Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a leading cause of mortality in the European Union, causing over 36% of all deaths and 20% of all premature deaths (before 65)*, as well as a significant loss of disability-adjusted life years stemming from preventable illness. Despite numerous attempts to tackle the disease burden Europe’s CVD problem has, in recent years, proven refractory to preventive measures, with progress in mortality reduction beginning to plateau.
The Coordinating Team at YOUNG50 was recently invited to contribute to an online debate on this very issue. The event entitled, ‘Addressing cardiovascular health in a changed and changing world’, held on 16 May, was organized by the independent think tank, Friends of Europe (www.friendsofeurope.org), in partnership with the European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health (EACH). Friends of Europe’s mission is “to connect stakeholders, foster debates and trigger the change needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and forward-looking Europe”.
The aim of the debate was to discuss different approaches in a post-pandemic world, in which health is highly valued, healthcare systems are subject to re-assessment, and there is a clear need to rethink the landscape for cardiovascular health and to take concerted action at the European level.
Speakers included Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety; Dr. Juzoas Olekas MEP, former Health Minister of Lithuania; Brando Benifei MEP; Dr Héctor Bueno, Scientific Coordinator of Estrategia en Salud Cardiovascular; and Dr Stephan Achenbach, chairman of the Department and Professor of Medicine at Erlangen University. YOUNG50 contributed with a brief presentation on, “Screening in action”. The audience included various European representatives and international experts from the healthcare sector.
EACH used the occasion to present its ‘European Cardiovascular Health Plan’, whose ambitious aim it is to develop a European Observatory and a European Knowledge Centre for cardiovascular health, oriented around prevention, risk assessment, data sharing, and multidisciplinary care pathways.
The Plan is centred on primary prevention at the population level, improvements in secondary prevention, equitable access to high quality, patient-oriented healthcare, and an increase in rehabilitation. Ultimately, the aim of the EACH plan is to have a knock-on effect on national cardiovascular health plans across Europe, making the necessary adaptations to local needs and settings.
The debate’s take-home message was that urgent, coordinated action needs to be taken to channel appropriate resources into giving every European citizen the opportunity and potential to live their healthiest possible life. In this framework, cardiovascular screening and prevention programmes, of which YOUNG50 is a good example, seem to be a step in the right direction.