NEWS: Health First Europe attends Health Technology Assessment: improving patient care and value for money?

On 29 November, Health First Europe attended the lunch debate on “Health Technology Assessment: improving patient care and value for money?” at the Residence Palace in Brussels. The event was organised by European Voice and supported by companies such as Eucomed and Novartis. The debate aimed to understand how and why Health Technology Assessment (HTA) processes and governance has to be improved through increased stakeholder cooperation and involvement in the process itself. The event brought together a large panel of speakers from the European Parliament, the European Commission and others stakeholders involved in HTA issues to give a concrete overview for pan-European cooperation on HTA in the medical sector.

Anders-Lamark Tysse, Policy Officer for Healthcare Systems at the European Commission’s Directorate General Consumers and Health, expressed that HTA remains a key issue in European healthcare systems for one main reason: HTA provides more clarity and better understanding on patient safety through the implementation of non-regulatory and regulatory requirements (according to an evidence based approach) for medical technology devices.

There are 27 HTA processes and governance across Europe and this represents a considerable challenge for all stakeholders. According to Joana Gabriele, Executive Director of the Spanish Patients Forum, the impact of HTA can be faced only if stakeholders (e.g. policy-makers, companies and patients) are adequately involved in the process.

MEP Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria) continued the debate by insisting on the fact that HTA must consider e-health, the current financial crisis (including budget reductions) as well as an ageing population issues. As regards the different demands in the healthcare system, HTA follows a dual-line perspective:  quality of care for patients and a better use of money by the Member States. Ms. Parvanova suggested that EU Member States are faced with considerable challenges for healthcare systems and solutions, including volunteering networks and collaboration partnerships, have to be created by the Member States with the support of the European Union (such as through the EUnetHTA Network). As reminder, MEP Parvanova concluded that the European Parliament is ready to prepare a question or a resolution before an eventual proposal from the European Commission in this field.

Regarding both Joint Action 1 and 2 on HTA and the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive, Finn Børlum Kristensen (President of EUnetHTA), explained the necessity of an European collaboration on HTA processes and governance.  He expressed that, “As technologies become more “international” (medicines, medical devices) and patients become more European, there should be a decrease in duplication of HTA Assessments.”, However, Mr. Kristensen also pointed out that there is still a problem regarding  inconsistency between different national HTAs. In addition, the EUnetHTA Conference in Gdansk (Poland) on 8-9 December 2011 will look to bring together an important stakeholders panel in order to draw up a strategy discussion around the upcoming Joint Action on HTA.

Overall, the event highlighted the potential of HTA in the EU health sector emphasising the importance of quality of care for patients and cost-effectiveness for public authorities in the ongoing debates. All participants agreed that the support of Member states and increased involvement of stakeholders in HTA is vital in order for assessments to reflect the value of medical solutions in the health sector at both local and EU levels.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends the European Health Literacy Conference

On 22 and 23 November, Health First Europe attended the European Health Literacy Conference organised by Maastricht University at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Under the European Health Literacy Project 2009-2012, this event presented the first European Health Literacy Survey describing the state of play of health literacy across Europe. The survey highlights the problems and vulnerable groups in health literacy, gaps between Member States and finally the potential solutions and policy recommendations to improve health literacy. Co-hosted by MEPs Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria), Christofer Fjellner (EPP, Sweden) and Karin Kadenbach (S&D, Austria), the conference brought together a panel of high-level speakers including representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, academia, private sector, health professional and patient organisations.

MEP Fejllner opened the event by addressing health literacy to citizens and patients, emphasising the need to put patient empowerment at the centre of the welfare system, in particular health education and access to health data.

Following Mr. Fejllner, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli welcomed the results of the survey which revealed that health literacy is a key condition for making informed decisions by patients in the healthcare system. As 50% of Europeans have used the Internet to find health information, Mr. Dalli suggested the changing landscape of healthcare enables an increasing lack of relevance and quality of online health data. As regards this alarming situation, the European Commission proposed to launch an Internet Wikipedia tool called ‘Health in Europe’ to ensure easy access of relevant health information for anyone. He declared that such a system represents the potential innovation has to offer for health literacy. However, Mr. Dalli remarked that empowering citizens through technology must be built upon the transparency and liability of the healthcare system. In addition, the democratisation of knowledge is a political challenge and commitments have to find agreement at the European Commission.

According to Zoran Stancic, Deputy Director-General of DG Information and Society, the Digital Agenda is one part of the answer. One of the seven pillars, ‘e-skills’ would work on assisting patients to better handle health data from Internet. The possibility of using social media is also a part of the answer because new technologies empower citizens in e-Health and telemedicine related issues.

MEP Antonyia Parvanova declared that utilising a different approach is a key point to overcoming the challenge of health literacy.  She expressed that patients should be considered more like partners and co-producers and not only as consumers in society. From this perspective, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing brings more education and new technology, particularly for the elderly, to prepare the patient to make a knowledgeable decision for successful treatment.

