Saturday, June 15, 2024

Patient Think Tank Urges EU Election Candidates to Prioritize Health in Policy Agenda

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As millions of Europeans prepare for EU Elections, the Patient Think Tank (PTT) urges candidates to prioritize health in the next policy cycle. Health is crucial for Europe’s future, economic security, and crisis preparedness. The PTT, a forum for dialogue between the European research-based pharmaceutical industry and patient organizations, has been convened by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and co-chaired by the European Patients Forum (EPF) for over 20 years. European citizens recognize the importance of health, ranking it as a top priority in a recent Eurobarometer survey.

This sends a clear message to policymakers: health is as important as security, defense, and fighting poverty. The EU’s future policymakers must reflect this focus on health to ensure a prosperous future for Europe and its citizens. Incorporating health into the political agenda is not just about improving healthcare systems but also about enhancing the overall quality of life for Europeans. A healthy population is more productive, contributes to economic growth, and reduces the burden on social services. By investing in health, policymakers can address issues like the aging population, the rise in chronic diseases, and the increasing healthcare costs.

Furthermore, health security and preparedness are essential for tackling future pandemics and health crises, ensuring resilience and stability across the continent. Prioritizing health also means fostering innovation in medical research and supporting the development of new treatments and technologies. This approach can drive economic growth, create high-skilled jobs, and position Europe as a leader in the global health sector. The continent faces significant health challenges, including an aging population, tightening health budgets, and increasing prevalence of acute and chronic diseases.

EU Must Prioritize Health: Addressing Noncommunicable Diseases and Patient Care Shortages

Noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and mental disorders account for 80% of the disease burden and are the leading causes of avoidable premature deaths in the EU. Compounding these issues are severe shortages of healthcare professionals. WHO Europe’s Hans Kluge highlighted the potential shortage of nearly 1.8 million healthcare workers, noting that some countries have only 2.4 doctors per 1,000 people. This shortage affects patients’ access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care, making it imperative for health to be a priority in policy discussions.

Despite these worrying trends, health is not at the forefront of European parties’ electoral manifestos. If upcoming EU policymakers do not prioritize health, it risks falling off the policy agenda, depriving European citizens of the benefits of investing in health. Investing in health yields significant dividends in terms of years of healthy and productive lives, fiscal sustainability, and economic growth. Prevention and early detection of diseases mean more people stay healthy for longer, freeing up health system resources for those who do become ill. Early treatment also prevents complications and disease progression, reducing both human and financial costs.


Health Investment Critical for EU Growth: Role of Patient Organizations and Biopharma

The healthcare sector is a major employer of highly skilled workers in the EU, contributing to both health and economic growth. For example, the research-based biopharmaceutical industry alone directly employs 840,000 people in Europe. Patient organizations play a vital role in health and social systems by providing valuable services and making healthcare design and delivery more efficient through patient involvement. In the Czech Republic, services provided by seven patient organizations amount to up to 76.3 million EUR per year. In Hungary, prevention efforts by patient organizations could save the health system an estimated 448,778 EUR annually.

The members of the Patient Think Tank emphasize the importance and urgency of making health a priority on the EU policy agenda. The early and meaningful involvement of patient organizations, alongside other stakeholders, is critical for policy development, health research, and healthcare practice across health systems. As the EU faces significant political changes, the Patient Think Tank reiterates the need to keep health at the forefront of policy discussions. Policymakers must recognize the value of health investments in ensuring a healthy, prosperous, and resilient Europe.

By prioritizing health, the EU can improve patient outcomes, drive economic growth, and enhance overall societal well-being. The PTT’s call to action highlights the critical need for EU policymakers to prioritize health in their agendas. Ensuring a focus on health will not only address current challenges but also secure a healthier, more prosperous future for all European citizens.

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Resource: European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, June 05, 2024

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