On 14 June, the European Policy Centre (EPC) together with the Coalition for Health, Ethics and Society (CHES) organised a conference bringing together various health stakeholders to discuss how to increase healthy living by 2020 as prescribed by the Pilot Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. The event focused on the upcoming year for Active Ageing (2012) and the role of the Innovation Partnership in ensuring that people not only live longer, but that by 2020 people can expect to have two more active and healthy years.

Principle Advisor for Public Health at Directorate SANCO- Health and Consumers, Ms Isabel de la Mata, began the conference by describing the enormous differentiation between Member States in terms of life expectancy.  She expressed that there is a need to research further why it is that people in Malta live longer than people in Romania and suggested that there could be a correlation between life expectancy and the age of retirement.  Retirement, in some cases, is correlated with illness.  Additionally, she pointed out that countries with a higher life expectancy are not necessarily the healthiest of countries and these figures need to be further understood to assist people in living disease-free for longer.  Manfred Buber from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) division of  Health Indicators, Health and Ageing, Social Policy Divisionexpressed that further research in this area would be taken on through an upcoming 10 year action plan to increase healthy ageing which will be finalised during 2012.  This action plan will likely focus on disease prevention and health promotion and will necessitate to the commitment of public health authorities for success.

MEP Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria) was the final speaker at the event and expressed her satisfaction that the European Commission is taking the initiative on the issue of active and healthy ageing.  She stated that the global epidemic of unhealthy living throughout Europe must be tackled particularly in the areas of obesity and smoking. Discussing retirement and its impact on illness, MEP Parvanova also declared that the retirement age could be raised to increase mental dexterity of older individuals.  She also highlighted her belief that Central Europe should be the main focus for healthy living due to its low life expectancy and this should be done by making healthy foods cheaper to increase access for economically disadvantaged groups.  Particularly striking, was also MEP Parvanova’s suggestion that health become a full competency of the EU by amending the Lisbon Treaty.

Though there are many actions yet to taken to facilitate more active and healthy living for all segments of the European population, the event considered the work currently being done by both the EU institutions and health stakeholders to combat the demographic changes which will inevitably impact all health systems through Europe. The panelists believed that further research and EU level commitments in this issue area would not doubt provide better means to promote better healthy and active living.