Improving lives: spotlight on metabolic health in Europe

As a new set of MEPs enter the European Parliament, there must be continuation of the hard work done already reshaping the EU’s approach to non-communicable diseases

By Ilya Yuffa

Ilya Yuffa is the Executive Vice President and President of Lilly International

02 Jul 2024

The economic, social and public health costs of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a ticking time-bomb for Europe. Policymakers must take action now to prevent these catastrophic impacts to the European healthcare system and economy.

There is no time to waste. The individual and economic burden of these diseases is rapidly growing, threatening the lives and wellbeing of millions of Europeans, and putting an increased strain on already overstretched European healthcare systems. Obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are closely linked NCDs that share common risk factors, and underlying biological mechanisms that should be targeted with a holistic preventative and management strategy.  Unchecked, the growing cost impact of these diseases threatens to overwhelm European economic prosperity:

  • The cost of obesity in Europe was estimated at €475 billion in 2020 and is projected to rise to €1,597 billion by 2030.[1]
  • Diabetes-related healthcare costs in the EU add up to around €104 billion annually, with diabetes-related productivity losses adding an extra annual cost of €65 billion.[2]
  • At the same time, cardiovascular disease is estimated to cost the €282 billion annually.[1] These numbers are staggering.

NCDs in numbers

  • By 2025 1 in 4 European adults will be living with obesity, putting them at increased risk of type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.[1]
  • Approximately 32 million people in the EU already live with type-2 diabetes.  A recent study in the Lancet forecasts an increase to more than 55 million people by 2050, tripling their chance of developing cardiovascular diseases.[1]
  • Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the leading cause of death in the EU, killing 5,000 people on average every single day. [1]

As the European Institutions prepare to set the priorities for their new mandate, they must grasp this crucial opportunity to reshape the continent’s approach to NCDs to improve citizens’ health. The European Parliament has already called for more action on NCDs, inspired by the comprehensive cancer plan of the outgoing Commission, an initiative that rightfully garnered much praise.

A similarly comprehensive care approach for NCDs is critical to achieving more substantial and sustainable improvements in public health. An integrated strategy, built on a multistakeholder approach, can pave the way for a healthier Europe.

This would include recognizing the interdependencies of obesity, type-2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases and developing policies that address these conditions collectively. Early diagnosis, combined with timely and effective management, can prevent the progression of these diseases, reduce the incidence of complications, and ultimately save downstream costs.

We must ensure our healthcare systems can deliver the right treatment for the right person at the right time

Health systems should promote health checks that collectively assess for signs of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. These conditions are based on common risk factors that can be easily assessed (high BMI, body composition, high blood pressure, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, high blood glucose and high LDL cholesterol). Healthcare providers must be equipped with the tools and training to recognize and address the connections between these conditions. A truly integrated approach ensures comprehensive evaluation and management of interrelated risk factors – treating the whole person, not just the most obvious disease. Inexpensive targeted health checks would be a fast and cost-effective way to improve early diagnosis and improve outcomes.

Treatment at an early stage with the most effective treatments is critical to successfully reducing the risk of, and managing, co-morbidities, ultimately avoiding unnecessary complications and deaths.

By striving for more comprehensive care, we can improve health outcomes dramatically and protect health budgets. Prioritising holistic care for NCDs in the EU’s health systems must be a key priority for European policymakers in the new parliament.

With the institutional support of Eli Lilly and Company


Ref : EU-CAR 2024-137