World Kidney Day: EU health systems need paradigm shift

Our health systems need to switch their focus from disease to prevention, writes Karin Kadenbach.

By Karin Kadenbach

10 Mar 2016

Despite the huge amount European governments spend each year on healthcare, a mere three per cent of that is spent on prevention.

In addition, there is vast evidence to demonstrate the fact that even a relatively minor increase in funding for preventative actions would provide considerable health gains and reduced future healthcare costs.

This imbalance weighs heavily on the minds of policymakers. Many cases of chronic kidney disease can be prevented by simple population-wide measures.


Reducing tobacco and alcohol use, reducing salt, fat and sugar in food, increasing physical activity and, importantly, improving health literacy will make an impact.

Not only will such measures greatly improve European citizens' quality of life, they are also the most cost-effective and responsible actions to ensure the sustainability of our health systems.

In Austria, for example, a programme called the kidney screening initiative (niere.schützen) was launched this year. It aims to prevent chronic kidney disease deterioration and delay the start of haemodialysis.

The project raises awareness for the disease and also trains general practitioners and patients on preventing disease progression and complications.

If there is broad consensus among the health community on the benefits of prevention, why is policy evolving so slowly in the real world? Our health systems traditionally present a strong focus on disease and treatment.

What we need is a paradigm shift that puts health - not disease - at the core of its health systems. Within this new approach, prevention will have a crucial role.

The need for this change will be the theme of this year's European Kidney Forum, taking place on 19 April.

As Chair of the MEP group on kidney health, I will be hosting the event, bringing together the European kidney health community to discuss how we can prioritise actions that will to bring about this change.


Read the most recent articles written by Karin Kadenbach - Overcoming Europe's health challenges requires bold political choices