Addressing cardiovascular health in a changed and changing world

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Addressing Cardiovascular health in a changed and changing world

Summary

“Cardiovascular disease is the biggest health challenge in the EU,” Brando Benifei MEP, Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group.

Preventing and reducing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a European-wide health priority. CVD, primarily heart attack and stroke, is the leading cause of death and preventable illness in Europe. It affects over 60mn Europeans and strains local, national, and European health budgets.

‘Addressing cardiovascular health in a changed and changing world’, a Friends of Europe debate held in partnership with the European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health (EACH) and supported by the MEP Heart Group, took place on 16 May 2022, bringing together policymakers, researchers, health professionals and citizens to reflect upon ways to improve cardiovascular health in Europe.

The debate showed that we cannot focus only on what needs to be done, but how it is done. Participants raised the importance of health literacy and the implementation of digital solutions across the care pathway. They also discussed the impact of an ageing population on rising cases of CVD and increasing research needs.

Speakers stressed the need to make strategic adjustments. “We have shifted our strategy’s philosophy, moving from disease to health, from patients to citizens,” said Dr Héctor Bueno, Scientific Coordinator of Estrategia en Salud Cardiovascular (ESCAV), the new Spanish national strategy for cardiovascular health.

At the event, EACH unveiled the ‘European Cardiovascular Health Plan’. The ambitious strategy, which calls for the development of a European Observatory and a European Knowledge Centre for cardiovascular health, includes actions around prevention, risk assessment, data sharing and multidisciplinary care pathways.

“The EACH Action Plan for Cardiovascular Health provides a structure and strategy to tackle the problem in a coordinated way,” noted Stephan Achenbach, President of the European Society of Cardiology.

In line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in healthcare, the EACH CVH Plan seeks to reduce premature and preventable CVD deaths in Europe by one-third in 2030. The strategy also promotes national CVH plans that can be tailored to meet national needs.

Spain, a country with 17 decentralised regions, recently developed a comprehensive national strategy for cardiovascular health that emphasises prevention, as well as treatment, and offers a model for coordinated, equitable health care between regions.

The EACH CVH Plan, which seeks to build on the EU ‘Healthier Together’ Non-Communicable Diseases Initiative, also emphasises access to high-quality, patient-centred healthcare for all and addresses existing inequities.

“Across Europe, we know the impact and prevalence of CVDs, which have a notably higher death rate in central and eastern Europe,” commented Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

It is crucial to prioritise CVD prevention measures across Europe. The EU-funded YOUNG50 cardiovascular risk screening programme is an initiative that promotes healthy heart habits by reaching out to 50-year-olds with modifiable behavioural or medical risk factors, such as smoking, low physical activity, high body mass index or excessive alcohol consumption.

Yet, lifestyle and living conditions are just one of several causes of CVD. Other risk factors may be beyond the patient’s control – including environmental factors, such as exposure to chemicals and noise or air pollution. Inherited and genetic determinants also play a role, frequently impacting young patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to a decline in cardiovascular health, with health priorities across Europe shifting to address the pandemic, leaving CVD screening and management appointments cancelled or postponed. Furthermore, individuals with CVD were more severely impacted by COVID-19 disease.

“COVID-19 has shown that patients with cardiovascular disease are among the most vulnerable and that resilience to future health risks – such as new pandemics and climate change – requires cardiovascular health,” argued Achenbach.

To recover lost ground in the fight against CVD, it is crucial to highlight cardiovascular health by increasing prevention measures and health literacy, while ensuring that equitable access to high-quality, patient-centred screening and care exists across Europe.

CVD can affect anyone, and in the context of an aging European population, the time is particularly ripe to build a resilient, coordinated heart-healthy response that addresses existing inequalities between regions and countries and also ensures that every European citizen has the opportunity to live their best, healthiest life.

“A healthier European Union is a better European Union,” concluded Benifei.

View the EACH European Cardiovascular Health Plan

About

About

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death and one of the leading causes of disability in Europe. Effectively addressing the disease burden would be a huge relief to individuals, communities and health systems. But Europe’s CVD problem has proven stubborn and intractable over recent years, with advances in mortality reduction starting to plateau. What can we do differently in a post-pandemic yet still unstable world, in which health is highly valued, health systems are being re-evaluated, and the importance of concerted, European action is clear? How can we future-proof prevention of CVD, and how can actions now build health system resilience in the future?

The picture of CVD in Europe reflects the wider challenges that we face in health systems and societies. The issue is closely connected to the need to reorient health systems towards health promotion and disease prevention, our interactions with health systems and our communities, the changing needs of an ageing population, and advances in data sharing and collaboration for health. The uneven burden of disease across different population groups also reflects wider regional and social inequalities in Europe, which harm both communities and economies.

Launched in September 2021, the European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health (EACH) brings together 17 leading European and international organisations around joint activities to promote cardiovascular health as a policy priority at EU level. EACH is a unique collaboration representing patients and citizens communities, medical professionals, researchers, health technology providers, the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance associations.

