The December meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) adopted a set of conclusions on Healthy Ageing. It asks for a rethink of health systems towards more prevention. The Council also calls for a new Alcohol Strategy, to replace the current mandate which endsed in 2012.

Europe’s population is rapidly ageing, which is challenging, among others, pillars of welfare , pensions, and healthcare systemss. The 2012 European Year for active ageing and solidarity between generations was created to improve conditions for older people to live independent lives and strengthen solidarity between generations.

The Council conclusions on Healthy Ageing across the Lifecycle is a result of the review of initiatives and events that took place during the year. They take into account the employment, social participation and independent living of older people.

Ensuring the participation of older people in society is one of the key challenges of an ageing society. In order to achieve it, the Council emphasised the importance of health promotion and disease prevention, and the need to rethink the way health systems are organised today towards more of a preventive approach (primary and secondary) notably through early diagnosis programmes. According to the Council, the aim should be the achievement of a more efficient and sustainable healthcare sector. European Union actions shall be directed towards improving public health, preventing illness and disease, and removing sources of harm to physical and mental health.

The Council welcomes the outcomes of the 2012 work on ageing and highlights the clear link between healthy ageing and the implementation of effective health promotion and disease prevention programmes throughout the lifecycle. It also points out the importance of evaluating this pilot initiative which is crucial for the continuation of activities initiated in 2012.

While the conclusions welcome the EU strategies on health determinants and risk factors, it calls for the Commission to build upon the work initiated through the Reflection Process on Chronic Disease, as well for a new EU Strategy in the area of alcohol (the current framework finishing in 2012).

Member States, as well as theEuropean Commission, are invited to actively take part in this issue, by for example making healthy ageing a priority for the coming years, making use of innovative approaches to health promotion and disease prevention, and making effective use of EU funding related to healthy ageing. The Council also recommends the promotion of strategies for combating risk factors, such as tobacco use, alcohol overconsumption, illicit drugs, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity, as well as environmental factors, leading to increased incidence of non-communicable chronic diseases.

Importantly, the Council calls Member States and the Commission to be more open in sharing information on chronic disease incidence, prevalence, risk factors and outcomes, as well as on health promotion policies, actions and information systems within the EU countries.

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