Many major chronic diseases, although not being lethal, cause a severe impairment of the quality of life of the affected persons and are associated with vast incidence. Some of these ailments affect almost a third of the population, including children. They also bring about an enormous economic burden for society, linked to the progressing disability of the patients, their need for treatment and care. For example, the total cost of asthma in Europe is EUR 17.7 billion per year (according to the European Respiratory Society White Book, 2003).
Medical research into severe chronic diseases is one of the important components of the EU framework programme. The examples include an extensive support of the research in the field of asthma and allergy (see also Allergy and asthma site).
Research in the area of 'severe chronic diseases' aims to increase the knowledge of the biological processes and mechanisms involved in normal health and in specific disease situations, and then to bring this knowledge to the clinic to better control and treat the diseases, and to ensure that clinical (including epidemiological) data guide further research.
Elucidation of the causes and mechanisms of the diseases, better and earlier diagnosis and prevention, as well as development of novel therapies, will lead to practical benefits and improve the quality of life of EU citizens.
In the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7; 2007-2013) this field of research focuses on non-lethal diseases with a high impact on the quality of life at old age, such as functional and sensory impairment and other chronic diseases (eg. arthritis, rheumatic and musculo-skeletal diseases as well as respiratory diseases including those induced by allergies).
During the first five calls of FP7 funding was awarded to research dealing with hearing impairment in elderly, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, intervertebral disk degeneration, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), urinary incontinence, age-related muscle weakness, chronic kidney disease and fatty liver disease, as well as to allergy, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. The EU contribution of EUR 132.8 million funded in total 23 projects.