EMBARGO: 22 September 2015, 00:01 CEST
The project, which lasted 2 ½ years, showed how ‘upstream’ prevention interventions focusing on reducing people’s exposure to risk factors before a chronic disease has occurred is generally more cost-effective in terms of healthcare savings – including social care, welfare costs and losses in productivity - than treating an individual for a chronic condition.
Chronic diseases are the first cause of mortality in Europe, causing the death of 9 out of 10 citizens. They also represent a major economic burden with a total estimated cost the EU economy of € 700 billion annually.
According to EConDA, obesity rates will be increasing across Europe and in all social groups, with better educated people projected to be less obese than those with lower education levels. This will have an important impact on health inequalities, with the less educated being subject to a greater burden of obesity-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Portugal represents an interesting exception to this trend, as the social gradient is predicted to reverse by 2050, with the more educated men and women projected to be more obese or overweight than those with lower education levels. A similar pattern in the future is predicted for obesity in the Netherlands.
More encouragingly, by 2050, smoking prevalence is forecast to decrease largely as a result of important policy measures such as tobacco taxation and bans on smoking in public places. Provided that these and other policies are maintained to prevent take up of smoking and help existing smokers to give up, this downward trend is set to continue.
A user-friendly tool has been developed for researchers and policy makers to test the impact of interventions which aim to reduce obesity and smoking on the future burden of chronic diseases. This tool can be downloaded here: http://econdaproject.eu/tools.php