Chronic diseases, including allergy, asthma and COPD cause serious health problems for those affected, but they are also a challenge and an economic burden for society. They can have a negative impact on employment, education, consumption and quality of life of both the person affected and of his/her family. For society, chronic diseases result in less people in the workforce, early retirement and sometimes create barriers to entering the labour market and stigmatisation on the part of employers. Educational performance may decrease, both in the case of a pupil/student and/or when a member of the family is affected by a chronic disease. From an economic perspective, chronic diseases account for a considerable part of the healthcare budget.
Chronic diseases are linked to an important aspect of the EU health strategy, the health inequalities between and within EU MSs and the need to cope with them. For example, most asthma-related deaths and almost 90% of COPD ones occur in low- and lower-middle income countries. This is mainly due to the differences in access to healthcare and the quality of the care. In Europe 97% of health expenses are spent for treatment and care, while only the remaining 3% is dedicated to prevention. Therefore, this percentage needs to be increased. Prevention requires not just awareness, but action. EFA agrees with the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) on the need to consider primary, secondary and tertiary prevention as a continuum.
“Primary prevention is directed at the prevention of illnesses by removing the causes. The target group for primary prevention is those that are healthy with respect to the target disease. Secondary prevention aims at identifying the disease at an early stage so that it can be treated. This makes an early cure possible (or at least the prevention of further deterioration). The target group for secondary prevention consists of people who are already ill without being aware of it, or those who have an increased risk or a genetic disposition. Tertiary prevention is directed toward people who are already known to suffer from an illness. This is therefore a form of care. Tertiary prevention includes activities intended to cure, to ameliorate or to compensate.”
 Miriam Blumel, Reinhard Busse, David Scheller-Kreinsen, Annette Zentner, Tackling chrnonic disease in Europe – Strategies, interventions and challenges, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies StudiesSeries No 20, WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2010, available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/96632/E93736.pdf.
 Data available at: http://ec.europa.eu/health/interest_groups/docs/euhpf_answer_consultation_jan2012_en.pdf.
 European Commission, White Paper “Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013”, 23 October 2007, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_overview/Documents/strategy_wp_en.pdf.
European Commission, Solidarity in health: reducing health inequalities in the EU, 20 October 2009, available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0567:FIN:EN:PDF.
 WHO, note 4.
 European Commission, Together for Health, op. cit., note 12.
 EUHPF, op. cit., note 8.