In the area of health, AGE Platform Europe defends the right of older people to be treated as any other generation in health promotion and access to health resources. It believes that healthy ageing is not just about prolonging life. It is about:
– promoting the necessary means to enable older people to continue to participate in society, keeping good functions and being able to cope with daily life.
– promoting a positive and integrated approach to health that addresses a range of social, economic, housing, planning, transport and other relevant policies.
– creating enabling environments as well as direct approaches to promoting healthy behaviours.
Therefore, AGE Platform Europe calls on the candidate MEPs to:
4.1 Promote physical and mental health and a life course perspective in all EU policies to ensure active and healthy ageing
Background: Health promotion is one the EU competence and it is actually a crucial dossier for the coming decades and the ageing of the population. The Directorate General in charge of health and consumers (DG SANCO) is paving the way for stronger EU public health policy.
AGE Position: an (ageing) population in good health means less strain on health systems and an overall benefit for the society, including for the labour market. In the past, the European Commission has taken several initiatives in that field, e.g. the EU alcohol strategy, the EU Platform for actions on diet, physical activity and health, joint action on cancer, the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-Being. Now there is a clear need for a new step to pave the way forward action since some of these initiatives have been weakened. A better health impact assessment of EU legislation and initiatives is also a critical point to avoid contradictory approaches. Basically the issue is to ensure a concrete implementation of the European Commission Staff Working Document “Investing in Health” (2013) that was embedded in the Social Investment Package.
4.2 Give a budgetary priority to health promotion, disease prevention and reduction of health inequalities
Background: different funding tools exists at EU level in the health area and have just been agreed for the next period 2014-2020, notably the Health for Growth Programme, Horizon 2020 and the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI). Their global priorities have been defined, still the concrete content of the calls will be of importance in order to allocate the funds each year.
AGE Position: In order to support active and healthy ageing, it is very important to prioritise health promotion, disease prevention and reduction of health inequalities in the different funding instruments. Indeed there is a need to continue building the cases of early intervention and to have a comprehensive mapping of its impact not only from a financial perspective but as well as a benefit for the whole society. Although medical and pharmaceutical research is important, it is necessary to find the right balance to really have a positive impact on healthcare budget. Likewise, it is essential to invest more to fight more effectively health inequalities which affect vulnerable populations and thus to give priority to it in EU relevant funding programme.
4.3 Consider spending on care services for older dependent persons as an investment in support for employment and not merely as a cost to public budget
Background: Since the launch of the euro, clear rules to ensure sound public finances have been in place in the form of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), which sets the well-known limits for budget deficits and public debt of 3% and 60% of GDP, respectively. In 2011 the Commission proposed two further Regulations to strengthen euro area budgetary surveillance. This reform package, the so-called ‘Two-Pack’, enters into force on 30th May 2013 in all euro area Member States. The new measures mean increased transparency on their budgetary decisions, stronger coordination in the euro area starting with the 2014 budgetary cycle, and the recognition of the special needs of euro area Member States under severe financial pressure.
AGE Position: It is clear that all processes linked to the overall framework of the economic and fiscal policy coordination at EU level is a key component that shouldn’t be overlooked. Both the European Semester and the Stability and Growth Pact impact the daily life of citizens since they have an influence notably on health budgets. AGE believes that we need to consider a paradigm shift between what could be seen as expenses and investment. Indeed in the area of care services for older dependent persons, the dedicated funding by local, regional or national authorities are today considered as expenses, whereas we could consider them as an investment since they create jobs in the white sector and alleviate the burden on informal carers allowing them to be back on the job market.
4.4 Ensure access to safe and adequate medicines and treatments for all, as well as independent and transparent information on these medicines and on the outcomes of clinical trials
Background: the European Commission is working in the area of medicines and treatments mainly through two main dossiers: the Clinical trials and the Information to patients Directive. The Clinical Trials Directive is currently being revised at EU level in order to improve trials’ procedures. The proposal for a Directive on Information to patients aims at establishing harmonised rules on the provision of information on medicinal products subject to medical prescription. The proposal is blocked at the Council for a while. The controversy around it is pretty high considering the sensitivity of information on medicines.
AGE Position: The consumption of medicines increases with old age and older people and health professionals need to be made aware of the inappropriate use of medicines and the consequences linked to over /under consumption and/or interaction of medication. It is therefore crucial that patients, their physicians, nurses and pharmacists get reliable and independent information about the medicines older patients use. At the same time the drugs used by older people have not been tested in their age target and gender group. The principles underlying the development of drugs, clinical testing and post-market assessment of older and new medicines should be equity, evidence and efficiency. This is one of the main demand of AGE regarding the revision of the clinical trials directive. Last but not least, there is a clear need to strengthen the work of the European Medicines Agency on medicines for older people, like it is now done for paediatric medicines.
4.5 Support the implementation of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing and assess progress achieved in increasing by two years the Healthy Life Years indicator by 2020
Background: Launched in November 2010 in the frame of the Innovation Union flagship, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP AHA) has been selected as a pilot to tackle the challenge of an ageing population. It sets a target of increasing the healthy lifespan of EU citizens by 2 years by 2020, and aims to pursue a triple win for Europe by: (i) improving health and quality of life of older people, (ii) improving the sustainability and efficiency of care systems and iii) creating growth and market opportunities for businesses. The EIP AHA brings together public and private stakeholders (up to 3000 so far) to accelerate the deployment of major innovations. It plays a part in achieving some of the objectives that the EU set itself for 2012 in the context of the European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.
AGE Position: Within the EIP AHA, AGE has decided to work more specifically on age-friendly environments, cities and buildings in order to bring a comprehensive and more global approach to active and healthy ageing, above the strict medical dimension. AGE believes that the EIP AHA is clearly a great opportunity to mainstream the campaign on age-friendly environments and to gather support for the launch of a Covenant on demographic change.
To ensure the EIP AHA delivers truly for all EU citizens and achieves its goal, it is important not only to support but also to monitor the overall process. The European Commission has aligned many funding opportunities with the objectives of the EIP AHA and will continue to do, notably with Horizon 2020 and the Health for Growth Programme.