Health at a Glance: Europe 2020

State of Health in the EU Cycle

image of Health at a Glance: Europe 2020

The 2020 edition of Health at a Glance: Europe focuses on the impact of the COVID‑19 crisis. Chapter 1 provides an initial assessment of the resilience of European health systems to the COVID-19 pandemic and their ability to contain and respond to the worst pandemic in the past century. Chapter 2 reviews the huge health and welfare burden of air pollution as another major public health issue in European countries, and highlights the need for sustained efforts to reduce air pollution to mitigate its impact on health and mortality. The five other chapters provide an overview of key indicators of health and health systems across the 27 EU member states, 5 EU candidate countries, 3 European Free Trade Association countries and the United Kingdom. Health at a Glance: Europe is the first step in the State of Health in the EU cycle.


Air pollution and its impact on health in Europe: Why it matters and how the health sector can reduce its burden

This chapter reviews the health and welfare impacts of air pollution in Europe. Although air pollution has decreased in most European countries over the past two decades, it remains above WHO guidelines in most countries, particularly in some large Central and Eastern European cities. This has serious consequences on people’s health and mortality: in the EU, estimates attribute between 168 000 and 346 000 deaths to air pollution from fine particles (PM2.5) alone in 2018. The welfare losses from air pollution are substantial. A conservative estimate of the welfare impact of PM2.5 and ozone shows that this amounts to an annual loss of 4.9% of GDP in the EU. This welfare loss is mainly attributable to the impact of these pollutants on mortality, along with lower quality of life, lower labour productivity and higher spending on health.Efforts to reduce air pollution need to focus on the main sources of emissions. These include the use of fossil fuels in energy production, transportation and the residential sector, as well as industrial and agricultural activities. The EU recovery plan from the COVID‑19 crisis provides a unique opportunity to promote a green economic recovery by integrating environmental considerations in decision-making processes, thereby supporting the achievement of the 2030 EU national emission reduction targets. The health sector itself can contribute to achieving this objective by implementing various measures to minimise its own environmental footprint. Through multi-sectoral approaches, public health authorities can also contribute to environmentally friendly urban and transport policies, which may also promote greater physical activity.



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