Brussels, 27 February 2013. While the treatment of heart diseases in both primary and hospital care has been very successful with mortality rates declining markedly over the past 20 years, at the community level the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), despite the notable successes of anti-smoking legislations, has done less well. It is for the latter reason that the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has today opened an office in Brussels: the European Heart Agency.
“Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the biggest killer in Europe, with a huge impact on the economy,” said ESC President Professor Panos Vardas. “ It is our belief that public policies must be put in place to encourage its prevention. We have come to Brussels to be more active in the decision-making process.”
Studies have shown that CVD costs the European economy €196 billion a year (1) , of which around 54% is direct health expenditure – which, for national health care systems in the EU, represents a cost of approximately €212 per person per year. 24% is attributable to productivity losses and 22% to the informal care of people with CVD.
Figures (2), also show that CVD is the leading cause of death for women in each of the 27 EU countries and the leading cause of death for men in all the EU countries, except France, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain.
Cardiologists have been successful in the treatment and secondary prevention of heart disease. Although CVD related mortality remains high, it has declined over the past 20 years thanks to the development of Clinical Practice Guidelines (3) and new drugs and devices. Nevertheless, there is still a gap in primary prevention.
“Experience shows that science is not enough,” said Professor Vardas. “All the evidence shows that we need to exercise more, eat less, reduce alcohol consumption and stop smoking. Unfortunately this knowledge has had little impact on the rates of CVD related morbidity and mortality. We have not been as successful in primary prevention as we have been with treatments and secondary prevention. Individual approaches have not been enough, the way forwards is for policies to be put in place in order to encourage populations to choose the healthy options,” said Professor Vardas.
According to the ESC, up to 50% of CVD deaths in Europe could be avoided with proper policies. (4) Growing evidence shows that interventions at the population level can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
“The European Society of Cardiology has a wealth of data through its registries, publications and guidelines which could provide a solid knowledge base for cardiovascular matters. We hope to contribute this knowledge to ensure that decisions such as reimbursement and allocation of research funding, for example, are taken based on accurate data provided by the ESC. Cardiologists are here to support the right policies, together with similarly committed medical societies,” said the ESC President.
New ESC projects will also be based in the European Heart Agency. “The ESC aims to support other EU priorities from its Brussels’ bureau,” announced Professor Vardas. “We have projects in the pipeline relating to personalised medicine, e-health, novel technologies, health economics, quality metrics and assessment and of course, regulation of clinical trials and medical devices. All these will be part of the future European Heart Health Institute."
“Another important objective is to regroup all ESC activities concerning education. We will establish the European Heart Academy which will include our activities regarding accreditation, certification, continuous medical development, relationship with universities and also courses resulting in post-graduate certification,” declared Professor Vardas.
The ESC, through its European Affairs Committee, is already part of initiatives such as the MEP Heart Group (5) , the Alliance for Biomedical Research in Europe (6) and the European Chronic Disease Alliance (7). Some of its activities, such as the CardioScape (8) project, will be based in the new Brussels office.
The ESC was founded in 1950 and represents over 80 000 professionals. Its headquarters are in Sophia-Antipolis, France.