The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) welcomes the call from the Spanish Presidency of the European Union (EU) for the development of a “comprehensive strategy” on cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the European level. The call, which came at the close of the “Conference on Cardiovascular Disease”, held in Madrid, Spain, 18 to 19 February, included strategies for prevention, treatment, risk assessment, education and tackling the CVD inequalities that exist across Europe.
The cardiovascular conference, representing one of the health programme priorities of the Spanish Presidency of the EU, who hold office January to June 2010, brought together representatives from Ministries of Health from all the EU Member states and cardiovascular professional societies to consider heart health. A consensus was reached amongst delegates of the need to tackle risk factors with population strategies because they are cost effective and contribute to decreasing inequalities.
Prof John Martin, from the ESC Prevention committee who spoke at the meeting, said: “The conference was strategically very important for furthering prevention of heart disease in Europe. There was widespread consensus that the time is right - both politically and scientifically - for a major push from European member states, professional organisations and patient groups to achieve higher levels of commitment to decrease the burden of CVD disease, death and suffering.”
The ESC, he added, has real hopes that as a result of the meeting, a comprehensive EU strategy on cardiovascular disease will be taken forward in the “troika” of the Spanish, Belgium and Hungarian presidencies. The ESC's long term approach of fostering political partnerships between professional bodies, the EU and member states, Prof Martin added, had been totally validated by the outcomes of the meeting.
The “Conference on Cardiovascular Disease” programmes provided an overview of the risk factors that CVD has in common with other chronic diseases, including tobacco and alcohol consumption and lifestyle. In his talk Prof Martin reviewed the progress that the EU has made in addressing cardiovascular disease prevention since 2002, when the last Spanish Presidency of the EU first put CVD on the political agenda.
The lack of comparable data on CVD across Europe was highlighted as a major barrier to the introduction of prevention strategies across Europe, with calls for data bases to be linked both within countries and across borders. Health inequalities (a recurring theme of the Spanish Presidency) were identified for age, gender and social class, with inequalities existing both between countries and within countries. Particular concerns were raised about the increasing numbers of young women smoking in different countries. While Population strategies for risk factor screening were felt to be effective, the need was identified for a better evidence base with improvements in the mapping of existing programmes.
On the second day sessions reviewed the implementation of best practice CVD strategies including anti smoking policies in Ireland, and programmes to reduce the intake of transfats in Denmark. “The success of such programmes illustrates that intervention by member states against heart disease really does work,” said Prof Martin.
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