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Policy Updates

The Year of Air 2013

To kick-start a new phase of policy-making in the field of air regulation in Europe, the European Commission has declared 2013 the ‘Year of Air’, to highlight the importance of clean air for all and to focus on actions to improve air quality across the EU. It has promised new legislative proposals on improving air quality, and is already collaborating with the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe to analyse the latest scientific finding on air pollutants. These are to be presented at a conference entitled ‘Understanding the Health Effects of Air Pollution: Recent Advances to Inform EU Policies’ to be held in Brussels on the 30th to 31st of January. Amongst other things this event will aim to provide an overview of how science has advanced our understanding of the issue of air quality, as well as highlight the uncertainties, and identify key areas for further research.

Before new legislative proposals on improving European air quality are finalised, the European Commission has decided to seek the opinions of EU citizens by opening a public consultation process. It will run until the 4th of March 2013, and will allow people to share their views on what the necessary actions are. According to the Commission, 25,000 European citizens in 27 Member States have already submitted opinions. It will soon issue the results of this process along with a new proposal on the future of EU air policy. Questionnaire for general public  Questionnaire for experts

EFA publishes briefing on newly published Tobacco Products Directive

EFA has produced a briefing on the long-awaited revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, which the EFA office hopes will be a useful tool for members and interested readers. It includes information on the proposal’s background, aims, content and how negotiations at EU level will be conducted.

On the whole EFA welcomes the measures in the Commission’s proposal, but would have liked to see plain packaging (the removal of all branding) included. Nevertheless, the proposal as it currently stands would allow Member States to introduce their own national-level legislation on this, as long as they can prove that such provisions do not hinder the EU single market.

There are six main elements to the new proposal. The first is that all cigarette and ‘Roll Your Own’ packages should contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75% of the front and the back of the package and carry no promotional elements. The second equally significant proposal is a ban on ingredients that cause ‘characterising flavours’ in tobacco products, for example menthol and fruit flavours. Thirdly and fourthly it is proposed that all smokeless tobacco products will have to carry health warnings, and rules for Nicotine-containing products will become stricter with many having to seek authorisation as medicinal products. Stricter rules will apply to cross-border distance sales (i.e. internet sales) of tobacco to ensure products are not sold to minors, and finally a new Track and Trace system is envisaged to combat illicit tobacco trade and ensure compliance with the new rules.

EFA, in close collaboration with allies is developing our position on the directive highlighting the patient perspective.

European Commission press release   European Commission memo   Commission’s presentation of the proposal  Citizens’ summary

EFA briefing on 2013 Health Work Plan available

EFA has compiled a briefing for members on the 2013 Work Plan for implementing the second EU Health Programme (2008-2013). The briefing can be found here.

 

The Work Plan was adopted by the Commission at the end of last year and is one of the major EU sources of funding in the field of health. It awards projects grants, operating grants, conferences grants, and grants for joint actions. The calls for proposals for projects, conferences and operating grants are published on the website of the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers (EAHC), the body assisting the Commission in implementing the Work Plan. The deadline to submit the proposals is the 22nd of March 2013 (date of post stamp).

Some of the priorities of the 2013 Work Plan includethe promotion of active and healthy ageing (with a focus on chronic diseases); effective ways to invest in health and the health workforce; patients’ rights and safety; and advice and data, particularly on sustainable health systems. The EFA briefing provides useful information on the types of grants available, the conditions involved and specific opportunities for EFA members.

For more information please contact roberta.savli@efanet.org

 

Commission’s new Medical Devices proposal

Last September the European Commission proposed new regulations in the field of medical devices. Medical devices are of central importance for patients as they can increase life expectancy, improve the quality of patients’ daily lives and empower them to better manage their conditions. Medical devices are of central importance for EFA too, as for example their daily and life-saving use/the need to carry them is often essential for patients with allergies (e.g. adrenaline auto-injectors) and respiratory diseases (e.g. medical oxygen, inhalators).

The new proposals aim to increase the safety standards of medical devices in the EU and ensure EU patients continue to gain access to new and innovative devices. They prescribe that all devices must undergo thorough assessment of safety and performance before they can be sold on the European market, and reinforce control processes in place.

EFA has prepared a briefing for members on the medical devices proposals and is currently preparing a position paper for use in upcoming advocacy activity. It was with this in mind that EFA organised a policy call on the issue on the 28th of January. The aim was to discuss EFA position and answer questions members may have had. Members unable to participate were invited to provide feedback in the form of comments, and all members were invited to provide practical examples of accidents/problematic situations/best practices in their countries.

