In an unprecedented effort to bring prevention of chronic diseases to the top of the EU agenda, the MEP Heart Group , the MEP Group for Kidney Health , the EU Diabetes Working Group and MEPs Against Cancer organise a joint meeting today in the European Parliament, together with representatives of health professionals and health activists at European level.
"If we don't address these chronic diseases urgently, they threaten the "Europe 2020 strategy", especially the goal to have 75% of the working population employed and productive" says Linda McAvan, MEP and co-chair of the MEP Heart Group. Most of these chronic diseases are treatable but not curable, which explains why they generate an enormous financial burden due to treatment and care costs and loss of economic productivity.
"Chronic diseases are largely preventable and in this respect the European Parliament has a major role to play" says Frieda Brepoels, chair of the MEP Group for Kidney Health.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, MEPs call upon the competent authorities in the member states to urgently develop and improve policies aiming at tackling chronic diseases. "A higher investment in prevention is needed", continues Frieda Brepoels, "in particular by raising awareness about common risk factors and promoting healthy lifestyles".
Four major health determinants - tobacco, poor diet, alcohol and lack of physical activity - account for most chronic illness and death in Europe. Addressing chronic diseases will allow Europeans to live longer and healthier lives, stay longer in the workforce and contribute to reversing the alarming negative labour force growth which is predicted for 2020.
High tobacco and alcohol taxes, smoke free environment, good nutrition labelling which helps consumers make healthy choices and measures to prioritise the needs of pedestrians and cyclists over those of motorists in urban areas are but some of the few measures that politicians should put in place.
Alojz Peterle, Member of the European Parliament and President of MEPs Against Cancer (MAC), one of the co-organisers of the event said: 'We urge MEPs, the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and national governments to work together to tackle the problem of chronic diseases. It is only by working in partnership that we will be able to put in place effective Europe-wide policies aimed at preventing these conditions that cause so much suffering and death each year. Prevention is undoubtedly cheaper than disease management and treatment and, therefore, it makes economic sense to pursue these policies now at a time when many national governments are having to curb their expenditure.'
The co-chairs of the four MEP Groups strongly supports the initiative taken by the trio of the European Union presidencies to give priority to the prevention of chronic diseases and support the initiative of the Belgian Council presidency to raise awareness on the burden of chronic diseases at its upcoming conference of 19 20 October.
The discussions on primary prevention on non-communicable chronic diseases in Europe were inspired by the recommendations contained in a policy paper recently published by the Chronic Disease Alliance , a coalition of 10 non-for-profit European organisations representing over 100.000 health professionals, who have joined forces to put the case for immediate action to reverse the alarming rise in chronic diseases.
The organisers of this MEP meeting call upon the competent authorities in all Member States to commit to reducing the burden of chronic disease. "Investment in interventions to control the burden of chronic diseases will bring appreciable economic and social benefits to society", concludes Dirk Sterckx, MEP and co-chair of the MEP Heart Group.
They also called all EU head of states to contribute to and to attend the United Nations high-level meeting of the General Assembly in September 2011 on the prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases.