On World Heart Day, the European Heart Network (EHN) calls on policy makers to show strong political will to improve cardiovascular health for all.
On World Heart Day, EHN calls for urgent coordinated action by policy makers to promote cardiovascular health for all Europeans. Policies are needed to create healthier living environments for people to live longer and healthier lives, and to build health systems with mechanisms to detect people at high risk of CVD. Investing in patient care pathways by establishing sufficient resources for CVD prevention, management and treatment, as well as research is essential to avoid cardiovascular incidents that significantly affect quality of life.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality has declined in the last 30 years thanks to improvements in medical and interventional therapies, yet it continues to be the leading cause of death in Europe and globally. It presents a major societal challenge with over 60 million people in the EU living with CVD generating an annual cost estimated at 210 billion EUR. About 70% of all CVDs are preventable, yet the social and economic burden is pervasive in Europe due to a lack of concrete policies to prevent avoidable CVD.
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, EHN President, said: “Heart disease steals the lives of our family and friends on a daily basis, and that has worsened across Europe as health systems contended with the impact of the pandemic. At a time where the global economy is under pressure, the critical link between health and prosperity is ever more apparent – a resilient population makes for a strong economy. That’s why governments across Europe must embrace policy decisions which will help people stay healthier for longer, and also ensure they get the treatment and care they need.”
The burden of non-communicable diseases, such as CVD, was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic at the individual level, with disruption in care for chronic conditions, and population level, with the compounding effects on the overall burden on health systems. As stated by the World Health Organisation, Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, “although COVID-19 is the most visible pandemic of our lifetime, it is neither the deadliest nor the most preventable. Cardiovascular disease has killed five times as many people. We have the public health tools to tackle it. The question is, can we muster the social and political will to use them?“
It is encouraging to see growing political support for an EU Cardiovascular Health Plan. MEP Maria Carvalho stated, “As an MEP and MEP Heart Group Co-Chair, I will fight for a cardiovascular health plan as an EU health priority.” EHN also welcomes the European Commission’s Healthier Together Initiative and more funding for the EU4Health Programme and EU research in CVD. Earlier this year, the European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health presented its Action Plan to realise this vision. It is now in the hands of policy makers to stem the rising tide of CVD numbers and step forward to protect the hearts of all Europeans.