Influenced by the 2017 European Public Health Alliance Annual Conference held in September, the European Union vows to focus attention on preventing chronic disease in member countries. This is a serious issue, as approximately 87 percent of deaths in the EU are caused by chronic disease.
Defining The Problem
According to the European Commission, approximately 550,000 people living in the European Union lose their lives each year as a result of a chronic disease. What exactly defines a chronic disease? A chronic disease is any illness that lasts for a long period of time – at least three months – and cannot typically be cured with medication. Examples include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.
A Financial Component
To make matters worse, chronic disease also has detrimental economic effects. It is estimated that chronic disease costs the European Union approximately 0.8% of its GDP each year, amounting to EUR 15 billion. On top of that, chronic disease affects unemployment rates and decreases productivity of the working population. This poses a serious problem for the EU.
Prevention Is Possible
Another characteristic of chronic illness is that these diseases tend to be non-communicable, meaning that rather than being spread through microbes, they are developed through lifestyle habits. As a result, chronic illnesses and needless deaths are often preventable. Fortunately, this means that measures can be taken to reduce the prevalence of chronic disease in the European Union.
How The EU Plans to Take Action?
First and foremost, the European Union aims to focus on preventative measures. Earlier in the month, EU Health Commissioner Andriukaitis emphasized this initiative
“I want to send once more a message to all our governments, to Member States, to the European Parliament discussing new multi-annual financial perspectives: the need to strengthen our financial capacities to improve prevention”. An investment in prevention, though initially requiring a cost, will pay off in the long-term picture by decreasing spending due to chronic illness. Other important strategies include increasing quality of care and reducing inequality in access to care. Finally, the EU hopes to provide resources to those living with a chronic illness that will allow them to work despite their disability.
The European Union is joining many other countries in the fight against chronic disease. To reduce premature deaths and decrease spending, the EU will be implementing new policies focused on preventing chronic disease and improving public health and healthcare.
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