News
16 June 2021
Europe
Asthma , Allergy
INFORM

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated health inequalities across Europe, including for those living with allergy, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To understand how to address this and redefine policy priorities to reduce inequalities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe has formed a Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development led by experts and leaders in health.

In March, the Commission released a Call to Action detailing its vision on how to prioritise health and sustainable development in the post-pandemic years. It calls on national and supranational bodies to:

  • Operationalise the concept of “One Health” at all levels; 
  • Fix fractures in all society levels to reduce vulnerabilities in the pandemic; 
  • Make changes to the global financial system; 
  • Promote global public goods for sustainable improvements in health; 
  • Support innovation in health systems. 

To help define the Commission’s work within these areas, WHO Europe has launched a survey for youth organisations of all sizes across Europe to contribute their ideas. EFA’s European Allergy and Asthma Youth Parliament submitted a response outlining the priorities of the youth from their allergy and asthma perspective.

The European Allergy and Asthma Youth Parliament is a platform for young patients living with allergy and asthma. With help from EFA, they advocate for a “youth in all policies” approach and raise awareness for the needs of young people living with chronic conditions.

The Youth Parliament submitted a response based on their EU policy recommendations launched in December 2020, to highlight the specific struggles young people with allergy and asthma face and what action is needed to support them.

Inequalities in health burden young patients

The Youth Parliament on Allergy and Asthma urges WHO Europe to take steps towards equal access to medicines and to eliminate of out-of-pocket costs for chronic diseases. The inequalities widened by the COVID-19 pandemic also impact young people living with chronic illnesses such as allergy and asthma. For example, children living with allergy and asthma are economically dependent on their guardians to afford necessary and life-saving medicine. Meanwhile, the trivialisation of allergy and asthma in society means that many associated costs are not covered by health insurance. For those with co-morbidities, a person may end up choosing to pay for the most important or urgent treatment while neglecting others. 

Young people call for climate action to improve health outcomes

The Youth Parliament welcomes WHO Europe’s considerations for a One Health approach, which looks to include environmental factors in health infrastructure. As patients of allergy and asthma, the Youth Parliament recognises environmental factors can trigger and worsen symptoms. Prevalence, hospitalisations, deaths, and treatment use are very common indicators used to evaluate environmental effects on human health.

To lessen exacerbations of allergy and asthma, air pollution in cities must be reduced, such as through the expansion of active mobility to help create a more active society while reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, pollen monitoring is weak and not accessible for people living in Europe.Therefore, the Youth Parliament would welcome a WHO initiative to set the basis for a systematic, real-time, monitoring system for pollen and air pollutants across the EU.

Young people want increased access to digital healthcare tools

Among the recommendations made to WHO Europe, the Youth Parliament emphasised the many advantages digitalisation of healthcare can bring to prevention and care, especially for young people. This includes improvement of apps that measure pollen levels, other inhalational allergens, and air pollution to help more young people use them to manage their symptoms.

Increased access to online consultations with direct contact with healthcare professionals, digital health records and electronic prescriptions can also help healthcare become more accessible in the post-COVID future. These considerations would help young patients to take part in travelling, school trips and student exchanges to reduce fear of social exclusion.

Digitalisation of healthcare can create easily accessible and reliable online information for young people, which WHO Europe can help to streamline. However, the Youth Parliament also emphasised the need for regulation on the life cycle of health data for public health prevention and care purposes in the benefit of society.

Next steps

The consultation will be used by the Pan-European Commission as they prepare a report of recommendations to be published in September 2021.

You can read the full response from the European Allergy and Asthma Youth Parliament here.

If you or a young allergy and asthma patient around you would like to join the Youth Parliament, please read how to become a youth ambassador here.

Dear Visitor,

for regularly updated information on Covid-19 for allergy and respiratory patients, please consult our Covid-19 resource and information hub.
Stay safe!
The EFA Team