Euro­peans live longer, but ex­tra years are not al­ways spent in good health

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Health at a Glance: Europe 2016 – a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion/OECD joint re­port pub­lished yes­ter­day - shows that poli­cies that aim at pro­mot­ing good health and pre­vent­ing dis­eases as well as more ef­fec­tive health­care could save lives and bil­lions of eu­ros in the Euro­pean Union.

Life ex­pectancy now ex­ceeds 80 years in most EU coun­tries re­veals ‘Health at a Glance: Europe 2016’, a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion/OECD joint re­port, pub­lished today. How­ever, this record-high life ex­pectancy is not al­ways matched by healthy life years. Around 50 mil­lion peo­ple in the EU suf­fer from sev­eral chronic dis­eases, and more than half a mil­lion peo­ple of work­ing age die from them ev­ery year, rep­re­sent­ing an an­nual cost of some 115 bil­lion EUR for EU economies.

Vyte­nis An­driukaitis, Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “The Health at a Glance re­port pro­vides use­ful in­for­ma­tion for Mem­ber States to shape their ac­tions on health across all poli­cies. It shows that in the EU many peo­ple die ev­ery year from po­ten­tially avoid­able dis­eases linked to risk fac­tors such as smok­ing or obesity. It also high­lights the need to con­tinue our ef­forts in mak­ing sure that health­care be­comes more ac­ces­si­ble. The re­port rep­re­sents the flag­ship of the part­ner­ship be­tween the Com­mis­sion and the OECD to de­velop coun­try-spe­cific and cross-coun­try knowl­edge on health and health sys­tems, as the first step of the ‘State of Health in the EU’.”

An­gel Gur­ría, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD), added: “Many more lives could be saved if the stan­dards of care were raised to the best level across EU coun­tries. More needs to be done to re­duce in­equal­i­ties in ac­cess and qual­ity of care, and Euro­pean health sys­tems must be­come more ef­fi­cient in chan­nelling re­sources where they have the most im­pact on health out­comes, in­clud­ing on pre­ven­tion.”

Take home mes­sages

Europe needs more ef­fec­tive health sys­tems: 550,000 peo­ple of work­ing age die ev­ery year from po­ten­tially avoid­able dis­eases. 16% of adults are obese now (up from 11% in 2000) and one in five is still smok­ing. Many lives could be saved firstly, by fo­cus­ing more re­sources on health pro­mo­tion and dis­ease pre­ven­tion strate­gies to ad­dress these and other risk fac­tors, and sec­ondly, by im­prov­ing the qual­ity of acute and chronic care.

We need more ac­ces­si­ble health sys­tems: 27% of pa­tients go to the emer­gency de­part­ment due to the lack of avail­abil­ity of pri­mary care; an av­er­age of 15% of health spend­ing is paid di­rectly out-of-pocket by pa­tients with large dis­par­i­ties be­tween coun­tries; and poor Euro­peans are on av­er­age 10 times more likely to have prob­lems in get­ting proper health­care for fi­nan­cial rea­sons than more af­flu­ent ones. Mem­ber States’ poli­cies should fo­cus on re­duc­ing fi­nan­cial barriers to health­care, strength­en­ing ac­cess to pri­mary care, and re­duc­ing ex­ces­sive wait­ing times.

We need more re­silient health sys­tems: Across the EU the share of the pop­u­la­tion over 65 has in­creased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and is pro­jected to in­crease to nearly 30% by 2060. Pop­u­la­tion age­ing, com­bined with in­creas­ing rates of chronic dis­eases and budgetary con­straints, will re­quire changes in how we de­liver health­care, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ing eHealth, re­duc­ing hos­pi­tal stays by or­gan­is­ing ser­vices bet­ter in pri­mary and com­mu­nity care, and spend­ing more wisely on phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, in­clud­ing by mak­ing full use of op­por­tu­ni­ties for generic sub­sti­tu­tions.

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