Alliance responds to report on the new EU health strategy


Response to the Report 'Enabling Good Health for All, A reflection process for a new EU health strategy' - 15 July 2004

The above-mentioned report that was released by the European Commission DG Sanco in the summer outlines the new EU health strategy that Commissioner Byrne will hand over to his successor at the end of his mandate. In this report 'injury prevention' is not mentioned at all prompting this official response from the Alliance which you will find below. This response was sent to Commissoner Byrne on 28 October, 2004.

Dear Commissioner Byrne,

We would like to thank you for the important report you have issued titled 'Enabling Good Health for All, A reflection process for a new EU health strategy' and the commitment shown by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate to develop and implement an effective European health strategy.

The European Child Safety Alliance would like to provide you with a response to your report. The European Child Safety Alliance serves as the European catalyst through which national and international networks and activities in child injury prevention are facilitated firstly to enhance advocacy for policy and funding changes and secondly to serve as a communications network to share best practices, successful programming and information needs. The network is made up of a steering group composed of representatives of the 25 Member States of the European Union (EU) and affiliated organisations; observers also participate from EU applicant and associated countries.

The Alliance is concerned because injury prevention was not mentioned in this report. Injury includes the broad areas of unintentional injury such as road accidents, drowning, falls, burns and scalds, poisonings as well as intentional injuries such as homicide and suicide. As you are aware, in the European Union, approximately 200,000 deaths for children 0 to 14 years of age are caused by injuries each year and many more non-fatal injuries result in either permanent or temporary disability. These injuries cause enormous costs to the health care system in addition to the devastating effects on their immediate family, often destroying the family unit itself.

Furthermore, injury is the leading cause of death for children in Europe and between the ages of 1 and 14 years, an injury death occurs at twice the rate of a death from cancer, or 8 times that of a respiratory-related death. Injury is the largest environmental burden for children compared to outdoor/indoor contaminants, water, sanitation and hygienic issues, or lead contaminants as confirmed by the recent Lancet report of the WHO in June 2004.

As well the childhood injury death rate has a difference of 8 times between the leading EU Member State of Sweden and the lowest EU Member State of Latvia. Demonstrating the need to address the increasing gap of health needs for new Member States.

Therefore, we believe injury prevention must be an integral part of the future EU health strategy that you will hand-over at the end of your mandate.

It has been estimated that the overall socio-economic burden of all injuries in Europe is almost 400 billion Euro annually. That is an enormous cost to the European economy each year due to injuries, which is more than 4 times the entire EU budget.

But there exist proven injury prevention strategies have been shown to be a good investment not just for the benefit of health and protection, but also from a financial gain.

Please refer to the two documents provided, the 'Priorities for Child Safety in the European Union: Action Plan' (June 2004) and the Stockholm Manifesto' September 2004 for further information on the benefits of injury prevention for European citizens and recommended actions to reduce this major health threat.

The leading cause of death and disability to children can be significantly reduced in Europe if Member States, the European Parliament, the European Commission, industry and child safety organisations work together and make a joint commitment to address this issue.

We would be very pleased to receive a reply from you as to how we can work together to incorporate injury prevention into the priorities of the European Union and Commission. The Alliance would like to underline its commitment in assisting you to establish an effective European health strategy, one that addresses the leading killer of children in Europe: injuries.

Joanne Vincenten
Director of the European Child Safety Alliance

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