Public health became a European Union (EU) policy objective with the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997. Its Article 152 made a high level of human health a constituent part of EU policy making, to be accomplished through cooperation between its Member States and with EU action focused on the prevention of diseases through research and through health information and education. A European Commission public health framework programme, adopted in 1993, led to a variety of health programmes, inter alia on cancer, drugs and AIDS. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) was covered to a limited extent by the action programme on health promotion, information, education and training.
To give CVD its rightful place on the EU public health map, EHN consulted with the European Commission in 1995 regarding the possibility of launching a European ‘Year of the Heart and Quality of Life’ or perhaps a ‘European Heart Week’. These discussions led to a Commission-sponsored expert report on European action in the field of CVD prevention, ‘The European Heart Health Initiative’, published in February 1997.The objectives of EHHI
The report made a very strong plea for an EU action strategy on CVD prevention to help reduce heart disease as a major cause of early death. It proposed that such an EU strategy should concern itself with:
The longer-term objective was to determine the present state of health, i.e., eating, smoking and exercise patterns in the populations, find and share ways of changing these patterns, and identify those involved in the change process. The report suggested three phases for implementing EHHI:
Create and strengthen alliances between organisations involved in CVD prevention at both national and European level, to facilitate the exchange of information and the identification and prioritisation of the needs in CVD prevention;
A series of special events, to be launched by a conference on Valentine’s Day 2000, to focus the public’s attention on matters of heart health;
Continuing national action, based on the priorities set in the first phase, with a view to achieving the longer-term objective of improved heart health.The EHHI project was implemented over five years during which period it was financially supported by the European Commission.Outcomes of the EHHIThe EHHI project has produced the following outcomes: