The importance of early diagnosis and management of chronic respiratory diseases to improve active and healthy ageing was stressed by MEP Claudiu Ciprian Tanasecu. Active and healthy ageing (AHA) allows those to continue to be active in society.
Allergic diseases appear early in life, caused by complex environmental factors. In many of these cases steps can be taken to prevent them. To help and improve treatment and prevention, research into the area is essential. Over 200 million people (predominantly children) suffer from asthma, and not all of the causes are understood. It can be observed is approx. 30% of the European population. If action is not taken to try help prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is expected to become the third leading cause of death by 2030. The Chronic Allergy and Asthma European Network carry out surveillance of inhalant allergens and also novel allergens recently introduced into the EU framework (e.g.wheat) that has assisted EU cities to develop proactive tactical steps in counteracting new trends in pollen allergy and early alert systems for the detection of novel allergens.
Even when local authorities are not directly involved in healthcare, they should still be concerned regarding AHA. Mr Christian Bourquin of the Languedoc-Rousillon Region is leading a regional multi-sectoral partnership fighting chronic diseases.
To have a positive impact on children's development, the EU Member States and the EU Commission are invited to include chronic respiratory diseases in children in national and European health policy by early prevention, diagnosis and treatment. With one quarter of school children now affected by allergic diseases, when left untreated academic performance can drop due to the suffering from symptoms. The impact of allergens on school performance and the benefits of treatment should be investigated further.
Active smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD, therefore, smoking prevention should be the main area of focus to reduce COPD cases. Studies have shown foetal and early life developments optimize adaptation to environmental changes through plasticity, which makes tissues and organs vulnerable to environmental factors; e.g. passive smoking.
Active and healthy ageing has been identified as a major societal challenge to all European countries and remains a key challenge of ageing. Through projects helping to diagnose and treat chronic respiratory disorders across Europe (e.g. Prevention of Asthma, Prevention of Allergy and the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network) the target of achieving AHA could lead to the increase of a healthy lifespan by two years by 2020.