Archive for October, 2016

Ireland issues Action Plan on obesity for 2016-2025

irelandFollowing the issuance by the UK Government of its Childhood Obesity Action Plan in August, Ireland published in late September an Obesity Policy and Action Plan for 2016-2025. Titled “a Healthy Weight for Ireland”, the strategy builds on ‘Ten Steps Forward’ that will be taken in order to “reverse the obesity trends in the country, prevent complications associated with obesity such as diabetes, and reduce the overall burden for individuals, their families and the health system” in a ten years period of time. A number of priority actions are provided for each of them, which include tax measures aimed to support healthy lifestyles and diets such as a proposal for a sugar-sweetened drinks levy expected to be introduced by 2018. The Plan also reports the Government’s intention to assess the impact of increasing taxes on “products that are high in fat, sugar and salt to reduce their consumption.”

The report provides an overview of the situation in Ireland, noting that one in four children are obese or overweight while six in ten adults are. In adults over 50, obesity or overweight affect three in four individuals. The direct and indirect cost of obesity in the country is estimated to amount to €1.13 billion annually.

As part of the obesity strategy, an Irish county is considering the establishment of a “no fry zone for kids,” which would set a 400 metre exclusion zone around schools and playgrounds for outlets that sell food high in fat or salt.

Following the UK and French steps in developing sugar taxes, a study by the consumer group Foodwatch suggested the Government to introduce such a tax and redirect the funds for health initiatives, noting that 60% of 463 refreshment products on sale in Germany were “over-sugared” as containing more than six cubes of sugar per 250 milliliters. The proposal was supported by several health organisations, including the German Diabetes Association and the Association of Child and Adolescent Doctors, however, the German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt opposed any initiative of the type, arguing that “creating a punitive tax for food products is the wrong way to go about the issue” and that the “key to convincing people to change their lifestyles lies in transparency, information and education”.

European Organ Donation Day: Call to Action to improve donation and transplantation

call-to-action-organ-donation-logoOn the occasion of European Organ Donation Day, the European Kidney Health Alliance (EKHA) supports the Call to Action to improve Organ Donation and Transplantation across the EU.

Endorsed by a wide variety of other concerned patient groups, health advocacy organisations and academics, EU Member States are called upon to support their national transplant programmes to ensure they reach their full potential for organ donation through more favourable consent systems, improved organisation, coordination, logistics, potential donor reach-out and education.

In addition, we call on the European Commission to continue and expand its activities in this area as well as fund projects addressing awareness, availability, access, quality and safety.

The European Parliament is urged to support stakeholders – patient and health professional organisations – in their efforts to improve both access to transplantation as well as awareness of the importance and benefits to patients.

Kidney transplantation is the treatment of choice for end-stage kidney disease in suitable patients. Transplantation provides better clinical outcomes than dialysis and substantially reduces the healthcare costs of CKD by avoiding or delaying dialysis and allowing patients to resume activities, including work.
Nevertheless, rates of kidney transplantation vary dramatically between EU Member States. The demand for kidneys still exceeds the number of available kidneys in all EU Member States. Increasing organ donation is a critical component of ongoing efforts to increase kidney transplantation.

In order to provide equal access to transplantation, while simultaneously reducing its costs, an alignment of procedures and practices across Member States, EKHA calls on the European Commission to assess the different treatment modalities for chronic kidney diseases currently used in the EU and the factors influencing the treatment choices by patients and doctors.
This will allow for new solutions to improve donation and transplantation rates and outcomes, thereby improving overall quality of care of patients with CKD in the EU.

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Malta confirms commitment to food product improvement during EU informal health minister meeting

In the scope of the informal meeting of health ministers held in Bratislava on 3rd and 4th October under the Slovak Presidency, Maltese health Minister Chris Fearne noted that Malta believed the European Union needs to adopt a long-term plan to deal with the composition of processed foods, with the ultimate objective to ensure Europeans have access to healthier foods with less salt, sugar and fats contents, which would help improve health in Europe.
The Health Minister welcomed the efforts taken by the current Slovak Presidency as regards the promotion of healthy lifestyles and health education on the importance of food content. He stressed that the upcoming Maltese EU Council Presidency (January-July 2017) would continue on the same line, placing special emphasis on the importance and health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Outlining the fundamental role of the food industry, he added that the European Union should open broad discussions with the industry to strengthen actions on food reformulation.
Pointing at the traditional food of EU Member States, he noted that these are not always the healthiest option, referring to the need to sometimes transform the traditional diet to ensure it becomes healthier. He especially showcased the example of the Maltese bread, which is now marketed with 35% less salt than in the past, with the aim to hopefully reduce risks of diseases linked to high blood pressure.

A study on food intake in the country is currently being conducted, which results are expected for the end of 2017. Malta recently launched an action plan to address the negative impact of unhealthy diets with the aim to reduce overall salt and fat consumption, eliminate trans fats, use price policies to promote healthier foods and reduce unhealthy products, as well as restrict the marketing of food to children and improve monitoring and surveillance mechanisms.