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Public Health Policy in the EU

Latest news on the public health policy of the European Union.

Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly-Identified Health Risks
The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly-Identified Health Risks - SCENIHR - provides opinions on questions concerning emerging or newly identified risks and on broad, complex or multidisciplinary issues requiring a comprehensive assessment of risks to consumer safety or public health and related issues not covered by other Community risk assessment bodies. Examples of potential areas of activity include potential risks associated with interaction of risk factors, synergic effects, cumulative effects, antimicrobial resistance, new technologies such as nanotechnologies, medical devices including those incorporating substances of animal and/or human origin, tissue engineering, blood products, fertility reduction, cancer of endocrine organs, physical hazards such as noise and electromagnetic fields (from mobile phones, transmitters and electronically controlled home environments), and methodologies for assessing new risks.

Cancer screening in the European Union - report 2009
COM(2008)882 - Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Implementation of the Council Recommendation of 2 December 2003 on cancer screening (2003/878/EC)

Report on cancer screening in Europe - briefing
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the European Union. Breast, cervical and colorectal cancer accounts for 32% of cancer deaths in women and 11% in men. With an ageing population, the figures are due to increase, unless preventive measures are taken to reduce cancer deaths. The European Union shares a common commitment to ensuring proper screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, as set out in Council Recommendation of 2 December 2003 on cancer screening (2003/878/EC). In the first implementation report, the European Commission highlights that although much progress has been made in the field of cancer screening, Member States have not fully put this screening in place. Less than half of the minimum recommended numbers of screenings take place in the EU each year. By providing a clear description of the situation and the gaps, this report helps to renew the commitment to put in place breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening as a crucial and cost-effective measure to reduce the burden of cancer in the European Union.

Green paper on the European Workforce for Health
The European Commission has adopted a green paper on the EU workforce for health. This marks the beginning of a consultation period which aims to identify common responses to the many challenges facing the health workforce in Europe. In an ageing Europe, with growing healthcare costs and rising expectations from both citizens and patients, a high quality health workforce is crucial for successful health systems. The health workforce plays an important role in the EU economy accounting for about 10% of all jobs. In addition, 70% of EU healthcare budgets are allocated to salaries and employment related issues.

Patient safety in Europe - briefing
Each year, in the EU, between 8% and 12% of patients admitted to hospitals suffer harm from the healthcare they receive, including from healthcare associated infections. Much of that harm is preventable, says the European Commission. Today, the Commission has adopted a Communication and proposal for a Council Recommendation with specific actions that EU Member States can take, either individually, collectively or with the Commission, to improve the safety of patients.

EU Directive and Action Plan on organ donation and transplantation - briefing
The European Commission has adopted important safety and quality measures for organ donation and a 10 point action plan to work with EU Member States on strengthening organ donation and transplantation systems in Europe. For many patients, organ transplantation represents the only life saving treatment available. There are currently 56,000 patients waiting for a suitable organ donor in the EU. It is estimated that every day 12 people die while waiting for transplantation. The Directive and Action Plan address three key challenges: improving the quality and safety of organs across Europe, increasing organ availability and making transplant systems more efficient and accessible.

European Commission website on organ donation
The Commission, under article 152 of the Amsterdam Treaty, will consider the need to identify, monitor and control the factors influencing the quality and safety of organs used for transplantation at European Union level.

EU approach to tackling Rare Diseases - briefing
The European Commission adopted on 11 November 2008 a Communication and a proposal for a Council Recommendation on rare diseases setting out an overall Community strategy to support EU Member States in diagnosing, treating and caring for the 36 million EU citizens with rare diseases. The limited number of patients affected and the fragmentation of knowledge about them across the European Union, makes rare diseases a prime example of where working at European level is necessary and beneficial.

Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players - briefing
Listening to personal music players at a high volume over a sustained period can lead to permanent hearing damage, according to an opinion of the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) released today. The scientific opinion shows that 5-10 per cent of personal music player listeners risk permanent hearing loss, if they listen to a personal music player for more than one hour per day each week at high volume settings for at least 5 years. The European Commission had asked the independent scientific committee to examine this issue, given the widespread use of personal music players and the surge in the number of young people exposed to such noise. Scientists confirm that there is cause for concern and the European Commission will now examine with EU Member States and stakeholders, possible measures that could be taken to better protect children and adolescents from exposure to noise from personal music players and other similar devices.

EU mercury strategy
European Commission website on the various European Union initiatives to protect EU citizens' health and the environment from the dangers of mercury.

EU ban on mercury exports - briefing
The EU Council today adopted legislation banning all exports of mercury from the European Union. The export ban is a key part of the EU's strategy for reducing the global supply of mercury and thereby limiting emissions of the highly toxic heavy metal into the environment. The legislation requires mercury that is no longer used in the chlor-alkali industry – the chemical industry sector responsible for chlorine and caustic soda production – or that is produced in certain other industrial operations, to be put into safe storage once the export ban takes effect in March 2011.

Excise duty on tobacco products - guide
The European Commission presented on 16 July a Report and a proposal for a Directive to amend the current EU excise duty legislation on tobacco. The draft EU Directive foresees a gradual increase in the EU minimum taxation levels on cigarettes and fine cut tobacco up to 2014. It also updates the definitions of different types of tobacco products so as to remove loopholes which allow certain cigarettes or fine cut tobacco to be presented as cigars, cigarillos or pipe tobacco and therefore benefiting from a lower tax rate. Today's proposal will narrow differences between EU Member States' tobacco taxation levels and so help tackle intra-EU tobacco smuggling. It would also make the taxation rules more transparent, thereby creating a level playing field for manufacturers and giving flexibility to Member States to set minimum taxes. It also aims to contribute to reducing tobacco consumption by 10 per cent within the next 5 years.

European Health Insurance Card - guide
Four years after its launch, 173 million people have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in their pocket. Citizens from 31 European countries can use the card to get the medical care they need if they fall ill or have an accident in one of the participating countries (the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein Iceland and Switzerland). The EHIC simplifies procedures and cuts red tape for citizens when disaster strikes during a temporary stay abroad.

Sunscreen products - EU guide
As the holiday season gets underway, the European Commission is alerting consumers to a new sunscreen labelling regime which gives consumers clear information to make informed choices about the products they chose for themselves and their families. Sunscreen products protect from UV radiation and can be effective in preventing sun-burn and skin cancer. Consumers should therefore use sunscreens and clearer labelling should help consumers to make informed choices. The Commission is also seeking to remind consumers that there are several reasons why sunscreen products should be only one out of a number of measures to protect from the UV radiation of the sun. See information, facts and figures and pictograms below.

Special Eurobarometer survey on health and long-term care
According to this Eurobarometer report carried out in 2007, most Europeans expect to need long-term care at some point in their lives (with an EU average of 13% seeing this as inevitable, 32% likely and 29% unlikely but possible). However, 86% of Europeans would prefer to be cared for in their own homes or that of a relative should they become dependent, as opposed to only 8% preferring an institution. (pdf format)

Pilot on eHealth indicators
Pilot on eHealth indicators: 'Benchmarking ICT use among General Practitioners in Europe' final report - the European Commission on 25 April published a pan-European survey on electronic services in healthcare (eHealth) that shows 87% of European doctors (General Practitioners) use a computer, 48% with a broadband connection. European doctors increasingly store and send patients' data such as lab reports electronically. In using such eHealth applications, doctors and medical services have already improved healthcare in Europe through, for example, more efficient administration and shorter waiting times for patients. The report also highlights where doctors could make better use of ICT to offer services such as telemonitoring, electronic prescriptions and cross border medical services.