According to the health literacy survey, most patients have a low or insufficient level of health literacy and this phenomenon represents a problem for European Member States (on different national levels) and a cost for the healthcare system. Therefore, conference participants agreed that Europe now needs a common consciousness among citizens and political involvement at the EU level to put patient’s knowledge of health at the center of the health sector. With efforts from all parties (e.g. patients and health providers), health literacy could play a fundamental role within European health policy.

NEWS: Patient Safety and biological medicines: what matters?

On 8 November, Health First Europe attended the lunch debate in the European Parliament entitled “Patient Safety and biological medicines: what matters?” The event was organised by the Parliament Magazine and Novo Nordisk, in association with EuropaBio, and discussed the role of the bio-pharmaceutical industry in the patient safety debate.  Hosted by MEP Marisa Matias (EFA/Greens, Portugal), the event brought together the European Commission, the European Parliament, patients and industry to facilitate a dialogue alongside legislative dossiers such as the pharmacovigilance package, falsified medicines and information to patients.

MEP Matias opened the lunch debate by outlining some of her priorities with regards to patient safety in terms of medicines.  Having been extensively involved in Parliamentary discussions of pharmaceuticals in the EU, Ms. Matias highlighted the need for a direct dialogue with patients and healthcare professionals in order to develop legislation which is holistic in nature and can protect patients.

Mr. Stéphan Hogan, Head of Unit for Horizontal Issues at the European Commission’s Directorate General Research, discussed some of the ongoing projects the European Commission has been involved with to develop a knowledge base on patient and drug safety.  He asserted that the European Commission has supported extensive research in the areas of efficacy and safety of medicines for patients in addition to the education and training of professionals and patients through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).  He also asserted that for 2012, the European Commission is looking to support research on new methodologies for health technology assessment (HTA) under the Framework 7 Programme.

Additionally, Anne-Marie Felton of the Federation of European Nurses for Diabetes (FEND), spoke to the patient experience with regards to medicines highlighting particular areas for which the EU can do more to assist and protect the safety of patients.  In particular, she expressed that the reliability of treatments is critical stating that policymakers “Need to ensure commonality across the whole of the EU in terms of the accuracy and readability of information to patients.”  She further declared that information to patients should never be “a marketing tool.”

The event also saw a presentation by Inger Mollerup, Vice-President of Novo Nordisk, regarding the development of bio-pharmaceuticals and the complicated process through which medicines are created.  Ms. Mollerup drew attention to the fact that bio-medicines involve living organisms and that no batch of bio-medicines is identical – even though the process for generation may be the similar.  This means that patient safety must be protected through reliable systems of traceability and through clearly identified products.

Overall, the event highlighted the importance of patient safety in the ongoing debates around pharmaceuticals and the need for cooperation between stakeholders to find legislative solutions where the priority is protecting the patient.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends EDMA IVD Forum 2011

On 19 October 2011, Health First Europe attended the annual European Diagnostics Manufacturers Association (EDMA) In-Vitro Diagnostics (IVD) Forum which brought together academics, health experts, policymakers and industry to discuss issues such as Health Technology Assessment and the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.  The Forum looked to discuss in detail the current contribution of the IVD industry to the health sector and the potential for the industry to further engage on European issues impacting health.

The first sessions of the day focused on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) with particular discussion on ensuring patient access to medical innovations in a timely manner.  Jerome Boehm, Policy Coordinator and Team Leader in DG SANCO’s Health Systems Unit, described the issues the European Commission is currently facing in terms of developing a permanent, collaborative HTA network as prescribed by the Patients’ Rights in Cross-border Healthcare Directive. He explained that, “Cooperation is needed among actors at EU level and the Commission is promoting early dialogue between actors to facilitate the process.”

Additionally, Jennifer Cain, Chair of the EDMA HTA Task Force and External Affairs Director, LifeScan EMEA at Johnson and Johnson, further discussed the need for HTA decisions to have the adequate involvement of healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers and industry so that HTA is a gateway to innovation.  She expressed the uniqueness of the IVD industry in terms of HTA due to the fact that IVDs lead to decisions about treatment, not the treatment itself.  She highlighted that, “60-80% of the decisions taken about treatment for patients are affected by IVDs.”

Following on the discussions of HTA, the final sessions of the day examined the Pilot Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (AHAIP) launched by the European Commission in 2010 and ongoing actions and research around this initiative.  The first speaker, Dr. Roberto Bertollini of the World Health Organisation (WHO) explained what the WHO is doing to facilitate active and healthy ageing particularly in terms of supportive environments for older individuals, strengthening health systems and addressing gaps in evidence and research.  Professor Carol Jagger, from the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, then illustrated her research on healthy ageing with regards to the aged 85+ segment of the population.  She declared that the “apocalyptic demography” paradigm (or the pessimistic view of the demographic changes to society) needs to be combated through the re-oganisation of health systems by putting the patient at the centre of the system.  She asserted that multi-morbidity equates to serious costs in healthcare since the elderly population averages 4-5 chronic conditions – typically treated in different places by a variety of specialists without channels for communication.

