July 04, 2018

Shaping the future of public health towards screening and early diagnosis

Mr Johan Prevot was pleased to participate in the meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Innovation in Health and Social Care on June 7, 2018, in Brussels, as IPOPI’s Executive Director and as Board Member of Health First Europe (HFE), along with policymakers and health representatives. The event focused on “Shaping the future of public health towards screening and early diagnosis”, to highlight the critical role of secondary prevention to improve patients’ outcomes while contributing to the financial sustainability of healthcare system.

EU action on secondary prevention is still limited. Access to early diagnosis, which is a central component of secondary prevention, also varies across countries, challenging EU goal to give people equal access to high-quality healthcare.

The event was chaired by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marian Harkin (ALDE, Ireland), who highlighted that screening tests can detect a disease in its earliest stages thereby increasing the chances of curing it, improving better quality of life for all patients and reducing costs for the system.

Ms Irene Norstedt, Head of Unit for Innovative and Personalised Medicine at Directorate-General (DG) Research and Innovation in the European Commission provided a presentation on innovative and personalise screening to improve diagnosis and treatment. The presentation also covered European Commission actions to support Member States throughout disease-related strategies and in exchanging good practices on screening programmes and access to early diagnosis.
Ms Norstedt pointed out the important role of European Reference Networks. She also explained the increasing importance of personalised medicines – defined as a new medical model built around an individual. Personalised medicines are new frontiers in health care designing, tailored screening, early diagnosis and therapeutic strategy for the right person at the right time, determining the predisposition to disease and/or delivering timely and targeted prevention. In this frame, coordination between resources is essential to deliver better health outcomes.

“Access to early diagnosis, which is a central component of secondary prevention, also varies across countries, challenging the EU’s goal to give people equal access to high-quality healthcare.”

Johan Prevot

Mr John Bowis (HFE), Mr Jose Inacio Faria (MEP), Mr Johan Prevot (IPOPI ED, HFE BM) and Ms Irene Norstedt (EU Commission)

Mr Johan Prevot was invited to present on the value of Severe Combined Immunodeficiencies (SCID) newborn screening (NBS). While NBS is becoming a reality in the world and despite some ongoing pilot studies in a few EU Member States, the uptake in the EU is still too slow. There is a need for an EU coordinated action on newborn screening, similar to what has been happening with the creation of ERNs and Rare Diseases Policies, to tackle disparities between Member States. Innovation and prevention save lives but also money to health systems.
He emphasized that a holistic approach to SCID and many other PIDs and rare diseases including crucial preventive measures was crucial to ensure patients can access lifesaving care in a timely and optimal manner. SCID is the perfect example: curative treatments exist but will only work if babies are diagnosed promptly and can access their treatments in the 3-4 months after birth. Delayed diagnosis will often have disastrous consequences as most SCID babies will die before their first birthday.

“Innovation and prevention save lives but also money to health systems.”

Johan Prevot

MEP José Inácio Faria (EPP, Portugal) strongly encouraged the launch of an EU action on newborn screening for rare diseases such as SCID. He concluded the meeting calling for a real behavioural change that should be more patient inclusive. Health literacy and awareness raising are key enablers to overcome stigma around diseases and to shift mindset towards health promotion prevention and early intervention tools.

The event was also the opportunity to launch 5 Health First Europe Factsheets showcasing early diagnosis and screening examples already incorporated into the patient pathway. Secondary prevention not only gives more chances to a better life to EU citizens but also paves the way for a more reliable and efficient health system. Among these five factsheets, one is fully dedicated to the need for implementation of SCID newborn screening

The event concluded that although healthcare is a national competence, this should not turn EU policymakers away from working toward better coordination and mutual learning that will lead to more targeted, effective opportunities for prevention, treatment and care.