Press Release

Minister Martin Hosts a Meeting of EU Health Ministers

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin T.D., today (May 12) hosted a Consultative Meeting of EU Health Ministers at the Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork.

The meeting was the first opportunity Ministers from all 25 Member States have had following enlargement, to gather together to discuss a number of important health related issues.

The US Secretary for Health and Human Services, Mr Tommy Thompson, also attended as a special guest at this meeting.

Cardiovascular Health

Health Ministers held a wide ranging discussion on cardiovascular disease which supported the recommendations from the February Conference on Promoting Heart Health in the European Union. Mr Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services in the USA, made a presentation to the Ministers on the US approach to prevention of cardiovascular diseases and obesity, particularly in young children.

It was clear from the discussions that the outcome of the February Heart Health Conference and of the CARDS Conference held over the last two days on development of data standards for collection of comparable data in cardiology databases and registries will make a practical and valuable contribution to development of cardiology strategies at European level. There was scope for further co-operation between the European Union and the USA in relation to tackling the challenges of cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Minister Martin thanked Secretary Thompson for his contribution to the meeting and said that on the basis of the positive experiences 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

Patient Mobility Summary

Health Ministers had a very worthwhile discussion on this issue this morning. Clearly, as reflected by the views of Ministers, the Community is at a crossroads in the future development of health policy at a European level.

The Ministers agreed the Commission communications on Patient Mobility and Sustainable Health Care/Open Method of Co-ordination are interlinked and form part of an overall coherent strategy for healthcare systems at European level.

There appeared to be universal acceptance of the need for the early establishment of what is termed a permanent mechanism to support European co-operation in the field of healthcare and to monitor the impact of the EU on health systems and to co-ordinate and manage the various discussions on health policy which are taking place in a wide variety of different fora in Brussels. The need for overall coherence and for legal certainty were emphasised.

The Commission decision on the establishment of a new High Level Group on Health Services and Medical Care was welcomed as an interim step towards the early establishment of a permanent health mechanism.

There was universal agreement on the need to introduce greater legal certainty into this area and to develop health policy at European level following the series of European Court of Justice Judgements.

In relation to European Centres of Reference, there was general agreement on the need for mapping of Centres of Reference for highly specialised or rare diseases on a systematic and structured basis according to agreed clear criteria with regard to their designation and use.

This item will be discussed further at the Health Council scheduled for 2nd June.

Pandemic Preparedness and Response Planning

Over Lunch Ministers followed up on discussions held at a Special meeting on 12 February in relation to improving Community preparedness for dealing with communicable disease threats including biological events. Ministers considered a number of questions and were generally agreeable to an extension of the Health Security Committees mandate until the Community Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is established in Sweden in 2005. The mandate should be reviewed at that time. Ministers also agreed on the need for Member States and the Commission to work together for early agreement on adoption of a co-ordinated approach to the purchase of anti-virals and vaccines to deal with outbreaks of communicable diseases.

Alcohol and Public Health

The Swedish Minister for Public Health, Mr Morgan Johansson, made a presentation on issues surrounding alcohol and public health. Commissioner David Byrne informed Ministers that Commission was preparing a draft strategy in relation to alcohol. Ministers welcomed the Commissioners information in this regard and looked forward to seeing the communication.

eHealth

Minister Martin reported briefly on the outcome of the eHealth Conference held on 5-6 May. Ministers and the Commissioner welcomed and supported the Irish Presidency initiative in this area.