24 January 2022

At the end of November, the European Commission published its implementation roadmap for Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, one of the flagship EU policies in the area of health. Accompanied by a timeline, the roadmap lays down all the key initiatives and actions to implement the BCP by 2025.

Published in February 2021, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan sets out to improve a broad range of health aspects covering prevention, early detection and care, research, patient participation and quality of life. EFA has warmly welcomed the Plan, as it prioritises areas affecting health and disease, particularly issues affecting all chronic diseases, such as allergy, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and of course, lung cancer.

The Implementation Roadmap breaks them down by objectives, calendar year and indicators.

Aiming high on prevention

There are multiple common risk factors between cancer, on the one side, and allergy, asthma and COPD, on the other. Risk factors include air pollution, hazardous chemicals and tobacco smoke, which can undermine lung health, trigger serious respiratory diseases in healthy people, and exacerbate the symptoms in patients, especially the most vulnerable ones.

In the prevention segment of the Roadmap, the Commission intends to address risk factors in various ways, including by revising relevant legislation, improving health literacy and supporting research projects and partnerships.

EFA will actively contribute to the legislative actions for the revision of the EU air quality framework. As the only member of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform representing patients, EFA will be working closely to ensure that policies for air pollution reduction and their implementation remain ambitious while championing the latest scientific evidence on the effects of air pollution leading to disease and loss of quality of life, and to death 400,000 premature deaths each year.

EFA will also be monitoring closely the Commission’s work on tobacco control and the revision of related EU legislation. Many of EFA’s asks on smoking were addressed in the consultative process of the Plan and we will continue to work closely on addressing novel tobacco processes and promoting ‘smoke-free environments’ with new Council Recommendations by 2023, an aim foreseen in the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), signed by the EU and Member States.

Furthermore, the Roadmap includes key initiatives on research and innovation, including continued support of the Knowledge Center on Cancer through to 2025. In this regard, during 2022 we will be following the adoption the legal proposal of the European Health Data Space and the launch of the first calls of the Innovative Health Initiative and the Transforming Health and Care Systems.

Ensuring high-quality care for all

Ensuring high standards of care can certainly have positive effect in other disease areas too. Sharp inequalities in accessing high-quality care are still a reality across diseases. Actions to improve early detection of cancer, for example, is strongly needed also for asthma and COPD, two diseases linked with high levels of misdiagnosis and were delayed care can significantly undermine disease progression strategies. Supporting expert knowledge and innovation in cancer care will benefit respiratory disease and allergy too.

The roadmap also has ambition to increase standards in cancer care, with initiatives that could be in the long-term replicated for allergy and respiratory diseases. At EFA we will specifically keep an eye on the following key initiatives:

  • The Commission’s proposal based on a revised Council recommendations on cancer screening (2022)
  • The creation of an EU Networks of expertise on cancer by 2023;
  • The development on cancer diagnostic and treatment (all along 2022 and 2023)
  • The setup of a European Initiative to Understand Cancer (UNCAN eu); the implementation, as of 2022, of a regulation on health technology assessment

Other points we will be closely monitoring is the continued preparatory work for the ‘European Cancer Patient Digital Centre’ to ensure better quality of life; the publication of the first country specific assessment on cancer inequalities to be published in 2022 and measures aimed at strengthening of e-health which will be ongoing through to 2023 to reduce cancer inequalities; and finally the highly anticipated inauguration of the EU Network for Youth Cancer Survivors in 2022.

Beating cancer with all stakeholders

In addition, the Plan proposes a participatory approach based on close engagement with stakeholders. The expansion of this logic to other chronic non-communicable diseases such as allergy and asthma can only have a positive effect, ensuring an effective dialogue at all the levels of decision-making.

At EFA strongly believe that the Beating Cancer Plan can serve as a model policy approach for tackling other major diseases of our times, and bear numerous co-benefits for patients living with other chronic diseases such as lung and allergy patients. EFA will be working with its members and stakeholders to ensure that the implementation plan effectively includes the needs of patients in every aspect, from prevention to diagnosis and care.

You can read the full Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan the Implementation Roadmap, as well as EFA response to the consultation on the Plan.