Dear President Juncker,
On behalf of the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA), I am writing to you to express our deep concern about recent developments in policies that have an impact on chronic diseases in Europe.
At the European Alcohol and Health Forum (EAHF) meeting of 18 May, Commissioner Andriukaitis publicly stated that the European Commission has chosen not to present a new, dedicated, EU alcohol strategy despite numerous calls for such by Member States, the European Parliament and health stakeholders including ECDA . The Commissioner indicated that the European Commission is working instead on an ‘EU approach on chronic diseases’, which may include a segment on alcohol.
Whereas we certainly welcome a wide strategy on chronic diseases, we fear that prevention and reduction of alcohol abuse will not be granted the necessary attention considering the significant burden caused in terms of chronic diseases as well as the massive cost to the EU.
Indeed, harmful alcohol consumption, for which Europe is the world leader, is known to cost the EU economy between €125 billion and €155 billion in tangible costs each year2 . These costs include the treatment of alcohol-related disease, lost working time and productivity, and social costs including welfare payments and law enforcement.
We are also concerned that there has been little engagement with the health community on the development of a wider strategy on chronic diseases, since the European Chronic Disease Summit, which took place last year. Certainly, the ECDA would welcome closer involvement in the EU approach on chronic diseases.
It is in the European Union’s interest to keep its population in good health. If the EU does not benefit from a healthy population, the repercussions for its economy are grim. All the Union’s grand plans rely on people being able to work until increasingly late in life. To ensure this, effective health strategies – including those on alcohol and chronic diseases – are fundamental, as is EU legislation to underpin clear objectives to prevent disease and premature death, and to safeguard Europe’s health.
In the circumstances, we would like to request a meeting to discuss the announced EU approach on chronic diseases and to identify some concrete steps to improve Europe’s health and help you to achieve the growth and employment objectives that you have set for your term in office.
Prof. Dr. Johan de Sutter
Acting Chairman, European Chronic Disease Alliance