(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Ladies and gentlemen,
Each year, there are more than 6 million new cases of cardiovascular disease and over 1.8 million cardiovascular disease related deaths in the EU.
This is placing an immense burden on our fellow citizens, on our health systems, and on our economy.
Indeed, before the pandemic, cardiovascular diseases were the leading cause of death in the EU, and globally.
Collectively, as a Union, we need to do more to address them, to prevent where possible, and to treat them effectively.
Unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, smoking and harmful alcohol consumption are the key causes of non-communicable diseases including problems with heart health.
These factors are responsible for the overwhelming majority of Europe’s disease burden – and we have to help citizens to lead healthier lifestyles and avoid disease to the extent possible.
We are supporting Member States in transferring best practices on health promotion and disease prevention, including on physical activity, nutrition and other risk factors such as tobacco consumption.
For example, ‘European Physical Activity on Prescription’ is a project transferring twenty years of Swedish best practice to ten other member states.
Another example – The ‘Young 50′ project exports the prevention and screening model for cardiovascular diseases developed in Italy to Lithuania, Romania, Luxembourg and Spain.
We recognise that good health is one of the most important investments we can make in our future – and we also know that prevention is always better than treatment.
20% of the EU4Health programme’s budget will be allocated to health promotion and disease prevention.
Under the EU4Health work plan for 2021, we have allocated EUR 7 million for the transfer and implementation of validated best practices through two joint actions with EU countries.
One tackling diabetes type 2, and the other promoting healthy lifestyles and obesity prevention in vulnerable groups.
Further actions will be included under the Commission’s new ‘Healthier Together’ initiative that will help EU countries reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases.
Tackling these challenges demands a coordinated effort across different policy areas.
Our 2022 work programme supports the implementation of actions under the Healthier together Initiative — with dedicated funding of EUR 55 million for work with Member States and stakeholders, starting with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
A call for proposals for stakeholders will be launched in July this year on cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Across Europe, differences in cardiovascular disease prevalence and deaths are well documented, with notably higher death rates in Central and Eastern European countries.
Gender inequalities are also evident, with women on average more affected by cardiovascular diseases than men. Gender gaps are also more evident in Eastern European countries.
So it is important that this initiative will also support the reduction of health inequalities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Coordinated, joined-up thinking is an important part of health promotion and disease prevention.
So it is essential that the Non communicable disease initiative will complement Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan in the area of health determinants.
The European Code Against Cancer – a Commission initiative to help people to reduce their risk of cancer – will also help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
The Cancer Plan will also develop actions that may benefit cancer patients with cardiovascular diseases as a co-morbidity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Together, we are taking concrete steps across a range of areas to build a healthier, more resilient and more equal Europe.
For example, digitalisation is essential for the future of healthcare – and we are working to maximise that potential.
We recently presented our proposal for the European Health Data Space, one of the central building blocks of a strong European Health Union.
We see this as a ‘new beginning’ for the EU’s digital health policy, and a historic paradigm shift for Europe, making health data work for citizens, health industry and science.
Another focus, the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe, aims to improve access to affordable medicines and to address unmet medical needs.
In all of this, collaboration and coordination are crucial. We are stronger and more effective when we work together.
This is all the more important as we emerge from the most acute phase of the pandemic knowing that our health systems will have to cope with a backlog of postponed screening or non-urgent treatment.
We also know already that we have to expect long-term challenges with cardiovascular health for a number people who went through a COVID-19 infection.
So, there is a lot to do together. That is why I want to explicitly salute the European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health: it is great to such a diverse group of stakeholders from different areas coming together for a joint cause.
Your Alliance, and your expertise are a vital part of this process. And an integral part of a genuine European Health Union that cares for its citizens.
This is why your event today comes at a very good time.
So I want to thank you, and I look forward to working with you to build a healthier Europe, for healthier citizens with good hearts.