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04 February 2016
Europe, Belgium, France, Spain
- Inequalities, - Healthcare

Our 2014 report “Harmonizing Prevention and Other Measures for COPD Patients across Europe” revealed varying levels of COPD care across Europe. Following on from this research, and with the help of EFA’s COPD Working Group, three key priorities were identified.

These priorities are:
• Timely Diagnosis
• Multidisciplinary Approach to treatment
• Pulmonary rehabilitation

These key priorities are crucial in allowing us to move towards a harmonised approach to COPD Care in Europe.
Within the framework of EFA’s COPD Harmonisation Project, meetings were organised at regional and national level by our members in Belgium, Spain and France. The purpose of these meetings was to facilitate our members to advocate at regional or national level for these three key priorities.

The first meeting took place on the 30th of November in Brussels, Belgium and was co-hosted by EFA and Asthma and Allergiekoepel. The meeting attendees were the head of cabinet of the Flemish ministry, representatives from different mutualities, the Federal Public Service ‘Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment’, and the association of Belgian Pharmacists.
Following the meeting next steps were identified. In the field of health education the development of a joint informative brochure as well as a dedicated website was put forward. In terms of prevention: well-defined guidelines, and local pilot project ‘pre-COPD’ were some of the suggestions. Communication activities (press release, e-newsletter, social media activities), and the organisation of Face-to-Face meetings with relevant stakeholders in the field were also agreed.

The second meeting, took place in Malaga, Spain and was organised by FENAER - Federación Nacional de Asociaciones de Enfermedades Respiratorias on the 11th of December. The meeting was with the General-Director of Public Health and Pharmaceuticals of the Andalusian Regional Government. The objective of the action received clear support from the General-Director, as the 2009 a National Strategy on COPD already incorporates the three points advocated for.
The meeting participants discussed how these protocols have not yet been properly implemented into practice, and the reasons for this will be further examined by the Public Health and Pharmaceuticals department of the Andalusian Regional Government. However, the provision of free of charge smoking cessation, within the context of pulmonary rehabilitation, is at this moment not achievable. This is due to the low number of pulmonologists in comparison to the number of COPD patients.
The following next steps were identified; a pilot project in Andalusia by FENAER, in collaboration with SEPAR and SEMERGEN, has been proposed with the support of local government. The programme will address pulmonary rehabilitation, as well as health education. FENAER will explore with the Federal Public Service ‘Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment’ potential funding streams and if technical support can be provided in the elaboration of the programme.

The third meeting took place in Paris, on Friday 8th January. It was organised by FFAAIR - Fédération Française des Associations et Amicales de maladies and attendees included representatives of the national organizations Fédération Française de Pneumologie, Fondation du Souffle and Alliance contre le tabac, healthcare professionals, Dr Bello from the National Directorate General for Health and EFA President Christine Rolland. The meeting consisted of three different parts, the first focused on the current situation in France, with an emphasis on the three key priorities identified by the EFA COPD Working Group. During the second part of the meeting the connection between COPD and smoking was discussed, with an emphasis on the need for smoking cessation programmes. Finally all attendees engaged in a roundtable to identify the next actions to be taken in France in the field of COPD.
With the above meetings, the first steps in the harmonisation of COPD Care in Europe have been undertaken in Belgium, France and Spain. All the meetings held the promise of follow-up synergetic actions (including the possibility of a pilot project), to enable progress on the key priorities; timely diagnosis, multidisciplinary approach and pulmonary rehabilitation as well as smoking cessation services.