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Public Health (02-02-2009)

Healthy Environments – Addressing respiratory diseases, obesity and injuries through health promoting environments, Luxembourg, 28-29 January 2009

On  28 and 29 January 2009, the European Commission hosted, in Luxembourg, a meeting on healthy environments jointly organised with the Ministry of Health of Luxembourg and WHO Europe with a view to pave the way for the 5th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health to be held in 2010, in Parma, Italy. The meeting was attended by 170 participants from 42 European countries with key note addresses by Mars Di Bartolomeo (Minister of Health, Luxembourg), Andrzej Rys (Director, European Commission, DG Health and Consumers) and Marc Danzon (WHO Regional Director for Europe).

A significant  burden of respiratory diseases and cancers in industrialised countries can  be attributed to environmental factors. These range from chemicals, food contamination or allergies, indoor and outdoor air quality, soil pollution to housing quality, noise, water and sanitation. Children are more at risk than adults. Given the complexity of environmental health and the multi-factor aspect of diseases, the Commission has adopted an integrated approach across relevant policies, aimed at involving all relevant stakeholders in the policy-making process.

In the opening address of the meeting, Andrzej Rys, Director for Public Health and Risk Assessment in the European Commission, said: ' As we are well aware, environmental pollution is a major contributing factor of diseases, not to mention the staggering burden it imposes on health budgets. European citizens have high expectations of policy makers to ensure a high level of health protection, particularly from environmental factors which, by their very nature, cross national borders and traditional policy boundaries. It is time to intensify cooperation where needed and ensure that results are achieved in an efficient and cost effective way. '

The conference provided an opportunity to discuss important environment and health priorities and encouraged further collaboration between the European Commission, Member States, candidate and neighbouring countries. The specific themes discussed were:

  • Respiratory diseases that arise from indoor air pollution and inappropriate indoor environments;
  • Obesity in children resulting from lack of appropriate urban and spatial planning that promotes increased physical activity in safe and supportive environments
  • Injuries in children arising from unsafe indoor and outdoor environments.

The second day was dedicated to the preparation of the draft Ministerial Declaration for the 5th Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment to be held in Parma, Italy, in 2010.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/environment/Pollution/health_environment_en.htm (Europa webpage on health and environment)
http://www.euro.who.int/eehc/meetings/20081216_1 (WHO webpage on the conference)
http://www.euro.who.int/eehc (the European Environment and Health Committee)