Tackling Wasteful Spending on Health

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

New approach needed to tackle rising drug prices

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

Big Data in Health

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

Guidance on endocrine disruptors

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: greater awareness needed

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

Water, sanitation and health

14 people die every day in the pan-European region, due to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.

In response a Protocol on Water and Health has been developed which urges an holistic approach to water, sanitation and health, enabling countries to use the Protocol as a tool to implement Strategic Development Goals SDG) at national levels. Through improving their water, health and environmental situations, countries also support and reinforce the benefits to many other areas of development. This creates positive, interlinked and mutually supportive outcomes that reduce poverty, address inequality and promote sustainability – all of which are overarching themes of the SDGs.

More information about the Protocol on Water and Health on the euro.who.int website

European Knowledge Hub on Health and Migration

Although the number of refugee and migrant arrivals has seen an overall reduction in recent months, migration to Europe continues at a steady rate. In 2016 more than 330,000 refugees and migrants reached Italy and Greece with over 4,200 being found dead or reported missing at sea, compared to 3,771 in 2015.

The health systems in countries receiving refugees and migrants should be able to deal with the immediate health needs of new arrivals, as well as diagnose and treat common infectious diseases and noncommunicable illnesses. They should have effective disease surveillance and reporting systems in place to investigate and respond to outbreaks.

WHO has launched the first ever European Knowledge Hub on Health and Migration to support the work of those who deal directly with the health aspects of migration, serving as a repository for scientific evidence on the subject. It will act as a learning platform for all stakeholders working in the field of migration and health, including policy-makers, health professionals, social workers, managers of migration centres and first-line responders.

More information about Migrants and Health on the euro.who.int website

HIV & Hepatitis in Europe

There are 53 countries in the WHO European Region and within those countries there are 15 million people living with hepatitis C and 13.3 million people living with hepatitis B, the vast majority of whom are unaware of their infection and therefore at risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. On average, fewer than 3% of patients with chronic hepatitis C receive treatment. In addition, there are 2.5 million people living with HIV, almost half of whom are unaware of their infection.

Safe and effective treatments exist that allow people living with HIV and/or viral hepatitis B to lead healthy and long lives. Those living with hepatitis C can be cured. Knowing your health status, however, is the prerequisite to accessing treatment and the WHO strongly supports the European HIV-Hepatitis initiative which aims to break the silence around HIV and viral hepatitis and build momentum to stop these epidemics by 2030.

Read more about HIV and Hepatitis in Europe on the euro.who.int website