Over the past decades, major progress has been made in the area of public health as a result of key achievements in European health research and medicine, improving living standards and levels of education, nutrition and access to high-quality healthcare.
But many challenges remain.
Europe’s ageing population
The result of economic development and successes in public health and healthcare has resulted in an increase in life expectancy.
At the same time, fertility has been steadily declining in the EU since the mid-1960s and is currently decreasing, in particular in Eastern and Southern Europe.
The share of older people is therefore growing, and is already greater than the proportion of children in the population. By 2060, the share of people in the population who are over 65 years of age will more than double in number, with an associated increase in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer and other dementia.
In the decade before the crisis, health was one of the fastest growing spending items for governments in most Member States. However health budgets, particularly those related to prevention and health promotion, have been dramatically cut during the past few years.
This state-of-play in Europe’s health shows that EU policies and strategies are needed. For these reasons we are committed to working, in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, over the next years to promote healthy lifestyles, protect healthy living standards and improve the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
Identifying political solutions for critical European healthcare policy issues: involving Europe’s brightest young minds
Prevention, detection and encouraging innovation also formed a core part of the proposals brought to the European Parliament by the European Health Parliament this month.
The European Health Parliament (EHP) is a platform that brings together 80 motivated young healthcare experts from all over Europe. Most of them under the age of 30, they work across sectors and in different types of organisations but share a passion for healthcare policy. They each bring their skills and unique backgrounds (from embassies to the pharmaceutical industry) together, in their spare time, to research solutions to current healthcare challenges.
I'm delighted to have had the honour of hosting these young Europeans, who presented the results of their research into improving Europe's healthcare system to MEPs, with proposals in areas that critically impact future healthcare policy. In addition to proposals on access to therapeutic innovation, patient empowerment and centricity and the prevention of chronic diseases, the young experts called on the EU to complement and support Member-State activities in the following areas.
Big data in healthcare
- The creation of a European Health Records Organisation that would gather the patient data currently spread across hospitals, doctors, in paper and in digital form, in one place in a way that it is exploitable and can be used to generate new insights into critical healthcare issues
- The EU is best placed to coordinate Member-State initiatives and the sharing of best practice
- Improving market access by legislating for data protection to ensure privacy and security and to tackle a lack of trust in electronic and mobile healthcare innovations
- Supporting innovation in healthcare by harmonising and speeding up the certification process for pharmaceutical products – which happens much faster in the US – as well as by supporting research projects
Cross-border health threats
- The EU should bolster and reinforce what Member States are doing in tackling cross-border health threats by defining a public framework for where it will intervene in support of Member States. It should help ensure strong national healthcare systems across the EU.
- The EU should have a supportive vaccination plan across the EU to level the playing field
- It should apply political pressure to eradicate diseases like tuberculosis and the issue of anti-microbial resistance
The economic dimension of healthcare
- Facilitating the implementation of screening methods for prevention, early diagnosis and early treatment across Europe to reduce overall costs, drawing on existing screening programmes in place
- Developing a toolkit – a set of guidelines, drawing on EU and Member State experience so far – to help Member States decide whether they want to implement screening methods for particular conditions to reduce healthcare costs in their country
Moving forward on promoting healthy living
These 4 areas are also priorities for our Group, which has always taken incisive action on health policies, with the aim of ensuring a high level of protection of the health of European citizens.
We are committed to promoting healthy lifestyles, protecting healthy living standards and improving the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases
The challenges we face currently in Europe and those that the future will bring call for a strong commitment from the European institutions - and the EPP Group is ready to play its role.
Events such as these show that we need more EU involvement, more coordination between Member States and that our young citizens can play an important role in helping us reach our targets with their enthusiasm and ideas.
We believe in people. #believeinpeople #UpToUs @giovannilavia