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Presidencies talking – EU Health Council Briefing – The next steps towards active healthy ageing

25 June 2012


“A presidency is many things, but boring is the least of them. That was especially true regarding health,” said Marie Louise Rostrup, health attaché at the Permanent Representative of Denmark to the EU.

When Denmark assumed the presidency, issues related to public health and pharmaceuticals were left over from the previous agenda, Rostrup said.

Denmark had three priorities of its own: the ‘Smart Health, Better Lives’ innovation agenda, tackling chronic diseases (for example diabetes), and anti-microbial resistance, she explained.

‘Smart Health’ is about empowering patients and improving care quality through innovative methods and better working conditions for health professionals. It is also about making sure that healthcare innovation stays in Europe, the Danish official said.

“How can innovation help to solve Europe’s future health problems?” Rostrup asked.

She explained that ministers had discussed the innovation issue in April, along with ways to improve cooperation on health technology assessments for new medicines and treatments in order to avoid having 27 separate national assessments.

Ministers also discussed the Medical Devices Directive and ways to improve working conditions for people in hospitals. “We need less cumbersome legislation if we are to prosper,” Rostrup said.

Copenhagen hosted a conference on eHealth in May, centred on empowering patients. The ‘Re-Designing Health in Europe for 2020’ report should feed into an eHealth Action Plan to be published by the European Commission this autumn, she explained.

“We put a strong emphasis on growth. Leaders agreed last Friday on a partial general approach for the Health Programme, but the final amount of funding (€446 million) isn’t yet fixed due to the unresolved negotiations over the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF),” Rostrup said.

“The Cyprus EU Presidency’s goals are to work towards a healthy Europe and to recognise the essential role of health in boosting growth,” said Charitini Frenaritou, health attaché at the Permanent Representation of Cyprus to the EU.

“Our priorities are active and healthy ageing, organ transplants and donations, and relations between neighbouring countries regarding communicable diseases,” Frenaritou said.

“There’s also legislation which is on-going. There’s a trialogue with the Commission and the European Parliament on the Third Health Programme. We’ll also continue work on transparency, and the Clinical Trials and Medical Devices Directives,” the Cypriot official said.

“We’ll start a trialogue on foods for babies,” she added.

“Demographic change raises the need to reduce healthcare costs. Active and healthy ageing plays a key role here. The European Innovation Partnership on Healthy and Active Ageing recognises that health plays in a key role in achieving the ‘Europe 2020’ goals. The Presidency will collect examples of best practice,” said Frenaritou.

“There’s a growing recognition that working life and health are all linked, hence the focus on combating the exclusion of older people and boosting their participation in the labour market,” said Dave Keating, a reporter at the Economist Group/European Voice.

“The Commission set the goal of raising the average number of healthy life years by two by 2020,” Keating said, adding that the Council conclusions had recognised the importance of keeping older people in the workforce and involved in society.

“We need to tap into the ‘silver economy’. Create job markets for skills that don’t deteriorate with age. Align retirement ages and pensions to life expectancy,” he said.

“Restrict access to early retirement schemes. Equalise pension ages and incomes between genders. Monitor pension reform in all EU member states,” Keating advised.