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Today in Sopot, an informal meeting of Ministers of Health of the European Union is coming to an end, being the first event held under the Polish Presidency. Informal meetings of ministers are among the major events related to the development of EU policy in the field of health. Such meetings are systematically organized by states assuming the Presidency and take place in the country which currently chairs the work of the EU Council. Informal meetings of EU health ministers are also attended by representatives of other organizations and EU agendas.
The one organized under the Polish Presidency was participated, inter alia , by the representatives of the European Commission (DG SANCO), World Health Organization's Regional Office for Europe and Marc Sprenger, the Head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
“Issues addressed at the forum of the EU Council by presiding states result from health policy followed both by the European Union and Member States, and concern topics that constitute vital, social health problems,” stressed minister Ewa Kopacz during the sessions. She also pointed to the fact that these issues should be incorporated in the EU’s work and priorities, as well as be acceptable for international partners. “Poland, in its work on health-related matters, is planning to address subject matter connected with the reduction of health differences among European societies, especially with regard to children,” the Minister of Health remarked.
Discussions focused on health priorities of the Polish Presidency, in particular:
-reducing differences in the health of different European societies, i.a. by providing equal opportunities to children with communication disorders. Also discussed were the questions of proper diet and physical activity as the determinants of the state of health of EU citizens and issues regarding transplantology. Participants talked about possibilities and benefits arising from the use of technologies developed in the area of e-Health. Other topics covered the hazardous impact of so-called designer drugs on the state of health of European societies.
A major point of the agenda was the situation related with the epidemic of food poisonings caused by the E. coli bacteria. “In our capacity as the Polish Presidency, we concentrate on early detection of threats to the health security of EU citizens and an effective information flow. The recent E. cole outbreak has shown how important it is,” said Minister Kopacz in Sopot, “In our talks, we have decided to continue the initiative to set up an European Blood Bank and to exchange information on dialysers.”
As was highlighted by Minister Ewa Kopacz, both while preparing to assume the Presidency of EU, and during the Presidency, Poland attaches considerable weight to health issues, including public health. The Minister emphasized the significance of early prophylaxis and promotion of health for the condition of modern societies. “From an economic point of view, it has been conclusively proven that any expenditure allocated for programmes of early medical intervention for hearing, sight and speech, is much lower than the outlay spent on special care in pre-school and school period or on the provision of special jobs for these children when they reach adulthood,” said Ewa Kopacz. “It is very important for us, as the Polish Presidency, to improve the exchange information between EU countries, to share experiences in a more active way, and to foster solidarity in health - added the Minister.
/-/ Jakub Golab
Additional information on the topics discussed during the meeting
DIFFERENCES IN THE HEALTH OF EU MEMBERS STATES’ SOCIETIES
Health inequalities between the societies of respective member states constitute a challenge to the health policy of the European Union. In 2008, the difference in average lifespan of men in EU countries reached 14 years. The range of deviations is reflected in statistical data on premature mortality: in some countries of Western Europe mortality rate for people below 65 years of age fell to a one-digit level, whereas in the Eastern Europe the age of 65 is reached by only one in three men. In the first decade of the 21st Century (data for 2008), the average lifespan of men from the eastern EU countries was by 7.15 years shorter than the lifespan of Western male residents. In the case of women this difference amounted to 4.35 years.
Premature mortality among men living in the Eastern countries of the EU can be observed in the age group of 45 to 64, comprising 45% of the overall difference in terms of health between East and West (i.e. 3.22 years). Data on the population of women also suggest that the factor which mainly contributes to these differences is premature mortality of women living in Eastern countries, observed in the age group of 45 to 64 (being 27% of the overall difference in terms of health, i.e. 1.18 year).
The predominant cause of deaths are currently chronic non-infectious diseases, resulting mainly from life-style, with significant differences in this respect between the Western and Eastern EU countries (depending on the sex). In the case of men, premature mortality caused by diseases of the circulatory system makes up 54% of the overall difference in terms of health, while for women this is as much as 86% of the overall difference.
Preparing to take over the Presidency in the EU Council and considering the guidelines included in strategic EU documents (2nd Community action in the field of public health for the years 2008-2013 and in the Europe 2020 strategy), Poland decided that it will especially focus on closing the gap in health between EU countries through activities involving health determinants - in particular proper nutrition and physical activity; prevention and control of diseases of the respiratory system in children; and prevention and treatment of communication disorders in children.
COMMUNICATION DISORDERS IN CHILDREN
The Polish Presidency initiates actions consisting in the early prevention and treatment of communication disorders in children, employing e-Health tools and innovative solutions.
Hearing, sight and speech dysfunctions can occur at an early age, hence their prophylaxis, monitoring, and treatment in childhood is very important, so that children could enter adulthood in a good state of health.
The activities undertaken by Poland under the priority entitled “The reduction ofhealth inequalities acrossEurope’s societies” is to support an inclusive growth of society and to increase the employment of people diagnosed and treated for communication disorders at early stages of life. These objectives constitute part of the Europe 2020 strategy.
