THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Social inequality has major impact on European infectious disease burden

The financial crisis may have widened health inequalities in many Member States, according to a report released on Monday by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The report addresses emerging issues related to health inequalities and infectious disease control in the EU. The authors of the report found that the financial crisis continues to influence key social determinants of health in Europe through changes to public spending and living conditions.

"Social inequalities in Europe, both between and within Member States, can have serious consequences for health," Marc Sprenger, the director of the ECDC, said. "Health inequalities among socially disadvantaged and advantaged EU citizens are at odds with the EU principles of solidarity, fairness, and equal opportunity for all."

The infectious disease burden can be seen as a product of the structure of society. Multiple determinants such as wealth and distribution, education, unemployment, living environment and urbanization can interact to affect health outcomes. The report's authors found that health inequalities must be addressed by identifying key areas for attention from policymakers and health professionals.

"This report summarizes some of the work done by ECDC in this field and describes on-going and planned work in this area," Sprenger said. "Certainly, measuring and tackling health inequalities in relation to infectious disease is no small task - but it is essential if we are to meet the European principles of social solidarity and aspirations for population health."

In conjunction with the report, the ECDC is hosting a meeting in Stockholm on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the impact health inequalities have on infectious disease prevention and control. The experts on hand will also discuss best practices on mitigating the negative effects of health inequalities.