Prevention and early diagnosis
Knowledge is power: knowing a condition allows us to act promptly and prevent harm. Screening and early diagnosis play a key role in helping patients to live healthier and longer lives. Regular exams and screening tests can detect disease in its earliest stages substantially, increasing the chance of curing it and helping patients to return to their original health. It means better quality of life for the patient and reduced cost for the system. While primary prevention aims to reduce the incidence of diseases by encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, secondary prevention (screening and early detection) aims to reduce mortality by slowing or stopping the progression of a disease. EU health policy currently focused on primary prevention, by developing strategies and supporting Member States in promoting lifestyle improvements, better nutrition, healthy aging, physical activities etc. EU action on secondary prevention is still limited.
The EU has worked on several disease-related strategies but a comprehensive approach to better integrate primary and secondary preventive strategies to tackle the current inequalities in disease control is still missing. More needs to be done. Accordingly, to 2017 Eurostat data on preventive services (e.g. cancer screening), access to early diagnosis might vary significantly across countries challenging EU goal to give all people living in the EU access the same high-quality healthcare. It is necessary to foster a new approach to disease prevention which support and enable the full range of potential of screening and diagnostic programmes for the benefit of patients, health systems and society.
To support the shift from a curative-oriented approach to more prevention, prediction and better care for the population, digital solution and diagnostic information have the potential to unlock a pool of valuable knowledge in an unprecedented way to prevent diseases and identify early signals of ill-health.