On 22 June this year, on Polish initiative, the “European consensus on hearing, sight and speech screenings for children beginning the school education” was signed, as one of the main tools for the implementation of the priority. The consensus represents the position of the European milieu of audiologists and phoniatrists, speech therapists and ophthalmologists in respect of communication disorders in children, who start their education, negative impact of hearing, sight and speech disorders on the correct intellectual and emotional development of children, as well as significant role played by modern diagnostics, which is most effectively implemented by means of screening tests.
Auditory, ocular and speech dysfunctions may already occur during childhood, thus preventive medicine, monitoring and proper treatment are extremely important, so that the children affected can enter adulthood in good health. As the body in charge, Poland is going to appeal for including common auditory, vision, and speech screening tests in the public health policy.
In the case of many serious diseases organ transplantation does not only create the opportunity to save life but also offers better quality (compared to other kinds of treatment). In the case of end-stage insufficiencies of some organs (liver, lung, heart) transplantation is the only treatment that can be applied. Modern transplantation medicine provides evidence for extension of life expectancy after the procedure. Patients undergoing dialysis treatment have a lifetime survival rate of 10 years, while the survival rate for kidneys transplanted patients is of 20 years. The major problem is the shortage of organs - and this issue is emphasized by Poland, during the informal meeting of Health Ministers, among the subjects of key problems of transplantation medicine in Europe and the necessity to neutralize the differences between EU countries in the area of transplantation.
The shortage of organs and ever-increasing number of patients qualified for transplantation cause growing disproportions between the demand for transplantation treatment and its capability. This concerns, to a different extent, all European countries and is considered by transplantologists as the worst limitation in the development of this area in medicine.
According Polish side, in order to expand organ availability, it is vital to continue and develop the promotion of organ donation among the citizens, as well as operate the activity aiming at increasing the number of living and deceased donors.
Dissemination of good, approved practices at EU level is one of the main objectives behind the EU Action Plan on Organ Donation and Transplantation (2009-2015). This Action Plan identifies three main challenges for the member states: increase organ availability, enhancing the efficiency and accessibility of transplant systems and improving the quality and safety.
Polish side highlights the fact that the development of different forms of collaboration between EU countries (especially creating a coordinated network connecting national programmes) may effect in better use of organs and efficiency of transplantation.
DIET AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AS HEALTH DETERMINANTS
The increase in obesity and overweight, resulting from inappropriate diet and lack of physical activity is an urgent issue in EU countries. This problem is caused not only by the increased consumption of high-calorie foods, high in animal fats, salt and sugar, low in vitamin, micro- and macroelements, but also passive, sitting lifestyle. Overweight is diagnosed in 30-70%, and obesity - in 8-25% of EU’s adult population. Most disturbing is the fact that every year, in the whole Europe, 400 000 children are diagnosed overweight, which gives us 14 million overweight children and an least 3 million obese children. IOTF (International Obesity Task Force) estimates that one in five children in Europe is overweight or obese.
Overweight and obesity drive the development of many contagious diseases: circulatory system diseases (heart diseases and stroke), diabetes, musculoskeletal system diseases (especially osteitis and arthritis) and some neoplasms (cervical, breast, colon).
At present, six in seven main risk factors, responsible for precocious deaths of Europeans are connected with eating habits and physical activity (they are: hypertension, high cholesterol, improper BMI, low fruit and vegetable consumption, low activity, alcohol overuse).
Polish Presidency observes the need for intensification of educating European communities in v good eating habits, observing balanced diet, and their influence on your health, as well as the promotion of healthy lifestyle and physical activity.
Poland, both while preparing to assume the Presidency of EU, and during the Presidency, attaches considerable weight to the problem of the so-called designer drugs. It should be observed that the problem of the so-called designer drugs poses a challenge for a considerable group of EU Member States
Considering the threats of new synthetic drugs, new efficient mechanisms should be considered, as well as effective reactions to the introduction of designer drugs on the market, compliant with the need of protecting public health. Polish Presidency points to the fact that these issues should be incorporated in the EU’s work and priorities.
Polish Presidency shall continue to develop mechanisms and actions:
-continuous monitoring of the problem of the so-called designer drugs
-continuous epidemiological and laboratory research
-preventive actions, informational and educational campaigns, raising wariness and reducing the openness towards the contacts with psychoactive substances, including so-called designer drugs
The importance of e-Health in the health care systems of EU member states is systematically growing. Polish Presidency observes and appreciates the opportunity to improve the efficiency and quality of health protection services, with the use of e-Health tools. Poland is being given charge of EU Council at the time of noticeable growing involvement of both member states and the Commission itself in structurulisation of the activities concerning e-Health. Every year the cooperation between Health Ministers of the member states, initialized in 2009, becomes more and more intense. The vision of the informatisation of health care sector is getting clearer; this means using new technologies in place of old ones in future undertakings. e-Health tools provide the transformation of health protection systems by creating patient-oriented systems, underlining and enhancing the role of patients in treatment process, and offering comprehensive, integrated medical service.
The priorities defined by the European Commission in the public consultation of the future eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 provide for the set of actions, which should be taken to speed up the process of making the best use of innovation in health. Member States supported by the European Commission will work to:
-increase awareness of the benefits and opportunities of eHealth, and empower citizens, patients and healthcare professionals;
-address issues currently impeding eHealth interoperability;
-improve legal certainty for eHealth
-support innovation and research in eHealth development of a competitive European and global market.