8th Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on RMD's March 2012
The 8th meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases was held on 20 March 2012, 12.00 14.00h, at the European Parliament Brussels under the heading Towards an EU strategy on chronic diseases: a follow-up of the Council Conclusions on chronic diseases.
Chair Ms Edite Estrela started the session by welcoming all participants to the 8th meeting of the Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases.
Mr Michael Huebel (Head of Unit C4 Health Determinants; Dg SANCO, European Commission): The reflection process on chronic diseases from the European Commissions perspective
Mr Huebel explained that the reflection process on chronic diseases should focus on health promotion and prevention, disease management and research. To cover these areas for different chronic diseases, the Commission aims at a horizontal, generic approach, identifying similarities within these diseases. In addition, fields of action within the EU should be detected and different elements such as ageing or, especially for RMDs, health and safety at work should be brought together. An approach tackling individual diseases should only be taken if there is an added value for this.
For the preparation of the reflection process Mr Huebel emphasised the importance of stakeholder input. Therefore the Commission already consulted with the Health Policy Forum and the Chronic Diseases Alliance. With the opening of the consultation process on 14 March to the general public all interested stakeholders are now asked to make their contribution by 15 April. Once the consultation process is finished, a document should be drafted which should then be published in early 2013.
Mr Kore Geil (Health Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Denmark to the EU): The Danish Presidencys priorities in the fight against chronic diseases
Mr Geil started by underlining that chronic diseases are a priority on the Danish Presidencys agenda and that they will also be discussed during the next presidencies. To tackle chronic diseases, the Danish Presidency has a two-fold strategy:
- Prevention and promotion: communicating the main risk factors to society; namely tobacco, alcohol misuse, malnutrition, but also a poor educational background and other social conditions.
- Patient education and patient focus: patients who are already suffering from chronic diseases should actively take part in the control and surveillance of their disease and have the possibility to live a life as normal as possible.
He also stressed that actions have already been taken in the area of prevention and treatment. Among others, he mentioned the upcoming first European Conference on Patient Empowerment in Copenhagen on 11/12 April 2012. The conference mainly aims at giving best practice examples for patients on how to actively deal with their disease.
Ms Birgit Beger (Secretary General of the Standing Committee of European Doctors CPME): The reflection process on chronic diseases in the current EU debate
Ms Beger emphasised that chronic diseases have a huge impact on European economies. RMDs are, for instance, estimated to account for 50% of the absences from the working place. As recommended strategies of managing chronic diseases, the CPME suggests promoting health and including it into the daily life; they stress evidence-based approaches, a stronger monitoring network, a preventive approach and the mobilisation of further networks for specific action areas. As main future problem, the lack of doctors around the year 2020 was stressed. To avoid this, according to the CPME the focus should be on creating incentives for new doctors. Ms Beger also underlined the use of electronic communication measures to give more power to the patients.
Mr Maxime Dougados (President of European League Against Rheumatism, EULAR), RMDs in the chronic disease reflection process
Mr Dougados presentation focused on four main areas within RMDs: health promotion and prevention, healthcare, research and information on chronic diseases. For each area he recommended actions for improvement such as tackling health determinants to improve RMD prevention or improving the patients access to healthcare and treatment and their right to be provided with information, for example by specialised centres. To take into account the specificities of RMDs, Mr Dougados mentioned the idea of an EU strategy on chronic diseases which should contain primary and secondary prevention, go beyond mortality rates and expand research activities.
Additionally, Mr Dougados stated that EULAR, as an organisation comprised of, among others, national patients organisation, is actively involving patients in research and health policy activities and should hence be one of the main contacts for the Commission.
Professor Anthony Woolf (EUMUSC.NET, Bone & Joint Decade), Comments
Prof. Woolf is project coordinator of EUMUSC.NET, a project that aims to raise standards of care across Europe. He added further comments on the reflection process on chronic diseases by starting with the current situation in the EU. He recommended paying more attention to RMDs in the EU policies and actions due to their high prevalence, morbidity and mortality conditions.
He suggested identifying common risk factors of RMDs and other chronic diseases to ensure an efficient approach. For improving healthcare, Mr Woolf outlined the recommendations of EUMUSC.NET about the implementation of evidence-based standard of care and quality indicators to monitor this implementation. Another important point was the provision of comparable information about chronic diseases and their impact to ensure better information and more adequate strategies and policies to prevent and control chronic diseases.
Ms Antonyia Parvanova (MEP, Bulgaria, ALDE, Vice Chair of the Interest Group), Discussion with Participants
Ms Parvanova opened the discussion by mentioning that the Interest Group on RMDs is one of the most active interest groups in the Parliament. She also welcomed the reflection process as an opportunity to make an impact in the chronic diseases field. Taking into account the burden of RMDs, she supported Mr Dougados in advocating for an RMD strategy which, according to her, could contain action plans for the Member States. Regarding the current economic crisis and potential cuts on healthcare systems, Ms Parvanova claimed that the crisis should not be seen as an excuse but rather as an incentive to improve healthcare and healthcare systems by, inter alia, addressing chronic diseases.
Mr Marios Kouloumas from the Cyprus League Against Rheumatism highlighted that for RMD patients access to treatment and medication is a main topic. Being a patient himself he also outlined the importance for patients to be included into society and be able to work.
Mr Josef Smolen, International Liaison Officer EULAR, suggested to further include RMDs in the chronic diseases reflection process and to avoid a generic approach. He also mentioned the lacking visibility of RMDs. For instance, lung cancer is always connected to smoking but no special regard is paid to smoking as being a major reason for osteoarthritis. He agreed that in some cases a generic approach could be helpful but that research, for example, has to be focussed on details and is not generic. Therefore in his opinion, RMDs are not reflected enough in the Horizon 2020 draft proposal.
On the contrary, the Danish presidency favoured the generic approach since it allows tackling a lot of diseases. Mr Huebel added the question of what data should be taken to decide on the importance of a disease: costs, morbidity, mortality, work, social integration ? Since all this data is important, there should not only be a generic approach but also a specific one. Finally, the discussants agreed that the approaches, either generic or specific, should be chosen according to the added value for the EU.
Professor Anthony Woolf, (EUMUSC.NET & Bone & Joint Decade), was present at the 8th Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group.He recommended paying more attention to RMDs in the EU policies and actions due to their high prevlence, morbidity and mortality conditions. Professor Woolf suggested identifying common risk factors of RMDs and other chronic diseases to ensure an efficient approach. For improving healthcare, he outlined the recommendations of EUMUSC.NET about the implementation of evidence-based standard of care and quality indicators to monitor this implementation. Another important point is the provision of comparable information about chronic diseases and their impact to ensure better information and more adequate strategies and policies to prevent and control chronic diseases.