European cardiovascular disease statistics
This is the third edition of European cardiovascular disease statistics. The first edition was published in 2000 when the European Union consisted of 15 Member States. After enlargement in 2004 and then again in 2007, there are now 27 Member States. Much has changed in the last seven years, but cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the main cause of death in the EU. European Heart Network - EHN - web site.

HIV / AIDS in Europe - guide
AIDS has already claimed the lives of more than 25 million people throughout the world, while an estimated 33.2 million live with HIV – alarming numbers highlighting the need to remain vigilant vis-à-vis one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. To mark World AIDS Day, commemorated every year on December 1 2007, Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou invited European Health Ministers to join him in a pan-European effort to spread common messages on prevention and increasing the awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among young Europeans. He encouraged ministers to visit schools and 11 countries agreed to participate in this initiative. The Commissioner visited a high school in Cyprus, where he presented a new TV-spot promoting the use of condoms and safer sex and have a chat with teenage students on HIV/AIDS.

EuroSafe, the European Association for Injury Prevention and safety Promotion, is the network of injury prevention champions dedicated to making Europe a safer place. Its mission is to reduce both intentional and unintentional fatal and non-fatal injuries through increased coordination and strategies that combine and build upon existing strengths and capacities.

2007 Annual report from the EU drugs agency
Drug facts, figures and analyses: across Europe and by country - Latest trends and legal, political, social and health responses - Selected issues: Drugs and driving; drug use among the under 15s; cocaine

European Community Animal Health Policy 2007-13
The European Commission adopted on 19 September 2007 a Communication setting out the EU's animal health strategy for 2007-13. The Communication provides the framework for animal health measures over the next 6 years, taking into account extensive feedback from stakeholders and potential challenges in the future. The Commission's aim is to put greater focus on precautionary measures, disease surveillance, controls and research, in order to reduce the incidence of animal disease and minimise the impact of outbreaks when they occur. The Communication also stresses that all those with an interest in animal health with have clear responsibilities in ensuring that the goals of the new strategy are met, so that the EU's animal health policy is as robust, efficient and effective as possible in the years ahead. It also highlights the need for an integrated approach in animal health policy-making, inter-linking it with other Community policies.

Health in the European Union - Eurobarometer Sep 07
Although European citizens appear to be generally aware of the importance of preventive medical checkups, the vast majority of them do not undergo colorectal cancer or prostate tests, an EU wide survey reveals. The Eurobarometer on "Health in the European Union," published today, which marks the European Prostate Awareness Day, indicates that only 13% of European men took the Prostate Specific Antigen Tests and only 8% of all respondents the colorectal cancer test. The survey also reveals that, in general, Europeans are aware of the importance of preventive check ups as more than six out of ten carry out dental tests and almost four out of ten get their eyes checked every year. According to the Eurobarometer, a sizeable majority of EU citizens consider themselves to be in good health. In fact, less than one in ten (7%) say that their health is bad or very bad.

EU influenza research projects
The European Commission announced on 11 September 2007 EUR 27 million of new funding for research projects in the field of influenza. This EC memo outlines the 11 projects pre-selected for funding. Final budget figures (EU contribution) and project details are subject to the final signature of contracts, and so may change. A glossary of terms used in the project descriptions is found at the end of the document.

EU policy on nutrition and obesity
Initiatives on nutrition and obesity in the European Union

EU initiatives to promote physical exercise - questions & answers
The European Commission and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) are launching a joint TV advertising campaign that aims to encourage European citizens to make physical activity part of their daily lives. The advert encourages viewers to get out of their armchairs and be physically active, using the slogan "Go on, get out of your armchair'. Millions of Europeans are expected to view the advert, as it will be screened free of charge during the half-time break of this season’s televised Champions League football games. This initiative comes at a time when poor diets and low levels of physical activity in Europe account for six of the seven leading risk factors for ill health in Europe. The lack of physical exercise, coupled with unbalanced diets, has turned obesity into a serious public health problem. In most EU Member States more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese. It is also estimated that almost 22 million children are overweight in the EU and each year this figure is growing by 400,000.