22 May 2022
Asthma , COPD, Allergy, Food Allergy, Other Diseases

In December 2021, the European Commission launched the first effort in more than a decade to address the challenge of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the EU. ‘Healthier Together – EU NCD initiative’ aims to support Member States in reducing the burden of chronic diseases through five main work strands during 2022-2027: cardiovascular diseases; diabetes; mental health; chronic respiratory diseases; and health determinants.

To plan the priorities and actions of the initiative, the Commission opened a public consultation with Member States and stakeholders, through a series of webinars and a written process. Based on a draft discussion paper published by the European Commission, EFA’s input focused on the two relevant strands for allergy, asthma and COPD. Our proposals stem from different workshops with EFA Members and alignment meetings with other respiratory organisations from the European Lung Health Group.

Below is a summary of the EFA contribution to this key initiative: on chronic respiratory diseases, we stress our priorities for better diagnosis and care; and on health determinants, we shared our proposals for improved prevention and reduced exposure.

Chronic respiratory diseases priorities:

  1. Promote digital health literacy and increase patient access to digital tools to support disease management. Suggested policies include:
    • Support patient education via programmes and e-learning courses related to prevention and treatment.
    • Enable basic tele-health monitoring using digital tools and devices.
  2. Best quality care: Reduce disease exacerbations and hospitalisations due to allergy, asthma and COPD through better self-management and rehabilitation. Our policy proposals include:
    • Increase access to multi-disciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation centres to ensure the continuum of quality care.
    • Encourage and measure the establishment of national registries and written action and management plans to every allergy, asthma and COPD patient.
  3. Implement standards of care for chronic respiratory disease, using the full potential of multi-disciplinary teams and Integrated Care Models – Link the chronic respiratory disease with the mental health and the cardiovascular strand. Proposed policies:
    • Re-organise healthcare delivery for severe chronic respiratory diseases through multidisciplinary teams across primary, secondary and tertiary care.
    • Improve rates of admission to the emergency room; Introduce Integrated Care Models.
  4. Urgently increase the implementation of chronic respiratory diseases screening and early detection programmes at national level. Policies must include:
    • Comprehensive lung screening programmes for people at risk of COPD
    • Invest in asthma and COPD screening at primary care and on early allergic rhinitis diagnosis
  5. Tackle the increasing prevalence of childhood asthma. We propose to support scientific research and development towards a cure for allergy and airways diseases.

Health determinants priorities:

  1. Prepare and respond to climate change events such as heatwaves, floods, wildfires, changes in pathogens. Within these priorities, we propose policies such as:
    • Real-time monitoring and information thresholds for pollen and sand/dust storms, to improve prevention and forecast
    • Inclusion of surveillance, preparedness and response to climate change-related threats affecting health under the Health and Emergency Response Authority (HERA)
  2. Achieve high standards of air quality both indoors and outdoors. Proposed policies include:
    • Full alignment with the latest WHO Guidelines
    • Measures to mitigate the pollution effect on health, especially for vulnerable groups
    • Improvement of public information on air quality based on legal requirements and messaging targeted to vulnerable groups
    • Address indoor pollutants such as mould, dust, tobacco smoke and heating/cooking emissions through harmonised certifications and health-relevant renovation funding.
  3. Address the impact of environmental exposures on respiratory health over the whole life course and introduce the biodiversity hypothesis in everyday life. EU policy should aim to:
    • Further invest in exploring life-course exposures and addressing them to reduce the onset of chronic non-communicable disease
    • Protect biodiversity in order to ensure environmental microbial exposure in early life, and therefore protection against the onset of allergy and asthma
  4. Ensure a European Union tobacco-free generation by 2040, by limiting tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke. Proposed policies include:
    • Expansion of legal provisions for advertisement and flavourings of conventional tobacco to also cover novel tobacco and related products
    • Inclusion of novel and other related products in EU legal restrictions; expansion of smoke-free environments; greater compliance for non-smoking spaces.
  5. Ensure safe information in consumer products through proper labelling in the EU single market, even during emergencies. Our policy suggestions include:
    • Harmonisation of Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) in prepacked food; risk assessment in all novel foods; close monitoring of emerging food allergens
    • Proper (on-pack) allergen labelling in non-food consumer products such as clothing, cosmetics, toys, biocides, cleaning, hygiene and construction products

You can access the full EFA response here.

Upon processing of all the input received by Member States and stakeholders, the European Commission will present the final discussion paper at an event on 22 June.

In parallel, the European Commission has been collecting population-based interventions that are considered as successful to enlarge the current Best Practices Portal, a depository of actions on Non-Communicable Diseases that have been conducted in EU Member States with good results, and that could be applicable in other Member States and therefore supported by the Healthier Together initiative and funding. EFA has encouraged around 30 institutions, bodies and researchers around Europe to submit their best practices on allergy, atopic dermatitis, asthma and COPD.

To know more about the process, visit the European Commission website.