Furthermore, Maria Iglesia-Gomez, Head of Unit for Strategy and International at DG SANCO, spoke in great detail about the ongoing work of the AHAIP and how the pilot partnership is using a new approach to working with all stakeholders to produce tangible outcomes for ageing patients. She acknowledged that because the AHAIP is a pilot, “we do not have all the answers,” but suggested that bringing together patient groups, professionals, industry and experts to identify bottlenecks and produce concrete solutions will go a long way towards achieving the goal of two additional healthy living years by 2020.  She called for stakeholders to commit to the partnership which is scheduled to receive formal political endorsement from the Council and the European Parliament in the first half of 2012.

Overall, the EDMA IVD Forum 2011 produced a very interesting dialogue on two important issues for the European health community and showcased the IVD industry’s continuing contribution to the healthy and active living of patients of all ages.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends the Annual Fit for Work Europe Conference

Health First Europe attended the 3rd Annual Fit for Work Europe Conference, held on 18 October in a two-session event. The first session, at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, focused on the importance of making musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs) a public health and work priority at EU and at national level by proposing concrete, practical steps and solutions for patients to return back to work as soon as possible. Afterwards, the second session at the European Parliament was opened by the Ambassador of Fit for Work Global, Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland (1990-1995), chaired by MEP Antonyia Parvanova (Bulgaria, ALDE) and co-hosted by MEP Edite Estrela (Portugal, S&D), Stephen Hughes (UK, S&D) and Jean Lambert (UK, Greens) also contributed to the political debates addressing MSDs and work capacity in EU health and employment policies.

In Europe, MSDs are a major cause of incapacity in the working-age population, with over 40 million EU workers suffering from MSDs. The Co-President of Fit for Work, Prof. Stephen Bevan, presented the need for EU and national policy-makers to emphasise MSDs as a global issue in order to coordinate more regulations for health and employment policies. According to Professor Bevan, work is good for health and should be promoted by clinicians as a priority outcome for patients. The role of policymakers is to prioritise initiatives for facilitating the exchange of good practices and better evidence from experts, policy-makers, patients, general practitioners etc. with a common focus on returning to work. This support would help to coordinate action between stakeholders to promote work throughout healthcare system regulation.

During the second session, MEP Antonyia Parvanova insisted that MSDs represent a health challenge and also an economic issue that Europe needs to tackle. Regarding European initiatives such as Europe 2020, the Employment Strategy and the European Innovation Partnership on Healthy and Active Ageing –all which support this issue – policymakers must continue to highlight MSDs (and chronic diseases as well) as a key priority for the EU political agenda. As Chair of the European Parliament Interest Group on Musculoskeletal Diseases, MEP Estrela called on the European Parliament to consider MSDs as an important cause of disability and inactivity in Europe, note the importance of the Workability on MSDs, prevent chronic mental diseases by promoting early detection, treatment and monitoring, create new healthcare delivery models and improve clinical management aims to keep people active as long as possible

To keep European citizens healthy, Isabel de la Mata, from the European Commission, Principal Adviser – Public health and risk assessment, DG SANCO, insisted on the need for all stakeholders to make a convincing case for investing in health as an engine of future growth, relating the health sector to employment, research and education policies. The European Commission’s redesigned European Health Programme intends to bring a clear EU added value in the public health sector at large. Four objectives have been described: promoting health and preventing disorders; ensuring innovative efficient and sustainable health systems; enabling patients more access to better and safer health care systems; and protecting citizens from cross-border health threats.

Fit for Work Europe made clear it has a role to play on the EU scene regarding increasing the awareness of MSDs and helping people suffering from MSDs in their daily working lives. Fit for Work declared that health promoting activities at the workplace must be perceived as an innovation model, fostering innovation management for a healthier Europe. MSDs represent a societal challenge and multi-sectoral issue that has to be driven forward in order to help EU Member States and the European Commission implement existing mechanisms from the national level to the EU level.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends the Eucomed MedTech Forum 2011

From 12-14 October, Health First Europe attended the Eucomed MedTech Forum 2011 which focused on “Driving Innovation in European Healthcare.” The event brought together leaders from the medical technology industry in addition to high level participants from the European Commission, Member States and patient groups, to discuss how the industry can contribute to tackling the challenges faced by an ageing population, a shortage of healthcare professionals and the increasing constraints on healthcare budgets.

