Press Release

Major agreement reached at heart health conference

The outlook for the promotion of heart health, across Europe, received a major boost today as consensus was reached at a key health conference, Promoting Heart Health A European Consensus.

Cardiology and policy advisors from all 25 current Member and Accession States reached agreement on the best approaches for promoting heart health and tackling heart disease which is the biggest cause of illness and death, both in Ireland and across the EU.

The Agreement will mean that Europe can potentially reduce the number of people dying from heart disease by 60%.

Implementation of this agreement will also improve the overall health of the population, reducing death and disability from the other major diseases in Europe such as stroke and cancer.

The Minister highlighted the importance of a multi-sectoral approach and this, he explained, meant that both individuals and organisations across society have to play their part.

The key conference recommendations are:

  • Individuals must address their lifestyle and health behaviours; this specifically pertains to smoking; diet and being active.
  • Countries should actively encourage further advances in tobacco control policies.
  • It was agreed that, with the increase in obesity levels, that countries need to develop comprehensive and integrated European food, nutrition and physical activity policies. This requires a societal approach involving the agriculture, food, marketing and retail sectors.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption was cited as a contributory factor to heart disease and public policies are needed to address high levels of alcohol consumption, at individual country level, as part of the overall strategy to promote heart health.
  • The health services can take a leadership role in promoting heart health to those at high risk through systematically encouraging and assisting those at high risk to lead heart healthy lifestyles, combined with appropriate treatments.

Speaking at the conclusion of the two-day conference in Cork, organised by the Health Promotion Unit at the Irish Department of Health and Children, the Irish Health Minister Miche├íl Martin said; “I am confident that by adopting the conference recommendations, a consistent approach for heart health promotion will emerge across all EU Member States”.

The Minister concluded; “This Conference has resulted in much welcome discussion. The sharing of individual country experiences, challenges and successes in tackling heart disease has helped us to reach conclusions which, in the long-term, will benefit all EU citizens. This is a major step for heart health in Europe and the importance of this consensus cannot be underestimated. The recommendations from this consensus will contribute to a better quality of life for EU Citizens and a decline in death rates from heart disease.”

The conclusions from this conference will be brought to the EU Health Council meeting in June 2004.