Using Health and Social Data to monitor Health Inequalities

Those who experience social and economic disadvantage are more likely to be in poor health and have shorter lives than more advantaged peers. Full analysis of the risk factors for and trends in health inequalities is complex and requires comprehensive and comparable health and social data. When national and regional authorities have such data which can be disaggregated by socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, and education, they can plan and execute policies and interventions which tackle inequalities in cost-effective ways. In the latest issue of Policy Précis, EuroHealthNet examines what systems and measures for the collection of data are currently in place in Europe and Member States, and what improvements should be made.


To read more about using health and social data to monitor health inequalities go to: Using Health and Social Data to monitor Health Inequalities | EuroHealthNet

The Benefits of Social Media for Young People in Care

Young people in care benefit from the psychological, emotional and social support gained via social media networks – according to new research from the University of East Anglia’s Centre for Research on the Child and Family (CRCF). Until now, the automatic assumption has been that platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp only pose a risk for this vulnerable group.

To read more about the benefits of social media for young people in care go to: The Benefits of Social Media for Young People in Care

Raising awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer

The WHO European Region has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world. However, the level of awareness of the link between alcohol consumption and increased risk of cancer remains low. World Cancer Day on 4 February 2018 was an opportunity to reinforce the important message that alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of cancer, and to call for the implementation of effective measures to reduce the overall use of alcohol.

It has been established that drinking alcohol can cause at least 7 types of cancer, those of the:

  • bowel (colon and rectum)
  • breast
  • gullet (oesophagus)
  • larynx
  • liver
  • mouth
  • upper throat.

For more information about the link between alcohol and cancer go to: WHO/Europe | Alcohol use – Raising awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer

Safer drinking water for all Europeans

The right to access essential services of good quality, including water, is one of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights unanimously endorsed by Heads of State or Government at the Gothenburg Summit. Today’s legislative proposal aims to guarantee this right and thereby responds to the first-ever successful European Citizens’ Initiative, “Right2Water“, that gathered 1.6 million signatures in support of improving access to safe drinking water for all Europeans. In addition this proposal seeks to empower consumers ensuring that water suppliers provide consumers with clearer information on water consumption, on the cost structure as well as on the price per litre allowing a comparison with the price of bottled water. This will be contributing to the environmental goals of reducing unnecessary plastic use and limiting the EU’s carbon footprint, as well as to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

To read more about safer drinking water for all Europeans go to: European Commission – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Safer drinking water for all Europeans

Universal income and health 

NHS Scotland has published a briefing which examines the implications of universal income on health. It suggests a systematic review of the models used in previous universal income experiments and impacts is needed, as is further modelling of different programme designs. It stresses that assessments of different models should consider which populations have the greatest risk of being adversely affected, as part of a larger assessment of economic, social, and health impacts.

To read the briefing in full go to:

Turning the tide on obesity and unhealthy diets

Public Health Panorama, WHO/Europe’s public health journal, has dedicated its latest issue to obesity and unhealthy diets in the Region. With unhealthy diets now responsible for 1 in 5 deaths globally, and with the Region at the midway point of implementing the European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020, this special issue is a timely source of lessons learned and new research on the subject.

The issue, “Turning the tide on obesity and unhealthy diets”, gives a snapshot of the current challenges governments face in making policies for improving public health. It examines the rapid increase in overweight and obesity among children and adolescents, and the need for transforming both service delivery and the scope of practice of health professionals.

For more information go to the WHO Europe website: WHO/Europe | Nutrition – Turning the tide on obesity and unhealthy diets in the WHO European Region – new publication presents novel insights and effective solutions

Sugar in foods

WHO has published a new study that investigates why manufacturers and other supply chain actors use sugar in foods and why they use it in such large amounts. The publication “Incentives and disincentives for reducing sugar in manufactured foods: an exploratory supply chain analysis” concludes that a comprehensive approach encompassing the entire food system is necessary in order to reduce sugar intake.

WHO produced the report in response to the growing issue of consumption of excess free sugars throughout the WHO European Region. Consuming excess free sugars is associated with weight gain for adults and children.

The major sources of free sugars in the European diet include sugary drinks and so-called treat foods such as sweets, chocolates, cakes, pastries and biscuits. The term “free sugars” refers to all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus the sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices. It does not include sugars present in whole fruits or vegetables.

According to WHO recommendations, intake of free sugars should be less than 10% of total daily energy intake for both adults and children, and ideally should be less than 5%.

To read the report in full on the WHO Europe website go to:

Climate change and health

The “right to health” acknowledged in the Paris Agreement is central to many of the actions that countries will take on climate change in the years to come.WHO/Europe plays a leading role in providing evidence and shaping policies on existing and emerging environmental health risks through the European Centre for Environment and Health (ECEH), located in Bonn.

Starting in the late 1980s, the WHO European Region also initiated the first-ever process to eliminate the most significant environmental threats to human health. Progress towards this goal is driven by a series of ministerial conferences held every 5 years and coordinated by WHO/Europe – most recently in Ostrava, Czechia, in June 2017.

To read more about climate change and health go to:

Reducing sugar in manufactured foods  

The amount of free sugars consumed in Europe exceeds levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). A significant proportion of free sugars in the diet comes from manufactured foods, such as baked goods, breakfast cereals and sugary drinks. Excess sugar intake increases the risk of weight gain and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and is one of the major challenges in Europe in relation to the promotion of healthy diets. Yet the high free sugars content of certain manufactured products and the significant variation in composition, within product categories and between countries, indicate that there is significant scope to reduce the amount of sugar added to manufactured foods.

This policy brief presents the results of a novel food supply chain analysis that identifies insights for governments to consider when designing sugar reduction strategies. It explores the incentives and disincentives to using sugar in manufactured foods throughout the “sugar supply chain” – the actors and activities that take sugar from farm to fork.

To read more about this on the WHO Europe website go to:

Gender specific mechanisms in coronary heart disease

A European pilot project GenCAD aims to improve the understanding of sex and gender differences in chronic diseases, using coronary heart disease (CAD) as an example to highlight these differences regarding treatment and prevention activities in European countries.

As with other chronic diseases, CAD differs significantly in women and men throughout Europe, in age distribution, risk factors, prevention, clinical manifestation, response to therapies and outcomes. However, the existing evidence regarding sex and gender differences is sometimes incomplete and the existing findings are frequently not convincingly presented to the medical community and public

To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: Pilot projects funded by the European Parliament – European Commission