This event is by invitation only. If you are interested in joining, please contact alexandra.latham@friendsofeurope.org


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PHOTO CREDIT: cottonbro from Pexels

Schedule

Schedule

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Addressing cardiovascular health in a changed and changing world Expand Addressing cardiovascular health in a changed and changing world

Questions addressed will include:

  • The pandemic changed our interactions with health systems. Screening appointment and non-critical care needs have been missed, while our exposure to CVD risk factors have increased. How can we achieve efficient prevention in this new context?
  • What form could concerted, coordinated, EU-wide action on CVD take?
  • As Europe’s population changes and ages, a growing number of people will live with a chronic disease. What does recovery and living well look like for CVD disease sufferers?
  • CVDs are experienced unequally: citizens in Southern and Eastern Europe are more vulnerable than others, and the social gradient is visible in disease prevalence and impact. How can we address these inequalities in access to care and treatment?

Speakers

Stephan Achenbach

President of the European Society of Cardiology

Brando Benifei

Member of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group

Dr Héctor Bueno

Clinical cardiologist and researcher at Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre

Joanne Fleming

Project Manager of YOUNG50 #Stay Healthy - Cardiovascular Risk Prevention

Stella Kyriakides

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

Juozas Olekas

Member of the European Parliament and former Lithuanian health minister

Speakers

Speakers

Stephan Achenbach
Stephan Achenbach

President of the European Society of Cardiology

Show more information on Stephan Achenbach

Dr Stephan Achenbach is a professor, whose main clinical interests are interventional cardiology, general cardiology, as well as cardiac imaging. His research is focused on cardiac interventions and cardiac imaging with a special focus on computed tomography of the heart and the use of imaging to support coronary and structural interventional procedures. In addition to his roles at the University of Erlangen in Germany, Achenbach currently serves as the President of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). He is the Founding President of the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography.

Brando Benifei
Brando Benifei

Member of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group

Show more information on Brando Benifei

Brando Benifei is a Member of the European Parliament and Head of the Italian S&D MEP Delegation. Benifei is also the Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group, where he works to raise cardiovascular diseases as a priority on the EU political agenda. A member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), he is rapporteur for the Single Market Programme and shadow rapporteur for the European Social Fund Plus. Benifei received the MEP Award for his work on employment, social affairs, and youth unemployment. Forbes included him in their 30 Under 30 Europe Policy Class of 2016.

Dr Héctor Bueno
Dr Héctor Bueno

Clinical cardiologist and researcher at Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre

Show more information on Dr Héctor Bueno

Dr Héctor Bueno is a clinical cardiologist and researcher at the critical care unit (CCU) of the Cardiology Department at Madrid’s Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre. He conducts research at the National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) and the imas12 Research Institute, where he leads the twin Multidisciplinary Translational Cardiovascular Research Groups and coordinates the hospital’s cardiovascular research area. Focusing on both individual and cooperative clinical and translational research, Bueno has co-authored over 400 publications. His interests include quality of care, geriatric cardiology, gender issues, CV epidemiology, integration of innovation and technology applied to CV health, among others. Additionally, Bueno is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, the Vice-President of the Spanish Society of Cardiology and the Scientific Coordinator of the Spanish Ministry of Health’s National Strategy on Cardiovascular Health.

Joanne Fleming
Joanne Fleming

Project Manager of YOUNG50 #Stay Healthy - Cardiovascular Risk Prevention

Show more information on Joanne Fleming

Joanne Fleming maintains over 20 years’ experience in European health research studies. She currently manages the YOUNG50 #Stay Healthy – Cardiovascular Risk Prevention project, funded by the third EU Health Programme, which aims to adapt and export the CARDIO50 screening model to participating EU member states, while also addressing the behavioural and medical risk factors of cardiovascular diseases.

Stella Kyriakides
Stella Kyriakides

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

Show more information on Stella Kyriakides

Stella Kyriakides leads the Commission’s work to coordinate the EU’s health response to COVID-19. She is responsible for the establishment of a strong European Health Union and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. She is leading the new ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy for sustainable food. Her responsibilities include enforcing EU food, animal welfare, and animal and plant health laws. Previously, Kyriakides was a clinical psychologist for the Cypriot Ministry of Health. She served in the Cypriot parliament for the Democratic Rally party, of which she was the vice-president. She is also the former head of the Cyprus Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and former president of the PACE.

Juozas Olekas
Juozas Olekas

Member of the European Parliament and former Lithuanian health minister

Show more information on Juozas Olekas

Juozas Olekas is a Member of the European Parliament and was recently nominated to the European Parliament’s Special Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic. He is the former Lithuanian minister of defence and minister of health, has served as a member of the Lithuanian parliament, and actively participated in the processes of restoring Lithuania’s independence. Prior to entering politics, Olekas led a distinguished career in the medical field for nearly two decades. A doctor by training, he was notably an associate professor at the Vilnius University Faculty of Medicine and the chief doctor of VU Žalgiris Hospital.

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