The MEP in charge of one of the two medical devices proposals at the European Parliament, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, has said she hopes to have a first draft report on the issue completed by March/April. EFA plans to be in contact with her office to communicate EFA’s position in advance of this. For more information please contact roberta.savli@efanet.org

 

Irish EU Presidency priorities in the field of health

On the 1st of January Ireland assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It will hold the Presidency until the 31st of June 2013, and is the first Member State of the new EU Trio Presidency (Ireland, Lithuania and Greece). The overall priorities of the Presidency can be accessed here.

The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates between each of the 27 Member States every six months on January 1st and July 1st. During its six month term the hosting Member State is Chair of the Council of the European Union meetings. The Council is made up of government ministers from Member States, and who attends which meetings depends on the topic. The Presidency programme is shared by three Member States over an 18-month period. This allows three successive Presidencies, or a Trio, to work together over an extended period on a common agenda. Ireland will therefore be working closely with Lithuania and Greece.

The overall priorities of the Irish Presidency are the creation of stability, jobs and growth, and it will aim to see these themes fostered across all sectors. In terms of health, the Presidency will prioritise advancing the recently released Tobacco Products Directive (see article above), and hopes to finalise negotiations on both the Serious cross-border threats to health file – which aims to make Member States better prepared for potential pandemic outbreaks – and the Health for Growth programme – which, among other things, will be the financial and funding tool of the EU health programme from 2014 to 2020. Other central priorities will be the new medical devices proposals (see article above) and the revision of the Directive on clinical trials – which aims to foster patient safety and the EU as a hub of clinical research by revamping rules on medicine trials.

In terms of other files of interest to EFA, the Irish Presidency also wishes to finalise negotiations on the 7th Environmental Action Programme and support the development of a new EU strategy on Climate Change.

 

EFA signs Doha Declaration on Climate Change and Health

From the 26th of November to the 8th of December, the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Doha, Qatar. The objective was to find a common agreement to reduce carbon emissions worldwide, thereby tackling climate change.

The link between climate change and health, especially in relation to respiratory diseases, is clear, and it has been proven that if the target of reducing of greenhouse gas emissions moves from 20% to 30% by 2020 in the European Union, up to 7.9 billion Euros will be saved annually in terms of avoided health costs [reference: HEAL and Health Care Without Harm Europe, Acting Now for a Better Health – A 30% Reduction Target for EU Climate Policy]. Concretely, there would be 13 million fewer days of restricted activity for those with respiratory or cardiac diseases, 1.2 million fewer days of respiratory medication use by adults and children, 142,000 fewer consultations for upper respiratory symptoms and asthma each year, and 3,776 fewer hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiac conditions.

 

In the lead up to the Doha conference, the European Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), of which EFA is a member, was actively involved in preparing a joint declaration, together with partners from an international network of health organizations. The joint Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing gives the health perspective on climate mitigation and adaptation policy.  It urges political leaders to take the health impacts of climate change into account, to rapidly and increasingly invest in mitigation of and adaptation to climate change and engage and inform the health sector on climate action.

The declaration was launched on Wednesday the 5th of December and has so far received large support with more than 1,200 individual signatories and 75 organisations supporting it, including the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Lung Foundation (ELF).

Although respiratory diseases are not mentioned specifically in the Declaration, following a consultation with members EFA decided to add itself to the list of signatories. We believe that the benefits of tackling climate change will be felt strongly in our disease area, and any effort to draw political and government attention to this is of value. EFA will keep you informed of news on the Declaration.

 

Publication of the proposal for the 7th Environmental Action Programme

Just before Christmas the European Commission published the long-awaited proposal for the 7th EU Environmental Action Programme, entitled “Living well, within the limits of our planet”, which aims to guide environment policy up to 2020 by providing it with an overarching framework. Members of the European Parliament and EU Environment ministers will discuss and vote on the proposal over the course of the next few months and Ireland has said that the 7th EAP is one of the priorities of its Presidency of the Council of the EU, which started in January (see article above).

EFA was pleased to see that health concerns feature in the proposal (‘health and well being’ is one of the nine priority objectives of the action programme, and the aim of effectively addressing environment-related threats to health is mentioned) but believes the proposed measures need to be considerably strengthened to really make a difference to public health.

EFA is a member of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), which has been vocal in calling for greater recognition of health in the Programme.  For more information please contact roberta.savli@efanet.org

EFA will keep you posted on the developments on the 7th EAP. Citizens summary on the 7th EAP

 

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