John F. Ryan
Deputy Director-General (Acting) for Health, DG SANTE
I would like to congratulate the ACHIEVE Coalition on the second version of its ‘Stories to Inspire’ and on raising awareness about the projects and initiatives that are described in this Compendium. I trust you will find these Stories an inspiring read.
The EU has made a commitment to support Member States in their efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 in line with the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Already in its first year, 2021, the EU4Health Programme provided stakeholders with co-funding to fight viral hepatitis in the context of liver cancer prevention and to fight viral hepatitis together with HIV, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases amongst vulnerable populations.
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan explicitly recognises viral hepatitis as a preventable cancer risk factor and as such included the fight against viral hepatitis in its projects and initiatives on cancer prevention. In 2022, a Joint Action on Cancer NCD prevention was launched for Member States. This Joint Action is to tackle viral hepatitis detection and treatment alongside the more established health determinants: harmful alcohol consumption, tobacco, nutrition, etc. In this regard, I want to encourage Member States to participate in this Joint Action and consider including impactful actions against viral hepatitis in their joint proposal. In the future, the Council Recommendation on Vaccine Preventable Cancers could support the immunisation against viral hepatitis B.
In addition, the 2022 Thematic Networks include a network on ensuring continuity of care and quality of life for all people living with HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, as well as (drug-resistant) tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, including an adapted response for displaced patients from Ukraine and the EU/EEA citizens. New organisations and potential partners are invited and encouraged to join the Thematic Networks throughout the cycle.
The Commission recognises the tangible added value of sharing and scaling good practices for effective interventions. Thus, a new member state expert group will replace the Steering Group for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion to also cover other important and persistent public health concerns, such as those related to major communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis, as well as challenges including vaccination strategies and antimicrobial resistance.
Team Europe is also a responsible global player. Already, the European Commission is supporting people fleeing the war in Ukraine and coordinating a common response with EU Member States. Beyond this acute crisis intervention, we have been working on sustainable initiatives to support other regions, in particular Eastern Europe and Africa, for example to immunize millions of children with the pentavalent vaccine including hepatitis B. The new EU Global Strategy and its implementation can lead the way here.
Lastly, I would like to reassure you that the Commission and its agencies have been and will continue helping EU Member States and concerned citizens until hepatitis will no longer be a threat to public health.