On Thursday July 16th 2020, The European Commission and the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) launched a joint plan of action on Short-term EU health preparedness for COVID-19 outbreaks with immediate effect.
The EU Commission states ‘The COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about one of the worst crises in recent history, requires continuous vigilance and coordinated action. Though many unknowns remain, significant knowledge is being acquired on the disease itself, its transmission, prevention and treatment.’
The commission continues to comment that it is ‘crucial to keep up with a possible progression in the pandemic and to avoid having to reinstate strict confinement measures. These activities must also be specifically tailored for vulnerable groups’
For the first time, people with Obesity have been formally listed as part of the category of medically vulnerable groups “with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc.)” Note the section below which incorporates people living with Obesity in the vulnerable group.
5.Support to vulnerable groups
Certain groups are more vulnerable to the virus than others. This relates to three categories: (1) medically vulnerable – such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc.); Read more in the full communication HERE .
Our colleagues in EASO and OPEN EU welcome this latest communication from the EU Commission.
EASO very much welcomes this decisive move at a time when all areas of health systems have been significantly overburdened and as a result people living with obesity and the related prevention and treatment services have been deprioritised and scarce.
As EASO wrote in the recently published EASO EU Policy Position Statement on obesity in the context of COVID-19 and building more resilient health systems in the future, emerging data suggests that adults with obesity may be at risk for a more serious and complicated course of COVID-19, the severity of the disease being exacerbated by biological and social factors associated with obesity.
Such a categorisation is a first major step in aligning scientific evidence with policy making at EU, national and regional levels.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety tweeted ‘My message to Health Ministers, Now is the time to start reflecting on the lessons learned from the #COVID19 crisis and how we can better handle future health threats. We need stronger agencies and a stronger framework for future crisis response. #EPSCO #StrongerTogether
What can this mean for people who live with Obesity?
- We hope by the EU recognising that people with Obesity are amongst the medically vulnerable and a high risk group, that this community of people will receive the correct information which will advise them of more severe COVID-19 symptoms and disease progression should they contract the virus.
- We would ask for training’s to all front line staff so they can understand the challenges they may face due to the complexity of Obesity, and various comorbidities.
- We seek for the provision of mental health and psycho-social support as vulnerable groups cocoon.
- Widespread testing for those who are medically vulnerable.
- We need people with Obesity to have access to quality treatment and management programmes across Europe.
- We need education for all on the science behind Obesity.
- We need employers to understand and acknowledge that they have a duty of care to their staff who are listed in the ‘medically vulnerable’ and accommodate them and their needs.
For us this is a huge stepping stone, in not just prioritising people living with Obesity as part of the medically vulnerable with regards to COVID-19, but working towards recognition of Obesity as a chronic, progressive and relapsing disease.
Our colleagues in EASO highlight this excellently ‘We are hopeful that as part of the next phases of the “new reality” (EU4Health Programme and Horizon Europe) obesity as a chronic relapsing disease will continue to be prioritised in its own right as well as a gateway disease to other major non-communicable chronic diseases such as diabetes (80% of T2D) and 20% of cancers. Furthermore, we welcome this opportunity to start charting workable solutions which can be leveraged for longer term planning as part of the “One Health Approach”.