News

On January 22nd, EFA attended a policy discussion on “the state of health in the EU and the digitalisation of health”, organized by the Brussels based think tank Bruegel.

As the European Commission published its “State of Health in the EU” report by the end of 2019, the event summarized main results and discussed the implications for both national and EU level policy making.

“We cannot afford inaction in health”

Martin Seychell, Deputy-Director General of the Commissions’ Directorate General on Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), highlighted that digitalisation is all encompassing, focusing not only on treatment and care but also on prevention.

As Mr. Seychell had pointed already in November, the EU health sector is “up to a decade” behind other sectors in terms of digitalization, a delay on health management that impacts much the lives of patients living with chronic conditions such as airways diseases. He emphasised, that the EU “cannot afford inaction in health”, adding that there is a need to take decisions at EU level as well, especially to decrease inequalities among Europeans.

Linked to that, Mr. Seychell further highlighted the risk that a digital divide might also impact the health divide. Having breakthrough treatments, that only a few can afford or that are crippling health systems, are pointless.

Improved prevention and healthcare could prevent 1.1 million premature deaths

Guillaume Dedet from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted that, too often, the focus is put on a short-term vision, resulting in spending mostly on treatments and not treating the cause of disease once for all. Yet the better approach would be to invest in effective prevention strategies before people find themselves in need for healthcare.

Josep Figueras from the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies emphasized that, more than 1.1 million premature deaths in the EU could be avoided through better prevention and healthcare.

True digitalisation of healthcare has long been overdue

EFA supports Mr. Seychell’s call for EU action. A true digitalisation of healthcare at European level as outlined in the European Commission ‘Communication on enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market’ has long been overdue. This political delay impacts the lives of the 30% of Europeans living with allergies and airways diseases that we represent.

This also includes initiatives and programmes to encourage the update of digital tools by all parties active in the healthcare system but also the promotion of digital tools amongst patients to help them take better control of their lives thanks to technologies made for managing their diseases.

EFA further agrees with the need for better prevention. As stated in our EFA Roadmap, we need coherent and robust EU and national policies that address and reduce indoor and outdoor risk factors associated with allergies and airways diseases. Effective policies on tobacco control, reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution, better food labelling and reducing exposure to chemicals, can support healthier and more productive lives.

Commission Report: State of Health in the EU cycle

The State of Health in the EU is a two-year initiative carried out by the European Commission, providing policy makers, health practitioners, and interest groups with factual, comparative data and insights into health systems in the EU Member States.

More information on its key findings as presented at the Committee of the Regions Interregional Group on Health & Wellbeing can be found here.