Press Release

EU Health Ministers Consultative meeting

By Minister Martin following discussion on Promoting Heart Health and Preventing Cardiovascular Disease.

Mr Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services contributed to the discussion.

Against a background where cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of sickness and morbidity, is a major cause of death and premature death, and a major cause of reduced quality of life for the citizens of the European Union and of the United States of America the Health Ministers of the European Union met in Cork on 12 May 2004, under the Irish Presidency of the European Union. An important item on the list for discussion was to discuss possible future approaches to tackling and preventing cardiovascular disease and to promoting heart health. Mr Tommy Thompson, the Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States of America attended the meeting as a guest of Minister Martin and made a presentation on Cardiovacular health and obesity to his EU Colleagues.

The discussion which followed pointed to a number of areas of common concern with regard to promotion of better heart health.

European Countries and the United States have common concerns, and common goals and objectives in the area of health promotion generally, and in promoting better heart health.

The health care systems and citizens of Europe and the United States of America could benefit from the sharing of common experiences, of research, and exchange of best practices in the approach to tackling and preventing cardiovascular disease and promoting heart health.

Effective prevention and treatment reduces mortality from cardiovascular disease and successfully contributes to an increased life expectancy for populations in general.

Older citizens have a high prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including raised blood pressure and raised blood cholesterol; the ageing population suffers from a high prevalence of angina, an increasing prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and chronic heart failure.

It is possible to prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease and reduce its recurrence, and to improve the quality of life of people with cardiovascular disease, by addressing the underlying health determinants, particularly tobacco use, obesity, diet and physical activity, raised blood pressure and raised cholesterol, diabetes mellitus and excessive alcohol consumption.

Concern was expressed at the increase in obesity and overweight amongst citizens, particularly among children and young people, which, if not addressed, will impact with future negative consequences for cardiovascular health.

Many social and economic policies influence public health and can positively influence the supportive environments necessary to promote good cardiovascular health.

Ireland, other EU Countries and the United States share common goals to work towards :

  • co-operation in the area of health promotion and of heart health;
  • co-operation in the exchange of common experiences and best practices in the area of promoting heart health and of prevention of cardiovascular disease.
  • co-operation in the area of prevention of childhood obesity and other health promotion matters including awareness raising about female cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes prevention.

Achieving these objectives will help to improve the quality of life for the citizens of both regions whilst reducing the burden of disease, in particular cardiovascular disease.

On the basis of the positive experience of working together in the context of the EU Presidency, Ireland and the USA are committed to exploring further collaborative opportunities in the area of public health, going forward.