EHMA @ What place for chronic diseases in the EU agenda post 2019?

by Giulia Zaniboni and Anna Steinebach

On the 16th of May 2019, the Conference ‘Towards the Sustainable Development Goals: What place for chronic diseases in the EU agenda post 2019’ took place at the European Parliament. The Conference was organised by the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA). The aim of ECDA is to reverse the alarming rise in chronic diseases by providing leadership and policy recommendations based on contemporary evidence.

Today, chronic-non-communicable diseases account for 86% of deaths in the WHO European Region. Major chronic diseases are: cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, allergies, hypertension, kidney and liver disease. Most of them are influenced by low air quality and pollution, salt and alcohol intake and are preventable.

The meeting featured several high-level experts, including Martin Seychell – Deputy Director for Health, DG SANTE ,  Marion Devaux – OECD, Francois Wakenhut – Head of Unit “Clean air” – DG Environment, MEP Daciana Octavia Sârbu, MEP Aloiz Peterle, and the Chairman of ECDA, Prof Raymond Vanholder.

The opening speech was given by MEP Daciana Sârbu, who pointed out the importance of prevention in chronic disease management and the necessity to put health higher on the EU agenda. Prof Raymon Vanholder highlighted that chronic disease are not only a health issue but also a major economic burden that deserves more attention –  most people face multiple chronic diseases, which also result in the inability to work and a reduction of purchasing power.

The conference was followed by a video presentation of Dr. Gregor Smith from Scotland, who explained the recent legal regulation on increasing tax prices of alcohol products. The given example showed the effectiveness of political actions and gives other EU Member States the possibility to learn from best practices.

Following the introduction, the manifesto Europe’s health deserves the EU’s attention: Investing in chronic disease prevention and management was presented. The manifesto revolves around four key points:

  1. A structured EU framework on chronic diseases
  2. A European Chronic Disease Awareness Day
  3. A meaningful, ambitious Sixth Reflection Paper “Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030”
  4. Targeted funding and investment to address chronic diseases

The presentation led to a panel discussion moderated by Catherine Hartmann and centred on the necessity of cost-effective, sustainable and affordable solutions.

The issue of social inequalities, brought to the discussion by Marion Devaux – OECD, is strongly influencing all chronic disease. Inequalities have to be reduced through better education and information, increasing physical activities, taxation on less healthy choices and most importantly – the combination of several policies together. Another important point of debate was the issue of scaling up and the implementation of good and best practices. Martin Seychell – European Commission, claimed that often there is good intervention towards a healthy lifestyle and the reduction of chronic diseases, but it is done at a local level and has to be transferred to a European setting. Furthermore, the knowledge and scientific based data is available but not adequately transferred to policymaking.


In the end, the experts agreed on the importance of political will to change the agenda setting towards higher awareness about chronic diseases at all level, also highlighting how essential are public private partnerships and multi-stakeholder dialogue.


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