One of the main themes of the three day conference was the need for significant changes to occur in order to make current health systems more sustainable.  In that vein, the opening day of the event saw the publication of an Economist Report on “Future Proofing Western Europe’s Healthcare” where Paul Kiestra, Contributing Editor, Economist Intelligence Unit, discussed what five European countries have been doing in order to achieve this sustainability.  He concluded that while many reforms have shown benefits, the need to incorporate more extensive reforms remains in all five countries.  However, the intense attachment of citizens to the current system in every state is still a huge barrier to overcome in healthcare reform.

Following on the evidence presented by the Economist in its report, Eucomed Chairman Guy Lebeau and Eucomed C.E.O. John Wilkinson, together presented the medtech industry’s plan for the next five years entitled “Contract for a Healthy Future.” The plan, which focuses on five particular ambitions for the industry, discusses the need for industry to collaborate more with other health stakeholders and to better demonstrate the value of medical technology not just for policymakers and regulators, but for patients and healthcare professionals.

One of the highlights of the first day of the event included the participation of European Health and Consumer Protection Commission John Dalli who spoke on innovating in healthcare.  Commissioner Dalli emphasised the need for health to be seen as an investment – for employment, for research and innovation and for the healthy living of European citizens.  He discussed the Innovation Partnership and Active and Healthy Ageing (AHAIP) which he hopes will help drive smart investment and smart innovation in health.  He declared that for him, the focus of the AHAIP is to keep more and more elderly people in their homes, rather than in institutions. Mr. Dalli, however, clearly stated that, “My main and ultimate goal is to have equitable access to high quality healthcare services for European citizens.”

The last session of the first day saw contributions from industry, insurance, government and patients in a panel discussion regarding sustaining healthcare systems in Europe.  Much of the discussion focused on modifying current business models. However, Sophie Peresson, Regional Manager, International Diabetes Federation (IDF), clearly highlighted the need for industry to take account of end users needs when developing products so that technology reaches (and can be used by) the people it is developed for.

The second day of the conference focused on eHealth and innovation with particularly interesting presentations from the Director of the European Commission’s Information Society Unit (DG INFSO), Robert Madelin and a video from Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes. Mr. Madelin encouraged industry to think about how medical technology can be used for individuals to drive their own improvement in health.  He expressed that, “Only 1 in 5 citizens in the OECD/BRIC countries has actively used something digital to manage their health. However, 75% of the people who have tried a technology to manage their health, believed that it significantly helped them.” Mr. Madelin was very clear that industry needs to continue to think about innovative ways to involve patients in managing their own care through personal medical devices.  In the same vein, Commissioner Kroes stated in her video that, “We must ensure technological solutions are developed and are then used.”  She also highlighted the need to better understand the needs of end users and to use the AHAIP to unlock Europe’s potential in this area.

Following the panel on innovation and the impact of the medtech industry, eHealth became the focus of discussions with contributions from the French Ministry of Health, the Danish Univeriteshospital og Svendborg Sygehus, Belgian mutialities, Microsoft, Continua and McKinsey.  The topic of eHealth was of great importance as governments, hospitals and industry highlighted the challenges they face with regards to the implementation of eHealth and making it a reality for patients. Anne-Kirstine Dyrvig explained that “Introducing telemedicine means introducing a new way of working” and suggested to delegates that they prepare for this in the implementation of eHealth services.  She also expressed the considerable need to involve healthcare professionals in the process.

The final session of the event looked at getting regulation and innovation right in Europe and produced a very interesting debate regarding the issue of patient safety in the determining a regulatory framework for medical devices.  The panelists included Director of Health and Consumer Affairs in the European Commission (DG SANCO) Jacqueline Minor, and Nicola Bedlington, the Director of the European Patients Forum (EPF).  Ms. Minor reiterated that regulation in medical technology “must not lose sight of patient safety” and must ensure “a balance between innovation and patient safety.”  As the representative of patient groups, Ms. Bedlington agreed and suggested that the recast of the Medical Devices Directive should be very considerate of this particular point.

Overall, the event established the new approach of the medical technology industry to work more closely with other health stakeholders to meet the challenges of the health sector today.  Through innovation and greater collaboration, industry believes that the demands and needs of patients can be met.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends EP Interest Group on Carers

Health First Europe attended the 2nd meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Carers in the Active and Healthy Ageing Partnership, held on 11 October at the Parliament. Chaired by MEP Marian Harkin (ALDE, IE) and with the participation of Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner of the Digital Agenda, this interest group debated their particular interest regarding challenges and responsibilities in the ongoing Pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, as well as to explain why their role in this area is crucial.

Commissioner Neelie Kroes explained that the European Digital Agenda, including the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (AHAIP), concerns all European citizens and elder population, especially in terms of quality of life and dignity. Indeed, Carers, as one of the first interfaces with care recipients when patients are suffering from chronic illness or disabilities or ageing peoples, play a key role in this global strategy. The European Commission insisted on the necessity to communicate effectively with all stakeholders and establish strategic aims like innovate inhuman capital by using new technologies and to improve productivity for an economic inclusion. From a pragmatic point of view, important financial support for Carers does represent a good investment even in mid-term in order to create sustainable financial systems and new business models in care services for caregivers and care receivers as well.

