EU must pay heed to next-gen 'healthcare heroes'

Philippe de Backer is urging health experts and professionals to ensure greater access to healthcare for all EU citizens.

By Philippe De Backer

20 May 2015

Heroes are defined as people who, in the face of adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage or self-sacrifice - that is, heroism - for the greater good.

And, what greater good is there than the provision of decent access to healthcare for all European citizens? That's why I have called on the group of up-and-coming health experts involved in the 'European health parliament (EHP)', to be no less than heroes in their mission ahead. Just because, we could be heroes.

How can we ensure that Europe has better healthcare in the future? Executives from the pharmaceutical and IT sectors, patient and health industry organisations, NGOs as well as academics and MEPs have convened to respond to that difficult question.


Add Europe's next generation of healthcare professionals to the mix, and you know you are guaranteed a vivid, enthusiastic and arousing debate.

A brand new initiative, the EHP has provided the ideal breeding ground for this group of 80 young burgeoning healthcare experts from across the EU to inject fresh new blood into this critical area of policy.

The EHP motto, 'occupy health street', is a direct challenge to established thinking. And that is exactly what healthcare in Europe needs right now; moral excellence, not mediocrity, must be our driver.

Europe's health statistics should serve as sufficient provocation for valiant steps forward. Already, around €700bn in the EU is spent on chronic diseases and this figure is set to rise almost nine per cent of GDP by 2060.

Cancer, for example, represents the second most important cause of death and morbidity in Europe with more than three million new cases and 1.7 million deaths each year. Despite recent progress, the disease is set to continue causing catastrophe with incidence expected to grow by half a million new cases over the next decade. That's an alarming increase of 16 per cent.

But what do these statistics actually mean in real life? For our economy, they mean work-related productivity loss and reduced household income. For our existing capacities, which are already stretched, they mean increased pressure and greater demand than our supply can effectively meet.

Yet, even the figures do not do justice to the trail of distress and destruction that this disease leaves behind, not least for its victims and families of cancer patients whom it directly affects.

In this context, access to therapeutic innovation, the economic dimension of healthcare and the prevention of chronic diseases are three of the seven areas that the EHP is addressing. Also under scrutiny are big data in healthcare, cross-border health threats, patient empowerment and centricity, and electronic/mobile health.

The group has been divided accordingly into seven corresponding committees. Their mission is to develop and deliver a set of policy proposals for Europe's future healthcare that will ultimately push European health policy and practice in the right direction.

The recommendations will be launched at the European parliament on 16 June and for wider distribution with policymakers and the health community across the EU.

We could and should do better on healthcare. We have to break through some barriers so that we don't lose out today on what can be tomorrow. That is why we count on young people.

Europe's new 'healthcare heroes' have already set an example. Their level of commitment and conviction - which I have witnessed first-hand - reveals much about the professionals who will be managing our healthcare in the future. As MEPs, I believe it our duty to support them and ensure that cancer loses the fight against gains for the greater good.

When it comes to European healthcare, we could indeed be heroes. It is time to make a difference.


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