Age is one of the biggest risk factors for chronic diseases. Chronic diseases, such as heart failure, respiratory disorders, obesity or depression, affect 80% of all people aged 65 and older. While age plays a big role in the prevalence and epidemiology of chronic diseases, much of the burden is preventable or onset can be delayed by acting on common risk and life style factors, for example tobacco, alcohol, nutrition or physical activity.
By Anna Gallinat & Ingrid Stegeman
There is great value in empowering and enabling people to adopt healthier behaviours to improve their quality of life, and reduce the suffering caused by chronic disease. Another important benefit is the possible reduction in the high costs of treating chronic diseases. Increasing healthy life years and ensuring that older people remain active and are included in society requires innovative solutions in health promotion across the life cycle.
The Joint Action CHRODIS-JA, that focusses on chronic diseases and promoting healthy ageing across the life cycle aims to identify and promote such innovative solutions. Great emphasis is being put on good practices across a range of areas and how these practices can be scaled up and shared among partners and countries. The three-year initiative (2014-2017) is being led by the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equity with the Health Institute Carlos III and involves 60 organisations from across the EU. The following EuroHealthNet Members are involved: Federal Center for Health Education in Germany (BZgA), Institute of Public Health in Ireland, the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Slovenian Institute of Public Health.
The CHRODIS-JA aims to draw on the experience embodied by its partners to identify the best approaches to prevent and treat chronic disease, such as type-2 diabetes. Since many patients with chronic disease face multi-morbid conditions, it will also focus on how to provide more holistic, rather than disease-specific care paths. The CHRODIS-JA aims to develop a sustainable EU-level knowledge platform to serve as a resource for those in EU Member States that seek authoritative advice on how best to prevent and treat chronic diseases.
The aim of CHRODIS-JA is for its activities to remain sustainable once the project comes to a formal end. One cross-cutting work strand of CHRODIS-JA will produce the so-called Platform for Knowledge Transfer (PKE) which will be made up of an online helpdesk and a repository of good practices. By drawing on the results of the Joint Action, the PKE can become a ‘go-to’ place for European policy makers and high-level decision makers. In addition, the Joint Action will set up a discussion forum of high-level representatives of European ministries of health who will explore and decide on other means of ensuring the project’s sustainability.
EuroHealthNet is co-leading the work strand on “Good practices in health promotion and prevention of chronicity” together with our German member the Federal Center for Health Education in Germany (BZgA). The goal is to identify highly promising, cost-effective and evaluated health promotion and chronic disease prevention practices (among elderly), and to promote the exchange, scaling up, and transfer of effective approaches to different regions and countries. In 2014, we will lead on the first task which involves a review of existing work, a situation analysis and a needs assessment in relation to health promotion and chronic disease prevention in EU Member States. We hope to also draw on the knowledge of EuroHealthNet members!
In addition, EuroHealthNet is leading the work on dissemination and communication throughout the three years of the project. By employing a social marketing approach, we hope to incorporate successful advertising strategies from the private sector to achieve positive change in individuals, and ultimately in society. Our main target groups in CHRODIS-JA are policy makers and other relevant stakeholders working in the field of chronicity, multi-morbidity and/or diabetes. By managing this work strand, we aim to guide partners – to ensure uptake and use of outcomes during the project duration and beyond. We will also produce an external, bi-yearly newsletter for all interested stakeholders.
The ambitions for this project are big as are the challenges that all participating partners will undoubtedly face. But experience in European initiatives teaches us that the rewards and achievements are worth the difficulties we might encounter along the way. This Joint Action will enable us to engage in a cross-country collaboration to draw on the best that European countries have to offer when it comes to preventing chronic disease, and to scale-up or transfer the most promising approaches. This work will contribute to EuroHealthNet’s core objectives, and we look forward to taking part over the next three years.