations and a rise of chronic diseases leading to growing demand for healthcare; shortages and uneven distribution of health professionals etc. Furthermore, (public) financial resources available for health are constrained. Today’s health systems are in need of reforms to
tackle these challenges. New care models, which support a shift from hospital-centred to more community and integrated care approaches, are a crucial part of the reforms to improve the efficiency and sustainability of health systems.
Earlier in 2017, the Commission, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB), held a seminar to discuss new forms of investment for innovative forms of healthcare. Over 100 delegates participated in the event, from the public and private sectors: Member States authorities, healthcare managers and service providers, as well as investors active or interested in the health sector.
This led to the report ‘Strategic investments for the future of healthcare’ which details the investment plan for health within the EU.
Download Strategic investments for the future of healthcare from the ec.europa.eu website

900 medical teams to connect across Europe for the benefit of patients

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

EU rules to drastically cut air pollution

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

Evaluation of Blood, Tissues and Cells legislation

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