The President of Eurocarers, Robert Anderson, highlighted how Carers can actively impact the AHAIP and why having a voice in this process would create a win-win situation in this context. In the perspective of the AHAIP, Carers’ daily support represent many opportunities for local implementation:  intervening in both informal and formal-care provisions, helping elder peoples achieve and maintain an active and healthy life, improving the sustainability of care services, making Carers’ organizations more user-friendly, and integrating users in ICT development.

The European Parliament Interest Group on Carers in Active and Healthy Ageing Partnership helps to establish a real dialogue between policy-makers, stakeholders and civil society at national and EU levels. Afterwards, Carers’ organizations need to pursue their efforts in this area and wait for November when the Strategic Implementation Plan of the AHAIP, after a long process of commitments, will propose final recommendations.

Marian Harkin’s website: http://www.marianharkin.com/

NEWS: Health First Europe attends EFAPH lunch debate on haemochromotosis

On 20 September, Health First Europe attended a debate in the European Parliament on the issue of haemochromotosis – a genetic disease causing an overload of iron in the blood. HFE member organisation, The European Federation of Associations of Patients with Haemochromotosis (EFAPH), organised the event in order to raise awareness about this rare disease and inform policymakers of what steps can be taken to inform and protect citizens from this often unknown and overlooked genetic disease.

Introducing the issue and the need for action in this disease area, MEP Jo Leinen (ALDE, Germany) suggested that the sharing of best practices between Member States, particularly in terms of genetic databases, would help to inform patients and prevent the complications associated with haemochromotosis which can include liver cancer, diabetes and cardiac failure.  Additionally, MEP Antonyia Parvanova (Bulgaria, ALDE), highlighted the importance of considering rare diseases at the EU level due to the enormous impact diseases such as haemochromotosis can have on the cost of health systems throughout Europe.  As simple genetic testing of adults can determine who has the disease, complications associated with the overload of iron in the blood can be prevented with simple treatment (i.e. phlebotomy).

Though haemochromotosis is not a well-known disease, it affects nearly 1 in 300 Europeans and currently 2 million people suffer from it, especially in Ireland where Celtics are more susceptible to the genetic mutation which causes harmochromotosis.  Overcoming the lack of awareness about the disease is extremely difficult as diagnoses can sometimes occur almost 10 years after the first onset of symptoms.  During the time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis, patients can develop severe complications as the overload of iron in organs causes irreversible damage and sometimes death.  EFAPH hopes that continued debates such as these will make both professionals and patients more aware of the symptoms which can be signs of haemochromotosis such as chronic fatigue, arthritis and hyper-pigmentation.

Overall, the event highlighted the need for the EU institutions to consider rare, genetic diseases as an important health issue.  If known and tested for amongst adults, the reduction in severe complications for sufferers could have a major affect not only on patients, but particularly on the costs to health systems.

NEWS: MEP Christofer Fjellner and Health First Europe launch Task Force on Patient Safety

7 September 2011 – Health First Europe together with Task Force Patron MEP Christofer Fjellner (EPP, Sweden), today launched the Task Force on Patient Safety to demand more stringent recommendations for Member States with regards to the safety of patients. As part of the review of the Council Recommendations on patient safety, including the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections, the Task Force will utilise its broad participation of members – in particular patients, healthcare professionals, hospitals and industry – to formulate further recommendations for Member States following on the European Commission’s review.

As the Chair of the Task Force, Health First Europe (HFE) Honorary President John Bowis stated the aim of the Task Force is to “enshrine patient safety throughout the Member States and set specific, quantitative targets for the reduction of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs).”  He expressed that “Specific targets must be set for the reduction of HAIs to encourage Member States to take every precaution to protect the safety of citizens when they enter a healthcare setting – whether that be in hospital or home care.”

The European Centre for Disease and Prevention Control (ECDC) estimates that HAIs occur in one hospitalized patient in 20 which equates to almost 4.1 million patients per year who acquire an infection while in hospital.  HAIs also account for approximately 37,000 deaths per year in the European Union.[1]

Patron of the HFE Task Force, and HFE MEP Supporter, MEP Chrisofer Fjellner discussed the need for further action in this realm particularly as the Member States reply to the European Commission questionnaire on the implementation of the recommendations since 2009.  He declared, “There are many aspects to patient safety. Patients must be protected from adverse events while receiving care. Equally important, continued innovation in medicines and healthcare practices must be ensured. Also, to feel safe, patients must be given good and reliable information to be able to determine risks and make informed choices about their own health.”

The Health First Europe Task Force will publish its demands during an event in the European Parliament alongside the ongoing review of the implementation of the 2009 Council Recommendations in winter 2011/2012.

