European citizens voted in May 2014 to renew the European Parliament. 551 Members (MEP) joined on the 1st of July, to represent the 28 Member States of the European Union. How does the EP function? Where do health matters fall in this organisation? A recap.

MEPs decided on which political group they wished to sit, as they are not organised by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament. The biggest groups are the European People’s Party (EPP- christian democrats) and the Progressive Alliance of Social Democrats (S&D), followed by the Group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE). Each group appointed its coordinators, a bureau and a secretariat. Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.

MEPs are all part of standing committees to do the preparatory work for Parliament’s plenary sittings.

There are 20 parliamentary committees. A committee consists of between 24 and 76 MEPs, and has a chair, a bureau and a secretariat

The political make-up of the committees reflects that of the plenary assembly. The parliamentary committees meet once or twice a month in Brussels; their debates are held in public.

The committees draw up, amend and adopt legislative proposals and own-initiative reports; they consider Commission and Council proposals and, where necessary, draw up reports to be presented to the plenary assembly.

Parliament can also set up sub-committees and special temporary committees to deal with specific issues, and is empowered to create formal committees of inquiry under its supervisory remit to investigate allegations of maladmistration of EU law.

The committee chairs coordinate the work of the committees in the Conference of Committee Chairs.

The Health and Environment (ENVI) committee is the second biggest committee, with 69 Members. It deals with human and veterinary health as well as subject related to the environment. However matters related to care, social, professional training and education, medicines or equity may be primarly debated, drafted and taken forward by other Committees, who will involve ENVI only when the first stages of the policy developments have taken place.

These are :

- IMCO: internal market and consumer protection

- ITRE, industry, research and industry

- EMPL: employment and social affairs

- INTA: international trade (it deals in particular with agreements with the USA, on opening market accesss, which could impact EU policies on tobacco control).

More information.


In September2014, the European Lung Foundation (ELF) and the European Respiratory Society (ERS) will launch the ‘Healthy Lungs for Life campaign’ to incorporate the next World Spirometry Day (WSD).

The objective of the campaign is to seek to reduce the number of people suffering from respiratory disease by raising awareness and knowledge of lung conditions and ways to prevent lung damage. It will roll over several years and in 2014, Healthy Lungs for Life, one of the largest ever lung health campaigns will aim to increase knowledge of the impact of poor air quality (‘Breathe clean air’) on lung health and raise awareness of the actions that everyone can take to protect their own lungs from indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The message will be spread about the importance of air quality for lung health to scientists, healthcare professionals, policy makers, patients and members of the public through events during the ERS Congress in Munich, and across the globe via WSD. The Euroepan COPD Coalition will be associated to the events in Brussels.

More information and how to participate

In March 2014, the European Commission launched a consultation  the preliminary opinion on the “Definition of a frame of reference in relation to primary care with a special emphasis on financing systems and referral systems”,  as drafted by a group of experts appointed by the Directorate General for Health (DG SANCO)  (photo credit: European Commission)

The consultation consisted of an online text each line was numbered and stakeholders were invited to comment on their choice of lines, under each chapter.

The European COPD coalition in its response highlighted the role of primary care professionals in the diagnosis of respiratory diseases, in particular, COPD, in the continuum of care and, as central points of contact for patients.

Herewith are the comments and suggestions submitted electronically. For a better understanding, the lines commented are mentioned in italic.

Over April and May 2014,  COPD made the headlines in different media   ECC wish this information will reach EU decision makers so that they take action on preventing COPD, good quality care for patients and to further support EU wide research on COPD. The press reported on:


WHO reports on the impact of air pollution  on premature mortality

The data released revealed that indoor and outdoor pollution is the cause of 7 million deaths,  1 in 8 of total global deaths, a figure much higher than anticipated and that pollution is a major cause of heart failures. The WHO assessment  included a a breakdown of deaths attributed to air pollution-influenced diseases: Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths:

  • Ischemic heart disease – 40%
  • Stroke – 40%
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – 11%
  • Lung cancer – 6%
  • Acute lower respiratory infections in children – 3%.

