'Reliable information' key to improving Europe's health

Preventative medical measures through vaccinations help 'cut costs' and 'reduce poverty', argues Karin Kadenbach

By Karin Kadenbach

05 May 2014

Physical health is the greatest commodity a person can have - not only in Europe but across the globe. Nowadays, the challenges we face come from accessibility to health-promoting activities and the provision of reliable information on immunisations against diseases. Vaccinations are not only one of the most important advancements in modern medicine but they are also one of the most effective preventative measures available in human medicine. A long and healthy life is our primary objective and something that should be enjoyed by everyone.

Widespread vaccination programmes, the provision of information and the raising of public awareness about how important immunisations are for human health have made it possible to almost completely eradicate poxes and infantile paralysis. The excellent health enjoyed by Europeans is due, in no small part, to the use of vaccinations. Diseases that were still a major threat to public health until well into the 20th century are now a thing of the past. Effective preventative measures are not only of benefit to the population in general, but also help public health systems cut costs. With the resources freed up through prevention, public healthcare providers are able to focus more intently on other areas. Despite this, there are still many diseases over which vaccine immunisation has not yet been able to gain control. In this respect, there is still a great need for action.

"The excellent health enjoyed by Europeans is due, in no small part, to the use of vaccinations"

The success of immunisation programmes can be seen not only in Europe, but also in other parts of the world, especially in developing countries. Much has already happened to protect the weakest in society, particularly children. However, it is clear that there is still much to do and preventative medical measures need to be further developed and promoted by the international community. The European Union supports health activities as part of the United Nations millennium development goals. In pursuit of its aim to reduce infant mortality, the EU is working to deliver essential healthcare services in developing countries to enable sick children and those at risk of disease access to the medical care they need. This is primarily through the organisation and provision of financial contributions as well as through policy dialogue to support international health initiatives.

The EU contributed to the immunisation against measles for around five million children in developing countries between 2005 and 2010, and it supported the global alliance for vaccines and immunisations in preventing a total of 5.4 million prenatal deaths. However, it is evident that the EU's development policy must focus more heavily on preventative health measures and vaccination campaigns within its programmes - also as an effective way to reduce poverty and social exclusion.
There is a lot more to be done in Europe, too. Given the trend of increasing vaccine fatigue in European countries, it appears action still needs to be taken. Based on today's abundance of information in our part of the world, people have to face the onerous task of taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Thus the key lies in education and 'reliable information'. This aims to enable people to fully develop their health literacy. The right comparison of the risks and benefits is the utmost priority when it comes to immunisation. Each individual must draw their own comparison in terms of this risk/benefit balance. Politicians have also called for the provision of reliable information on vaccines. This is our mission and we intend to continue to pursue it rigorously.

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