Participants in the HFE Task Force on patient safety include: International Association of Patients Organisations (IAPO); European Health Telematics Association (EHTEL); European Medical Association (EMA); European Union of Private Hospitals (UEHP); International Diabetes Federation (IDF); European Federation of Public Service Employees Union (Eurofedop); Medical Technology Group and Eucomed.

NEWS: European Citizen Award 2011 – goes to Maltese citizen Chris Delicata from the International Diabetes Federation Europe

This year the European Citizens prize is awarded to Chris Delicata, President and Regional Chair of the International Diabetes Federation Europe Region (IDF Europe) for his outstanding contribution to the fight against diabetes.  The award ceremony took place at Europe House in Valletta on Wednesday, presided over by Maltese Member of the European Parliament, Simon Busuttil. The event was attended, amongst others, by Dr Joe Cassar, Minister of Health, Elderly and Community Care in Malta, Maltese Members of Parliament, and Government Officials.

Mr Delicata, Senior Manager at GasanMamo Insurance Limited, a leading insurance company based in Malta, has dedicated an overwhelming amount of time to fighting diabetes by actively contributing to Maltese and European projects. He works with the aim of helping raise awareness of the disease and enhance the quality of lives of people who live with diabetes. Mr. Delicata was surprised and deeply honored to receive the prestigious award. His emotive acceptance speech described the impact that diabetes had had on him and his family. Mr Delicata first learnt about diabetes when his eldest son Jack was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes twelve years ago,

“I did not want Diabetes to takes over my life – on the contrary I wanted to do something tangible for Diabetes. I felt that if I wanted something to be done, then I must offer my contribution… I feel proud that I have managed to turn one of the worst episodes in my life to a positive one for me and my family.” – Mr Delicata

Dr Busuttil was there to congratulate Mr. Delicata and reiterated that this award reflects the hard work, integration and achievements of the Maltese people since joining the European Union in 2004.

“This award recognizes the notable contribution of Chris Delicata in the fight against Diabetes at the EU level. His work has helped bring Europeans together to work harder and more effectively against Diabetes. In this way he has shown himself to be a true, exemplary European citizen.” – Dr Busuttil

Dr Busuttil also paid tribute to the struggle of diabetes in Malta and called for greater government involvement to help combat this disease. Mr. Delicata also met with His Excellency President Dr. George Abela at San Anton Palace and the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi at Auberge de Castille, who thanked him on behalf of the Maltese people.

The award ceremony also included a key note speech from Sir Michael Hirst, President-Elect of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) who echoed the importance of a national diabetes plan.

“The International Diabetes Federation is absolutely delighted that Chris Delicata has been given the European Citizen’s Award for his voluntary work on diabetes.  Chris is a most deserving winner of this prestigious award. His hard work in Malta and throughout Europe as President of IDF Europe has rightly been recognised, and is inspirational to all people whose children develop type 1 diabetes.  It is a signal honour also for IDF Europe.” – Sir Michael Hirst

Background note

Since 2009, the European Parliament has awarded the Civi Europaeo Praemium – European Citizens’ Prize on a yearly basis to reward outstanding contributions to European public life.

On 17 March 2011, the Chancellery of the European Parliament, chaired by President Jerzy Buzek, drew up a list of European Citizens’ Prize winners nominated from across the European Union. The list, which includes Mr Delicata, is made up of individuals and organizations including scientists, artists, historians, campaigners, academics, student and voluntary organizations and sports associations.

Prizes are awarded to nominees at public award ceremonies held near the recipients’ respective places of residence, and are presented by the President of the European Parliament, one of the Vice-Presidents or a representative of the European Parliament designated by the President.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is a not-for-profit umbrella organization of over 200 diabetes associations worldwide. We see ourselves as the ‘global voice of diabetes’ and an influential advocate for people directly and indirectly affected by diabetes. IDF has seven regional offices which are the interface between our national member associations and global headquarters in Brussels and are critical for the delivery of our advocacy and programmes.

IDF Europe is one of these regional offices and represents 62 member associations in 45 countries in Europe. These member associations are either organizations representing patients or health care professionals or a combination of both. The activities of IDF Europe aim to influence policy, increase public awareness and encourage health improvement, promote the exchange of high-quality information about diabetes, and provide education for people with diabetes and their healthcare providers.

For more information please contact Jessie Kennelly Tel: +32 2 639 2092.  jessie.kennelly@idf-europe.org

NEWS: Polish Presidency priorities for health – focus on children’s healthcare

On 1 July 2011, Poland will assume the European Council Presidency of the EU with the aim to foster faster economic growth in the EU and strengthen the European political community. To achieve these objectives, the Polish Presidency will focus on three fundamental priorities: European integration as the source of growth, Secure Europe and Europe benefiting from openness.

