‘The Need for a Comprehensive Health Plan for Belgium’

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains one of the most significant health burdens on the Belgian population today and should be addressed with comparable urgency. In 2019, CVDs were the cause of a quarter of deaths in Belgium and remained one of the most prevalent causes of death, next to cancer. In terms of structural health disease, it is estimated that 240 000 people over 65 across Belgium are affected by SHDs, and this number is expected to increase to 420,000 by 2040 due to the aging population. The consequences of CVDs extend beyond mortality rates, affecting individuals’ quality of life, placing a strain on healthcare resources, and impacting the overall economy. Therefore, the need for a comprehensive national strategy to prevent, detect, and manage CVDs is crucial to mitigate their impact, improve population health, and enhance the well-being of the Belgian population.

The Belgian healthcare system is prepared to tackle CVDs in terms of medical and human resources but lacks a strategy to apply these tools in a coordinated, holistic, and effective way across the country. The Belgian Cardiological Liga found that Belgium’s health systems have instituted a number of clinical practice guidelines that help with CVD detection, risk assessment, and risk factor prevention. Furthermore, primary care facilities in the public health sectors have access to the most essential medicines to treat CVDs. Despite these facilities, the government has failed to deliver a comprehensive national plan addressing non-communicable or cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, there are only limited national strategies working to raise awareness around the disease’s risk factors or that screen high-risk individuals for CVD.

Stakeholder action, on the other hand, is actively working to promote CVD policies and programmes independent from government action and funding. Patient organisations, civil society, cardiologists are involved in advocating for CVD prevention and management and are attempting to implement a strategy at national scale. These stakeholders recognize the urgency of the situation and are actively working to bridge the gap in the national approach to CVDs. However, a coordinated effort between stakeholders and the government is crucial to ensure the success and sustainability of these initiatives and ultimately alleviate the burden of CVDs in Belgium.