Indoor air pollution-caused deaths:

  • Stroke – 34%
  • Ischemic heart disease – 26%
  • COPD – 22%
  • Acute lower respiratory infections in children – 12%
  • Lung cancer – 6%.
Research from John Hopkins highlights impact of higher temperature on patients suffering from COPD
During a presentation made at the American Thorathic Society Annual meeting, researchers showed that as air temperatures rise, so too may the symptoms of COPD. The problem might be even more dire if predictions about global warming come to pass, the study’s authors said.The researchers found that increases in indoor temperature were associated with increases in symptoms and rescue medication use and decreases in lung function. .Dr. Meredith McCormack, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in a meeting news release: “these findings support the need for adaptive approaches to COPD treatment to prevent adverse health effects related to increases in temperature”.

Older people with COPD taking benzodiazepines more likely to experience adverse respiratory outcomes

Benzoldiazepines prescribed for insomnia, anxietyand breathing issues “significantly increase the risk” that older people with  COPD need to visit a doctor or Emergency Department for respiratory reasons, new research has found.
New study confirms maitaining a good level of physical activity help prevent hospitalisation for patients with COPD
Patients with COPD who participated in any level of moderate to vigorous physical activity had a lower risk of hospital readmission within 30 days compared to those who were inactive, according to a study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.  The findings apture information about patients’ usual physical activity well before the initial hospitalization and provide evidence that supports the promotion of physical activity across the COPD care continuum. They suggest that regular physical activity could buffer the stresses of hospitalization.

ECDA , the European Chronic Disease Alliance, calls for more EU action on UN Targets to reduce deaths

The European Commission is organizing the first EU Summit on Chronic Diseases this week. ECDA welcomes the Commission’s initiative to organize the Summit, which we hope to be a step towards an EU framework to allow the EU to make a significant impact in reaching the United Nations goal of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from chronic diseases by 2025.

Chronic diseases are interrelated, have common risk factors and are largely preventable.

Yet, in Europe, 9 people out of 10 die of a chronic disease. Chronic diseases carry significant human costs (human suffering, reduced workforce, social exclusion, health inequalities etc.). As a consequence 70% to 80% of healthcare costs are spent on chronic diseases. This corresponds to €700 billion in the European Union and this number is expected to rise in the coming years (*). 97% of health expenses are presently spent on treatment, only 3% is invested in prevention(**).

Speaking ahead of the Summit, the Acting Chairman of ECDA, Prof Em Norbert Lameire stated:
The EU needs a framework in order to successfully tackle chronic diseases and such a framework must be developed by 2017 in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. We strongly believe that this is best the way to achieve the UN targets on reducing
deaths from chronic diseases. Furthermore, one part of the framework, and a way for the European Commission to be proactive on the UN targets, would be for them to make greater use of legal bases and the wide variety of instruments available under the Treaty to improve public health and support Member State actions.”

* Never too early: tackling chronic diseases to extend health life years’ The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012

** ‘Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013’, White paper, European Commission, COM(2007) 630 final


Note to editors:

About ECDA
The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) is a Brussels-based alliance of 11 European health organizations representing major chronic diseases such as: liver disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, COPD, allergic diseases, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes. Together, we represent over millions patients and over 100,000 health professionals.
In 2010 the alliance’s members joined forces to put the case for immediate political action to reverse the alarming rise in chronic diseases which affects more than a third of the population of Europe – over 100 million citizens. ECDA plays a leading role in the prevention and reduction of chronic diseases by providing policy recommendations based on contemporary evidence. Its main
priorities are primary and secondary prevention related to chronic diseases and the common risk factors – tobacco use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and environmental factors.
For further information contact the Secretariat:
Tel.: + 32-2 213 13 12