In terms of its’ priorities for health, the Polish presidency will focus increased attention to children’s healthcare, particularly in the areas of children’s non-communicable diseases and childhood communication problems regarding hearing, sight and speech.  Poland will also aim to tackle issues of brain degenerative diseases and health gaps between EU countries.  Additionally, the Polish Presidency intends to be quite active with regards to ongoing EU initiatives, notably the Information to Patients dossier and the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.

With the conclusion of the Hungarian Presidency, Poland will also begin a new trio of presidencies to be followed by Denmark and Cyprus.  The trio of presidencies will together be focusing on innovation, ageing, and diseases without borders, as part of their health priorities for the next 18 months.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends EP Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases Meeting

Health First Europe attended the 6th meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs) which was held on 22 June 2011 at the Parliament. This EP Interest Group, in line with the 7th Flagship of 2020 Strategy ‘Innovation Union’ and the Pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, aims to shape the European Parliament input for future legislation on RMDs, to support continuous awareness-raising in society and to bring the EU closer to citizens and patients. The Chair of the Interest Group, Edite Estrela (S&D, Portugal) and the Vice-Chair, Jim Higgins (EPP, Ireland), brought together representatives from the European Commission, experts, academics and associations to discuss  how concretely RMDs can contribute to Active and Health Ageing targets.

The European Commission stressed that the European headline target by 2020 should increase the number of healthy life years by two in the European Union on average. From this perspective, Ms. Marianne van den Berg, Policy Analyst Unit Innovation for Health and Consumers at DG SANCO, described the running process on European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (AHAIP) and reminded participants that it aims to create a triple win for Europe: enabling EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while ageing; improving the sustainability and efficiency of health systems; creating innovative solutions and new opportunities for businesses. For this purpose, the three AHAIP related Working Groups, have already met to update projects and the timeline. The Commission will assist in the selection of some highlighted projects from each Working Group to organise ideas and produce effective teams.

In the context of the AHAIP, Chairperson of the Standing Committee of PARE, Jacqueline Mäder, remarked that ageing and RMDs have quite significant consequences on labour markets and health care systems creating significant costs for the society. In particular, RMDs can lead to long term sickness and early retirement. Concerning social security and healthcare systems, RMDs are the second most common reason for consulting a doctor and have a high impact on the costs of hospitalization in general. She expressed that to face barriers such as funding opportunities, lack of evidence and data, need for regulation and framework conditions, key areas for change and innovation have to be determined. Diverse recommendations have been proposed by participants: early diagnosis and treatment, lifestyle interventions, access to quality care, education, patients’ involvement, evidence-based etc.

Overall, the event focused on the fact that the number of people with RMDs is expected to increase significantly with the ageing demographics in coming years. To cope with these important social and technological challenges, effective measures need to be taken by European policy-makers and civil society for defining a common vision on the necessity to extend healthy life span for people with RMDs. To close the session, MEP Higgins insisted on the necessity to pass a clear message from the European Parliament Interest Group on RMDs objectives and activities to stakeholders’ and continue their involvement and contribution in this issue area.

Edite Estrela’s website: http://www.editeestrela.net/

Jim Higgins’ website: http://www.jimhiggins.ie/ep/ 

NEWS: Health First Europe attends a Seminar at the European Parliament on: “Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare Delivery”

On 21 June, a seminar brought together companies, non-governmental organizations and policy makers to discuss ways in which to create wealth and value among people living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) in emerging countries and the possible investment of the private sector in Research and Innovation in an inclusive and sustainable way. Participants discussed the fact that there are 4 billion people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP) in developing countries. These people represent a €3.7 trillion global consumer market and are increasingly being seen as the customers of the future. They thus represent new markets and a growing innovation capacity in the healthcare, food and housing sectors.

MEP Nirj Deva (ECR, UK) stressed that the meeting should act as a Call to Action for the private sector and donors. He highlighted that the problems facing them are often similar: improving health care delivery, decreasing the cost of new technologies, developing key improvements in infrastructure, increasing the awareness of disease, providing information and education for patients to access medicines and healthcare

Additionally, panelists discussed programmes launched last year in order to strengthen health systems and produce economic results. Anuj Pasrija from Novartis, explained how his company’s social business approach could be effectively deployed to deliver financial returns for investors and social returns for the poor in India. This new business model involves one medical educator and one sales supervisor in the process. The BoP is seen both as a growing market and as an innovative capacity. BoP outreaches vary: Awareness, Adaptability, Accessibility and Affordability. The mission of the project is to improve healthcare access for the poorest people in developing countries by providing better information, creating alliances and partnerships with local doctors, working with local governments and regulatory authorities, viewing people from underprivileged backgrounds as consumers and, finally, prioritizing social investments over business growth.

