Archive for December, 2018

European Council agrees its position on next framework for EU research and innovation, Horizon Europe

On 3 December the  European Council announced its position on the regulation on Horizon Europe. The Horizon Europe package is expected to strengthen the EU’s scientific and technological base in order to help tackle the major global challenges and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The programme will be based on three complementary and interconnected pillars. The first pillar (Excellent science) strengthens the Union’s scientific leadership and will develop high-quality knowledge and skills. The second pillar (Global challenges and European industrial competitiveness) supports research, which addresses societal challenges and industrial technologies in areas such as health, security, digital and key enabling technologies. The third pillar (Innovative Europe) focuses on scaling up breakthroughs and disruptive innovation by establishing a European Innovation Council.

In addition to the three pillars, a horizontal section will improve the programme’s delivery for widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area and includes measures to support member states in making the most of their national research and innovation potential.

This news comes after Health groups called for 25 percent of the Horizon Europe research program budget to be dedicated to biomedical and health-related research.

Countdown on health and climate change, cites heatwaves as increasing risks for kidney diseases

On 28 November The Lancet released its Countdown report, which tracks progress on health and climate change, providing an independent, global scanning of the health dimensions impacted climate change.

The report details how present day heat waves threaten both lives and the viability of the national health systems, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services. At a time when national health budgets and health services face a growing epidemic of chronic diseases, continued delays in mitigating the impacts of climate change on health is short-sighted and damaging, according to the report. Increasing temperatures will continue to expose vulnerable populations to additional heat-related morbidity and mortality, including those with kidney disease.

The Lancet Countdown is the result of a collaboration of 27 leading academic institutions, the UN, and intergovernmental agencies. The report discusses temperature and health through the tracking of 41 indicators across five domains: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; finance and economics; and public and political engagement.

Guernsey, UK is the latest to introduce opt-out system for organ donors

On 28 November the States of Guernsey voted to introduce an opt-out organ donation system. Adoption of an opt-out system follows on the trend sweeping the UK, with Wales introducing the “deemed consent” model in 2015, followed by Scotland where its government published the Human Tissue Bill in June of this year. The decision comes on the heels of neighbouring States of Jersey, who passed a similar law in April to overwhelming support  44 votes to 1, in favour of the Human Transplant and Anatomy Law 2018.

The Committee for Health and Social Care said that “despite not expecting to get a huge increase in donations in such a system, ‘it will reinforce the positive view of organ donation.” HSC president Heidi Soulsby said “There are currently over 6,000 people waiting for an organ across the British Isles, many of whom will die waiting… we also know there are currently many people who, although they believe in organ donation, have not joined the Organ Donor Register. Without making an express decision, it was more difficult for doctors to establish a patient’s wishes and more difficult for friends and family to honour them.”

“The recommendations in the Policy Letter reflect the results of the consultation exercise, where the majority supported the proposals for a ‘‘soft’’ opt-out scheme, will raise the profile of organ donation and will hopefully increase the likelihood of donation when the situation arises.’

In England, the results of a public consultation on an opt-out system is due for publication and a Private Member’s Bill, supporting “presumed consent” is currently progressing through the Houses of Parliament.

WHO and EU commit to work together to accelerate progress on health

On 19–21 November, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus participated in a series of meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other senior European Commission officials.

Cooperation between the Commission and WHO, in the fields of antimicrobial resistance, strengthening health systems and preparedness for outbreaks of communicable diseases in developing countries, demonstrated renewed commitment and cooperation for the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All. The initiative aims at accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and will be presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019.

During his visit to the European Parliament, which was commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Dr Tedros highlighted, “Both WHO’s Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights assert that health is a human right, rather than a privilege for those who can afford it. But we must remember that the right to health is not a given. It takes renewed political commitment and leadership in every generation – including ours”.

In thanking official members for their commitment to the right to health, he emphasised the key role the EU has “in ensuring health remains a priority for the EU in the coming years. In the current debate about the financial framework for the next 7 years.”

Health advocates stress the need for a Vice-President for health in the Next Commission

On 22 November, a diverse group of EU lawmakers, NGOs, trade associations, and private companies beyond the health sector launched a new coalition during an event hosted by Belgian liberal MEP Lieve Wierinck in the European Parliament in Brussels.

They call for a new Commission Vice-President who would be responsible for health and well-being and facilitate increased involvement from non-health sectors, enhance the powers of DG Sante, while supporting other DGs with cross-sectoral undertakings.  

“Health and well-being must be central to any model of inclusive growth and sustainable development,” MEP Lieve Wierinck said, adding that if Europe cares about sustainable development, it should care about these two issues.

With the upcoming elections in 2019, MEP’s in attendance emphasised health as a top priority for voters in all member states and that European institutions should reflect the areas that matter to citizens.

While health remains a member state competency, Austrian socialist MEP Karin Kadenbach referenced Article 168 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, which states that “a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Community policies and activities… [raising the ] question why does this not happen already.”

A final version of the manifesto is expected in March 2019.