Euronews Debates: Can Europe bring healthcare back from the brink?

Euronews Debates: Can Europe bring healthcare back from the brink?

The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with ballooning health costs, are putting Europe’s healthcare systems under more strain than ever.

Europe's population is ageing too, and as economic uncertainity grows across the region and budgets tighten, there is growing concern about a sector that touches all of our lives.

Against this uncertain background, non-communicable diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes are expected to growing significantly over the coming years.

In 2017, over 91 per cent of deaths and almost 87 per cent of DALYs (healthy years lost) within the EU were already the result of non-communicable diseases, according to data from the Global Burden of Disease study (WHO). And unhealthy diets, tobacco use, harmful levels of alcohol consumption and physical inactivity were identified as the top risk factors.

Globally, few countries have adequate policies in place to slow down, or reduce, the number of deaths lost through non-communicable diseases. But with the help of science and innovation, effective policymaking is seen as key to turning around these worrying forecasts.

In our ever-changing world, with war, health and political crises having a direct impact on state and personal finances, what kind of prescription is needed to build resilience and sustainability?

How can governments increase treatment accessibility and bring in preventative measures to reduce the rising tide of deaths and the consequent cost to healthcare systems?

What more can be done to tackle risky, lifestyle behaviours which give rise to the non-communicable diseases? And where does the EU’s current thinking, including its much-talked-about Cancer Plan, fit into all of this?

Our Euronews Debate will bring together a panel of European experts to discuss these pressing questions and more.

To get involved in the debate, submit a question to our expert panel using the form below and tune in live on Tuesday 8th November at 5:30pm (CET) to watch our panellists debate these pressing issues.

Europe's ageing population

A pair of hands - Canva

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2100 more than 30 per of Europe's population is expected to be 65 or older. In fact, Europeans are living longer than ever before, and by 2050 it is predicted that there will be half a million centenarians living within the bloc.

The ageing population represents a fresh challenge for European healthcare providers, which will have to adapt to caring for an older population, many of whom are likely to have long-term health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. According to Eurostat, the median age of the EU-27 is expected to climb by 4.5 years between 2019 and 2050, meaning that by 2050, the median age of EU citizens will be 48.2 years of age.

This shift from a younger to an older population will have a direct impact on the EU's workforce too, as the working age population (defined as between 15 and 65 years) is predicted to fall from 333 million in 2016 to 292 million in 2070. This raises the question of who will be available to care for Europe's ageing population and also to pay for it too, with long-term care and health expected to be increase to 2.1 percentage points of GDP by 2070.

The burden of non-communicable disease

A pile of cigarette butts - Canva

Alongside a rapidly ageing population, the cost of non-communicable disease is one of the biggest health timebombs facing the bloc. To date, Europe accounts for a tenth of the world's population but has a quarter of the world's cancer cases. And these cases are only set to increase, with diagnoses predicted to rise by 24 per cent by 2035 unless drastic changes are made.

Cancer isn't the only non-communicable disease increasing in the EU though. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that cases of diabetes will increase by 13 per cent in Europe by 2045, while cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the EU.

While some cancer cases have no known cause, many incidences of cancer and heart disease are due to lifestyle. In the EU, tobacco consumption is the leading cause of preventable cancer, with 27 per cent of all cancers attributed to smoking.

With the EU already facing so many financial difficulties due to the climate crisis, economic instability and the war in Ukraine, could targeted health campaigns, highlighting the dangers of smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyles help to reduce the economic burden of healthcare?

What is the EU's Cancer Plan?

A doctor stacks wooden blocks - Canva

Cancer currently costs the EU over €100 billion a year, and according to the European Cancer Information System (ECIS), in 2020, 2.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer while 1.3 million died from the disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on cancer care across the EU, with many diagnoses being delayed and treatment plans postponed. Despite an ageing population and an increase in the prevalence of the disease, until last year, the EU had not updated its cancer plan since the early 1990s.

Since then, the world has thankfully seen massive improvements when is comes to cancer diagnosis and treatment, with an increase in personalised and tailored treatment plans which respond to the needs of the individual in question, and improvements in technological innovation.

Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, launched in early 2021, aims to take a root and branch approach to cancer, focusing on prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life for cancer patients and survivors.

But with budgets tightening across the bloc, can the EU afford everything that it is setting out to achieve and will this new approach to cancer actually reduce cases, or with an ageing population, is a rise in cancer simply inevitable?

To hear our panel discuss all these questions and more, join us on Tuesday 8th November at 5:30pm(CET).

Meet our panellists

Tomislav Sokol -MEP EPP Croatia, APA Filip Kavran

Martin Smatana - Healthcare Advisor, IMF, ex Director General, Analytical Dept, Slovak Health Ministry

Josep Figureras - Director, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies