Latvian presidency will promote a 'healthy lifestyle'

Written by Guntis Belēvičs on 15 December 2014 in Opinion
Opinion

New EU health legislation to improve patient safety and quality will be priority, says Guntis Belēvičs

Our priorities for healthcare are in line with the global priorities of the Latvian presidency: competitiveness and growth, full use of digital potential in the economy and a greater role for the European Union in the global arena. We intend to focus on each individual person in every action of our presidency, from activities to promote patient-oriented healthcare, to those encouraging a healthy lifestyle from an early age and raising awareness of the responsibility for our own health.

During the presidency, we will work towards reaching an agreement on new EU rules for medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic medical devices, enabling us to start negotiations with the European parliament on new legislation. The regulations should improve patient safety and product quality, while not creating additional obstacles for innovation. In order to reach the desired result sooner, as the upcoming holders of the presidency we will encourage all member states to be more open for compromise and to focus on the main issues and find a balanced solution.

"During the presidency, we will work towards reaching an agreement on new EU rules for medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic medical devices, enabling us to start negotiations with the European parliament on new legislation"

During the next six months, we will also continue the council discussions on regulations aimed at tackling problems related to rapidly emerging new psychoactive substances used as alternatives to illicit drugs. We hope to reach a general approach in the council in order to move forward this important legislation.

To address common alcohol-related problems, we plan on continuing the work of the committee for national alcohol policy, created by the European commission to support member states in their work on alcohol policy. In Latvia, the ministry of health has already drafted several proposals and amendments of draft laws intended to decrease consumption of alcoholic beverages.

We have set the promotion of a healthy lifestyle as one of the main priorities of the presidency. Its main focus will be on nutrition policy, more specifically on the 'taste of childhood', the eating habits of children and young people. We plan to start a discussion during the high level conference taking place in February in Riga, on the topic, 'healthy lifestyle: nutrition and physical activities for children and young people in schools'. The discussion will cover healthy lifestyle habits, physical activities to fight obesity among children, the impact of school environment and nutrition but also implications of new applications and technology on education.

"We will continue the work on the European semester processes started during the previous presidencies. As the minister for health of the presiding country of the council of the EU, I am looking forward to engaging and successful discussions"

Another important event will be the first ministerial conference on tuberculosis and its multi-drug resistance which will take place on 31 March in Riga, in the framework of the eastern partnership summit. The borders of the EU are open not only for people but also for infectious diseases – illnesses that were thought to be eradicated from most of Europe are now returning. Therefore, we want to raise the awareness of ministers and health policymakers on this issue.

The eHealth week that will take place in Riga in May will focus on patient-oriented healthcare, increase of patient aptitudes in using new technologies and innovations in eHealth and mHealth (mobile health). Our goal for this event is to help each individual and patient understand that their health is primarily in their hands. Furthermore, we want to help people understand that health is not a separate feature detached from them. Everyone has to be aware that everything is in their own hands. Without awareness, there is no point in us inventing in innovative solutions as they will not work if people do not want to take responsibility for their own health. We envisage this event to be the largest annual eHealth event in Europe, bringing together policymakers and implementers, representatives of healthcare and solution developers of information technologies from all member states.

During the presidency, we are also planning to develop a thesis on patient-oriented healthcare during the joint meeting of the chief medical, chief nursing and chief dental officers in April, in cooperation with the WHO. We will discuss issues on occupational diseases, healthcare, society and integration of a cancer screening programme in the EU. We will also organise meetings for the heads of medicines agencies and heads of the competent authorities for medical devices in February. As always, we shall welcome experts of medicines reimbursement systems to their informal meeting in Riga in April too.

In conclusion, I would like to underline that we will continue the work on the European semester processes started during the previous presidencies. As the minister for health of the presiding country of the council of the EU, I am looking forward to engaging in successful discussions. We will be able to look at the whole process on an annual basis during the next council of ministers meeting in June.

 

About the author

Guntis Belēvičs is Latvia's health minister

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