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The health status of the European Union
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by European Communities 13 the future of Healthcare


Narrowing the health gap

The European Community is increasingly concerned with ensuring the physical wellbeing of its citizens by reinforcing its activities in the field of public health. One of the main pillars for Community action is to review and present accurate data on health status to a wider audience, achieved through the pub-lication of Community Health Status Reports.

The aim of these reports is to improve public knowledge and understanding of major health problems in the Community in order to support the appropriate measures at Community, Member State or indi-vidual levels.

This is the fourth such report. The first report provided an overview of health status in the European Community in 1994. The second focused on women’s health issues and the third one on the health status of young people. If the two first documents were published as Commission reports, and the third as a Commission services report, the present report is published as the output of a technical expert group composed of representatives of the Member States and financed by the Community health monitoring programme.

The report is based on the reliable data available in the Member States, which are not always as com-plete as one might wish. Nevertheless, they have permitted the group to provide an interesting overview of key features of the health status of the population and of health determinants. Citizens of the Community have never lived so long, and life expectancy is still increasing. However, there is still a significant level of preventable morbidity and mortality before the age of 65 years. This is associ-ated with accidents and injuries, suicide and mental disorders, some types of cancers, circulatory dis-eases, infections, and respiratory illnesses. Many of these conditions are amenable to effective pre-vention, promotion and therapeutic interventions that delay either the age of onset or, as a result of better survival, push forward the age of demise.

Current trends seem favourable in the majority of Member States for most risk factors. Nevertheless, at a time of great wealth, there is still room to achieve gains in education, employment, per capita income and equity. Social exclusion has been acknowledged as an important issue in the Community and the fight against poverty also results in gains in health status. Recognising the importance of diet and nutrition as well as physical activity for health status should lead to adoption of appropriate strate-gies at Community, national or local level.

In addition, the report suggests some areas in which actions could be undertaken at the Community level to improve the situation. Health policy could aim to prevent not only premature mortality but also to improve conditions for the elderly and increase their quality of life, for example. However, these improvements which would result in health gains cannot be achieved without a common approach in the field of public health. This means that health impact of other policies needs attention in order to plan and implement a comprehensive health policy within the Union.

The full report can be downloaded as a *pdf file: click here

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