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#EAPM – Cancer risks in COVID, matters of the heart, EU4Health funding

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Warm greetings health colleagues and, as the world slowly but surely emerges from lockdown restrictions and the weekend fast approaches, here is the latest update from the European Alliance for Personalised (EAPM), writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.

Global conference 14 July

On Tuesday (14 July), our Global Conference will take place. It’s entitled ‘Forward Together – Where we are now and the necessary next steps for a resilient health-care system and effective ways of investing in health care in a COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 World’. Here are the links to  register and the agenda. The EAPM Global Conference will run from 8.00-19.00 on that day split between two time-zones (8.00 -12.30, then 16.00-19.00). All times are in Central European Time.

Cancer patients – a high-risk group

While Europe and the world slowly begin to enjoy the constraints being gradually lifted from all our lives, urgent attention must still be paid to a group of patients for whom the inevitable delays to treatment during the coronavirus pandemic may still prove fatal. These are the cancer patients, and EAPM advises that it is essential that countries should return to regular testing, strengthen their electronic health systems, and work with the European Commission to tackle the problem of medicine shortages.

However, there is some good news – the European Parliament’s cancer committee, to be called ‘The Special Committee on Beating Cancer’  is taking shape, with the EPP’s Polish MEP Bartosz Arłukowicz likely to be chairman. The S&D committee members will be Belgium’s Maria Arena, Portugal’s Sara Cerdas and Spain’s Nicolás González Casares, Romania’s Tudor Ciuhodaru, Malta’s Miriam Dalli, Sweden’s Johan Danielsson, and Italy’s Alessandra Moretti. Substitutes will include Luxembourg’s Marc Angel, Spain’s Estrella Dura Ferrandis, Croatia’s Romana Jerković, Austria’s Günther Sidl, Italy’s Patrizia Toia, Denmark’s Marianne Vind and Germany’s Tiemo Wölken.

And the Institute for Competitiveness has published a factsheet  on cancer prevention, advising that governments and the private sector join forces to encourage healthier lifestyles for their citizens.

Improving public health – MEPs hold forth

In a debate on the EU’s future public health strategy, MEPs said COVID-19 has shown that the EU needs stronger tools to deal with health emergencies. In the plenary debate with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and the Council, preceding the vote on a resolution on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19, MEPs highlighted the need to draw the right lessons from the COVID-19 crisis.

Many argued for the need to give the EU a far stronger role in the area of health. While emphasizing that the current pandemic is still far from over, MEPs underlined the need to ensure that health systems across the EU are better equipped and coordinated to face future health threats as no member state can deal with a pandemic such as COVID-19 alone.

Several MEPs mentioned that a stronger EU role in the area of public health must include measures to tackle shortages of affordable medicines and protective equipment as well as support to research.

The tragic burden of heart failure

Working with the World Heart Federation, drugmaker AstraZeneca has endeavoured to establish how much is generally known about the heart, and particularly what happens when it stops working. Clearly, there is a knowledge lacuna – more than half of the respondents surveyed were not able to differentiate heart failure from a list of other heart-related problems. In fact, heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood around your body as well as it should, and, rather worryingly, 48% of respondents who said they knew “a fair amount” still got the definition wrong.

Heart of the matter

And why does heart failure matter? Well, it reduces life expectancy, takes up hospital capacity and costs money. According to the survey, heart failure accounts for around 1-2% of all hospital admissions, and patients diagnosed with heart failure “have a significantly reduced life expectancy compared to the general population, with half of patients dying within five years following their diagnosis”.

But help may be at hand – informational campaigns are being suggested by the World Heart Federation and AstraZeneca to promote a greater knowledge and understanding of heart failure as well as its risks, as well as creating a national strategy that will outline steps to improve outcomes for patients living with the disease.

Health recovery in mind

European Council President Charles Michel is expected to put forward a compromise proposal today for the bloc’s 2021-2027 EU budget and new recovery fund. The Commission had proposed €1.1 trillion for the long-term budget and €750 billion for a four-year recovery fund — and that a total of €9.37bn will go toward health. EU leaders will meet in Brussels on 17-18 July to debate Michel’s proposal and try to reach a consensus.

US decision on WHO brings frustration but chance for Germany

As the US makes its preparations to depart the World Health Organization in July 2021, obeying the organization’s demand for a year’s notice before departure, disappointment has been expressed in numerous quarters over the decision. David Heymann, an epidemiologist who headed the global response to SARS in 2003, still believes that the WHO will “get on with its work,” albeit without an important partner and “that partner can be replaced by others. Germany has become a very important partner in global health recently and other countries are stepping up as well,” he said.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, described the US decision — and the consequent withdrawal of funding — as “unthinkable and highly irresponsible” given the pandemic.

EU4Health funding

The Commission has presented a proposal for a €9.4bn EU4Health programme for 2021-2027 as part of the Next Generation Recovery Plan, but MEP Nicolae Ștefănuță has opined that funding for EU4Health might be more complicated than first thought. Ștefănuță was advising as draftsman for the opinion of the budget committee. The Romanian MEP from Renew Europe pointed out that the EU4Health programme envisions spreading its spending over the duration of the EU budget until 2027, fortifying the bloc’s health systems well beyond the coronavirus crisis.

But this could fall afoul of EU rules, given that Council lawyers have already warned that EU law demands that the recovery fund money — from where the  programme gets the large majority of its funding — only be spent narrowly to  address the coronavirus crisis’ effects from 2021-24. The MEP suggested that, at the end of the day, EU4Health is too important to be left hanging. For example, funds could be transferred from the recovery fund to the cohesion policy.

“I’m sure we’ll arrive at a good compromise that will show that the EU has learned its lesson after the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

That’s all for now, stay safe, well and all the best for the weekend and here is the link again to register



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