EULAR and the European Union
EU Public Affairs is a key activity for a European umbrella organisation like EULAR. Among others, EU policies play an important role in improving the understanding, prevention and management of health conditions and diseases. Furthermore, EU actions are important in promoting the economic and social inclusion of people with disabilities.
Over the last few years, EULAR has made considerable efforts to develop its European presence through a great variety of activities and actions at the EU level. The aim has been to make the voice of the RMD community heard in the EU arena. To this end, EULAR has collaborated with EU institutions and stakeholders in shaping EU policy initiatives, while advocating for concrete measures in areas such as public health, medical research, and employment and social affairs.
Among others, EULAR has collaborated with the European Parliament in the elaboration of two Written Declarations on Rheumatic Diseases (2005 & 2008), and has run the Secretariat of the European Parliament Interest Group on RMDs (2009-2014). It has also co-organised the EU Presidency Conference on RMDs together with the EU Belgian Presidency, and has collaborated in the elaboration of the Council Conclusions on “Innovative approaches for chronic diseases in public health and healthcare systems” (2010).
Thanks to the Public Affairs activities, the profile and importance of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases have been greatly raised, being now recognised as one of the major chronic diseases. Moreover, EULAR is now seen as an active, engaged and trustworthy European health organisation.
Given the relevance of Public Affairs activities for the RMD community, the EULAR Strategic Plan 2013-2017 has established “Advocacy” as one of its strategic objectives. EULAR has also developed a EU Affairs Strategy, where Public Affairs strategic lines, objectives and main actions for the period 2013-2017 are presented.
Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases: a major burden for the European population
The increasing attention of policy makers and stakeholders on RMDs is due to the enormous and rising burden of these diseases on individuals and societies. RMDs are one of the most prevalent, disabling and costly chronic conditions affecting European countries. Approximately one fourth of the EU population, or around 120 million people, suffer from a RMD at some point in their lives. Recent evidence provided by the eumusc.net project and the Global Burden of Disease Study, among others, show that RMDs are the cause number one of disability in Europe, accounting for about one third of all disabled people. RMDs are also the main occupational disease, representing about 38% of all work-related ill-health. In addition, RMDs are one of the most costly chronic conditions, given the intense use of health care services (for instance, it is the second most common reason for consulting a doctor), as well as the provision of social security (for example, disability and early retirement pensions).