The Structural Heart Disease (SHD) Coalition is calling on the European Commission to ensure that age-related diseases such as SHDs are taken into consideration within the broader EU debate on ageing.
The Coalition’s response to the European Commission’s Green Paper on ageing notes that the prevalence of SHD increases with age. Given that by 2050 one in three Europeans will be over 65, this means that at the midpoint of this century approximately 23 million people in Europe will have SHD.
Properly treating SHD can mean the difference between struggling to do the most basic physical tasks and leading a normal life.
“Tackling SHDs will preserve life and the livelihood of citizens in an ageing Europe, improve their resilience to epidemics and pandemics, increase the sustainability of health systems, and fight healthcare inequalities,” says the Coalition in its paper.
More specifically, the Coalition is advocating for an EU Joint Action on SHD under the Commission’s Health Programme, which would result in extra funding to tackle the disease as well as additional activities split across several EU Member States.
According to the Coalition, a Joint Action could help ensure early SHD detection programmes for older citizens, reduce the burden of the disease, and improve social inclusion for the older population.
Ageism costs lives
The Coalition quotes a study which finds that 46% of GPs and 48% of cardiologists treat patients aged 65 and over differently to those under 65. Ageism can lead to the dismissal of symptoms of treatable conditions in older people both by clinician and patient, late diagnosis and referral, as well as delayed, suboptimal, or denied treatment. At its worst, ageism can cost lives.
The Coalition concludes that “(i)f the European Commission is to hold with the EU principle that all EU citizens should receive equal care regardless of age, then systematic steps need to be taken to address ageism in cardiology”. It urges the Commission to consider “the reality of age-related heart conditions” and how the Green Paper could be used to overcome “ageism in cardiovascular diseases that currently inhibit early detection and equal treatment.”
The Commission says that it will consider the next policy steps based on the responses to the Green Paper.
The SHD Coalition is closely following developments and will provide regular updates on this website.