The EU is embarking on the "EU 2020" strategy, which places innovation at the centre of the quest for European global competitiveness through smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
Leading international respiratory societies have declared 2010 the Year of the Lung in an effort to increase awareness of the importance of lung health. In this context, the ERS held a seminar today, hosted by Members of the European Parliament, Prof. Ioannis Tsoukalas and Ms. Satu Hassi, to discuss respiratory research priorities and future EU challenges at the European Parliament. The European Commission, Council and national respiratory medical societies from all across the EU attended.
Millions of people in Europe suffer every day from chronic respiratory diseases. According to the latest WHO estimates (2007), about 1 billion people in the world currently have chronic respiratory diseases (asthma, COPD, tuberculosis, rhinitis, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnoea syndrome, and several other serious lung diseases).
Respiratory diseases rank second in Europe in terms of mortality, incidence, prevalence and costs, with an estimated yearly financial burden of €100 billion in Europe due to health care costs and lost working days, and 12 million deaths worldwide by 2020 (20% of total deaths). In addition, cancer incidence continues to rise in the EU with lung cancer accounting for the largest proportion of cancer deaths.
However, although some major advances and progress in the treatment of chronic lung diseases have been made in the past decades, the European Union needs to strategically invest in European research and development, to meet the societal grand challenges posed by an ageing population. The current situation of respiratory disease in Europe not only calls for a cleaner environment, free of tobacco smoke and other pollutants, but also for an expansion of the means dedicated to scientific research into the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of lung disease.
Prof. Nikos Siafakas, ERS President, speaking at the event, emphasised: "We need to promote excellence in European respiratory research to improve the quality of life of millions of European citizens suffering from lung diseases by strategic investment in and commitment to competitively driven medical research."
Despite the fact that many of these diseases are preventable, their global prevalence is increasing in both the developed and developing world, particularly in children and the elderly. Managing the needs of a population with increasing longevity sets new challenges also in the field of research, development and innovation.
Prof. Sven-Erik Dahlén, ERS Research Director, added: "Europe has been the centre for some of the best medical research in respiratory diseases, and through the EU Research Framework Programmes, the EU has the potential to reinforce Europe as a global, scientifically competitive leader in this field, and to be part of the solution of the Society’s grand challenges in healthcare, in an ageing population and for a productive workforce".