The first EU Summit on Chronic Diseases took place in Brussels between 3 and 4 April. Peggy Maguire, EPHA President, delivered a keynote speech, which we summarise here.
Among other key topics, the first EU summit on chronic diseases discussed the medical, social and economic benefits of sustainable investments in health; ways to reduce the burden of chronic diseases; and how to strengthen the prevention and management of chronic diseases.
One in four people suffer from obesity in Europe, one in two are overweight and a large proportion suffer from other poor diet-related diseases (for instance, tobacco is the first leading cause of preventable and premature deaths and alcohol the third cause of disease). This is a consequence of our lifestyle patterns and is directly linked to the political, economic and social structures of our societies.
We know that the vast majority of these diseases and deaths are avoidable and preventable by reasonable and cost-effective means. Having a healthy diet, being physically active, and decreasing the alcohol and tobacco consumption are well-known, evidence-based lifestyle modifications.
Healthy lifestyles need to be encouraged, not only by the ministries of health, but with a health in all policies strategy. Healthy choices in life for all citizens should be facilitated by enabling and coherent policies at the EU, national and local level, making the "healthy choice" available for all the community.
The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) calls on the European Parliament MEPs to ensure peoples’ health and well-being are properly incorporated in a strong vision for Europe (see EPHA’s Election Manifesto) and calls on MEP candidates to commit to ensuring that the Europe 2020 strategy prioritises and delivers for people’s health and well-being.
This is important for chronic disease prevention and management, because the EU can deliver on inclusive growth through citizenship engagement in the debate on the Europe 2020 review. We also call on the Commission to follow up its work on chronic disease via an action plan or strategy. Policy-makers have a wide range of regulations tools at their disposal: Minimum Alcohol Pricing (MUP), and increased taxation of unhealthy food are examples already put in place in some of the EU Member States. Yet, more solutions to increase participation and ensure the accountability of institutions, such as the Citizen Report Card, can be further developed.
Partnerships outside the health sector are necessary to address the limited mobility and discrimination faced by people living with chronic conditions.
Health advocates need to consider the impact on chronic diseases of international trade agreements. Reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers limits government’s policy space for advertising regulations, labelling, and taxation that shape preferences and affect lifestyle-related health.
At EPHA, we welcome any steps that could bring more political commitment in times of increasing economic and health inequalities and we insist that Europe urgently needs to reconnect with its citizens in order to tackle them.
You can retrieve the Twitter conversation around the Summit via #EU4Health