Vodafone also highlighted some of its ongoing work in Tanzania where it created a very simple technological solution called ‘SMS for life’. A district officer sends a very simple SMS to a centralized system and then, he learns immediately where there is a lack of drugs and where an epidemic is growing. This system is very beneficial for eliminating all medical stocks and avoiding the retention of expired medicines. Launched in 26 countries and regions, the project has been deemed commercially sustainable, open, and looks to represent a transferable solution in developing countries because it does not require further investments.

Overall, panelists agreed that these new ‘Disruptive Innovations’, including cross-sector and multi-stakeholder partnership approaches, and new technologies, have to be pursued as new European guidelines. In order to ensure an access to innovative medicines and healthcare systems for everyone, even for the BoP in Europe, it was advised that the European Commission should follow these innovative practices. However, it was also noted that stakeholders must take certain key steps to support and develop these innovations.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends European Connected Health Week 2011

The European Connected Health (ECH) Campus together with the European MHealth Alliance (EuMHA) organised ECHWeek2011 to discuss the evolving landscape of mobile health (or mHealth) technologies and the role of, and future possibilities for, this segment of eHealth innovations.  The conference brought together patients, professionals and European Commission officials, but mainly offered an avenue for industry to develop partnerships to drive mHealth and further the uptake of current technologies for the benefit of patients.

The three-day event focused on the transformative capabilities of mHealth solutions for all health stakeholders particularly with regards to the patient-centric nature of mHealth technologies. Chris Taylor, Director of the Manchester mHealth Innovation Centre, suggested that mHealth is not an incremental extension of eHealth, but instead is a “personalised, commoditised solution that can be used in real-time, anywhere.”  He believes that the future for mHealth will include the integration of home and environment where solutions are personalised, standardised and persistent – “aware of me, my story and my need for key interventions” – providing not just cost-effectiveness, but better care for individuals.

Jaakko Aarnio, Policy Officer, DG INFSO – ICT for health, gave greater details about how the European Commission is engaging in mHealth to support research, deployment and regulation of a sector that is beyond the reach of medical device legislation.  He asserted that the Commission is in the process of negotiating a Roadmap for mHealth in order to tackle issues of sustainability.  Head of Unit in DG -ICT for health, Ilias Iakovidis, further discussed the need for more data regarding the mHealth market so as to take the many pilot initiatives that exist and scale them up for real data collection and access for patients.  He offered that industry must work with professionals for mHealth  to be successful.

Overall, the conference highlighted the many innovative solutions in development which will allow for greater patient empowerment and personalised health management. Though many barriers still exist for these solutions to become a reality for the everyday citizen, there is great potential for tackling the existing challenges faced by health systems throughout Europe to provide quality health care to all individuals.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends EPC/CHES Policy Dialogue: “Only what can be measured, can be achieved: the case of active, healthy ageing”

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.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends CHES Policy Dialogue on Health Council Briefing and the next steps towards active healthy ageing

Health First Europe attended the European Policy Centre’s CHES Policy Dialogue on 7 June 2011 which brought together representatives from the Hungarian and Polish Presidencies to discuss health, employment and social policy issues related to active and health ageing. Hungarian Health Attaché Mr Lazlo Bencze and Polish Minister Counsellor Mr Janusz Galeziak discussed how their countries are tackling the demographic changes affecting Europe under the EU’s 2020 Strategy. The Hungarian Presidency also highlighted many of the outcomes of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council meeting on 6 June which saw the adoption of Council Conclusions on four policy issues – namely mental health and well-being, innovation in the medical device sector, childhood immunization and sustainable healthcare systems.

Explaining the main action of the Council Conclusions entitled “Towards modern, responsive and sustainable health systems,” Mr Bencze underlined the intention of the Hungarian Presidency is to produce and sustain a reflection process whereby Member States will continue to exchange best practices related to investment in healthcare systems. He declared that the focus or the process will be on regarding health as an investment rather than an expenditure and conceded that the content of this reflection process has not been fixed in order to develop it based on Member State needs and expectations over the coming year. A report on the reflection process will be released by the end of 2012 with hopes for continued cooperation through the Senior High Level Working Group extending beyond this deadline.

Additionally, Mr Galeziak provided further information regarding the aims of the Polish Presidency in terms of employment and social policy which will focus on the demographic future of Europe, an active EU and a citizen partnership. Mr Galeziak asserted that the Polish Presidency will look to take a more holistic approach to employment, education, health and other sectors through the principle of “solidarity.” The Polish Presidency’s overall goal is to utilise changing demographics in society as an opportunity to innovate in the organisation of society leading to greater job creation.

Though both the Hungarian and Polish Permanent Representations to the EU are sitting on the Steering Committee of the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, neither representative could speak to any developments regarding the initiative. The European Commission briefed the EPSCO Council on its progress with the pilot partnership, but both speakers felt it too soon to consider possible outcomes of the Strategic Implementation Plan which is due to be completed by the Steering Committee before the end of 2011.