On 9 July, I-Com published a factsheet on “Cancer Prevention Better Lifestyle Policies – A priority for the European Union”, calling for public authorities and national governments to urgently define cross-sectoral strategies and take joint responsibility for the success of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. According to I-Com, public authorities should develop and promote community-based programs built on data monitoring, support the shift towards lifestyle policies that reduce the exposure to risk factors and encourage harm reduction strategies.
The factsheet provides a first analysis of the stakeholder submissions to the Commission’s public consultation on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. Citizens, patients, healthcare workers, researchers, employees in the pharmaceutical sector and policy makers all contributed to the consultation, with a record number of 384 submissions. Through I-Com analysis of the submissions, there seemed to be an overarching theme related to specific sectors, as well as encouraging the uptake of strategies such as harm reduction. Nearly 20% of contributions supported the definition of harm reduction plans for alcohol or tobacco. One in every six recommended policies which encourage the use of reduced risk nicotine products by smokers, such as e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, approximately 15% called for guidelines and provisions on consumption and labelling for alcohol.
I-Com highlights that policies should be promoted that actively encourage citizens to choose a healthier lifestyle and diet, to exercise and to avoid substance abuse from alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. There are two major elements of early cancer detection – education to promote screening participation and early diagnosis. According to I-Com, healthy lifestyles are not only a matter of willingness but also of opportunity. Legislation can thus have a deep impact on population behavior, widening the range of opportunities to the largest social groups.
I-Com emphasized that harm reduction strategies should be implemented to support the shift towards healthier lifestyles to reduce the exposure to cancer risk factors. Harm reduction approaches refer to policies, programs and practices that aim to minimize the negative health, social and economic impact associated with risk factors such as the use of alcohol, exposure to environmental challenges, overeating, combustible tobacco and nutritional behavior. Harm reduction strategies are founded on improving individual and general public health, showing that intervention is safe, practical, effective.
National and European stakeholders have a critical role to play in the Cancer Plan. MEPs in the European Parliament, the European Commission, Member States and NGOs can all contribute to developing an effective Beating Cancer Plan.
I-Com looks forward to discussing the European Parliament’s role at an event hosted in late September in the EP. This event will also provide a platform to present a study developed by I-Com that compares best practice tools to prevent cancer across Europe and analyses more in depth the answers submitted to the Cancer plan public consultations.