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HEALTH: EU MINISTERS DISCUSS HEART HEALTH, PATIENT MOBILITY AND ALCOHOL ABUSE.

Cardiovascular health.

Special guest US Secretary of Health, Tommy G. Thompson, made a well-received presentation on the US approach to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and obesity, especially in young children. Mr Martin thanked the Secretary for his contribution, and reaffirmed Ireland's commitment to work together in the area of public health.

"The healthcare systems and citizens of Europe and the United States of America could benefit from the sharing of common experiences, of research, and exchange of best practices in the approach to tackling and preventing cardiovascular disease and promoting heart health", said the Minister.

Ministers agreed that more efforts should be made to prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease and reduce its recurrence, and to improve the quality of life of people with cardiovascular disease, by addressing the underlying health determinants, particularly tobacco use, obesity, diet and physical activity, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, diabetes mellitus and excessive alcohol consumption.

A separate European meeting on Cardiology Audit and Registration Data Standards (CARDS), held on the eve of the informal Ministerial, called for consistency across Europe in terms of data collection and analysis in cardiology. Professor Jean-Pierre Bassand, President of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), one of the key partners of the CARDS' initiative, said after the meeting: "The standardisation of database criteria is crucial to enabling comparisons, whether on a regional, national or international level. National or regional variations in data standards limit the ability to compare and contrast the data collected." EU Ministers generally welcome this approach.

Patient mobility.

The European Commission had put forward a package of proposals on April 20 for improving the quality of cross-border healthcare. In general, Ministers agree that there is a need for further European co-operation in the field of healthcare, and to monitor the impact of the EU on health systems.

Ministers also approved of the Commission's proposal to establish a new High Level Group on Health Services and Medical Care, which is seen as an interim step towards the early establishment of a permanent health mechanism.

The need for overall coherence and for legal certainty was also emphasised, especially in light of recent judgements in the EU Courts which has reaffirmed patient's entitlement to healthcare under EU law governing the free movement of services.

As regards the proposed establishment of co-ordinating healthcare centres in Europe (so-called Centres of Reference), Ministers stressed the need for a systematic and structured approach to dealing with highly specialised or rare diseases, and said that the designation and purpose of the Centres should be clarified.

Alcohol abuse.

The Swedish Minister for Public Health, Morgan Johansson, made a short presentation on issues surrounding alcohol and public health, whilst EU Health Commissioner David Byrne informed Ministers that the Commission was preparing a draft strategy in relation to alcohol abuse, which his spokesman said should be presented before the end of the year. The Swedish Minister recommended that the strategy contain the following elements:

- Restrictions on alcohol advertising.

- Restrictions on the marketing, sale, promotion and distribution of alcopops or ready to drink alcoholic beverages.

- Restrictions on sales to minors and review of minimum age limits for sales.

- Promotion of the implementation and enforcement of drinking-driving counter-measures.

- Recommendations on alcohol consumption during pregnancy and consideration of health warnings.

- Recommendations on alcohol consumption in the work place.

- Considerations of the labelling as to the alcoholic nature and strength of alcohol.

- Restrictions on claims about positive health effects of drinking alcohol.

Other issues.

The Irish Minister reported back, briefly, on the outcome of the eHealth Conference that was held under the Irish Presidency on May 5 and 6, with the aim of reinforcing the implementation and deployment of eHealth systems by European health service providers. Ministers and the Commissioner welcomed and supported the Irish Presidency initiative in this area.

Over lunch, Ministers discussed the issue of Community preparedness for dealing with communicable disease threats, including biological events. Ministers were generally in favour of extending the Health Security Committees mandate until 2005, at which point the Community Centre for Disease Prevention and Control should be up and running in Sweden. Ministers also stressed the importance of working towards the adoption of a co-ordinated approach to the purchase of anti-virals and vaccines for dealing with outbreaks of communicable diseases.
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:May 15, 2004
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