Parliamentary launch of new study on infectious diseases
|Europe-wide coordination is needed to combat the growing threat of avian flu and other infectious diseases, according to a new report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC).
Zuzana Roithova MEP hosted the launch of this report on 14 June in the European Parliament at an event attended by MEPs, Commission officials and EASAC scientists. EASAC Vice-Chairman Professor Dan-Olof Riska (Finland) described how EASAC was formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States, with a mission to build science into policy by delivering independent advice that is comprehensible, relevant and timely.
|[ 14. června 2005 | Autor: ]
This mission is very well exemplified by the recent recommendations on infectious disease, summarised by Professor Volker ter Meulen, Chairman of the EASAC group of experts. Professor ter Meulen emphasised that the worrying threat from infectious diseases requires a coherent strategic programme of research, training and public health preparedness. Europe must do better to track and counter infections in man and in animals and there is also urgent need to accelerate the pace of research and development of new treatments. The threat is wide-ranging. In addition to the global concerns about deadly avian flu, SARS, TB and AIDS are among the diseases of greatest recent alarm for Europe.
The increasing concern about the impact of infectious diseases has led to some encouraging action in global initiatives. But there is need further to strengthen and broaden efforts at the EU level. Professor ter Meulen highlighted the critical importance of coordinated investment and action – for better disease surveillance and control systems; for networked public health infrastructure across Europe and support for countries where public health capacity lags behind; for facilitating development of diagnostics, therapeutic agents and vaccines and supporting a viable industry sector; for providing skilled basic and clinical scientists and for integrating the human and veterinary science agendas.
Additional points of importance emerged from a wide-ranging and frank discussion chaired by Zuzana Roithova. How best should Europe prepare for the next flu pandemic by stockpiling anti-viral drugs and vaccines? How can scientific progress and public health responsiveness be optimised by ensuring the appropriate sharing of information obtained from the resources applied to promoting Europe’s defence against bioterrorism? How can the advice of the national academies of science be used to maximum effect in building a strong programme of research funded by the European Commission, for example in tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance?
Participants at this launch event agreed that the threat from infectious diseases is growing and that policy-makers face difficult choices in deciding the best strategies for public health. Partnership is vital. Informed decision-making is much improved by building trust between expert scientists and the European Institutions. EASAC has committed itself to continue to draw on the strengths of the national academies of science to speak with a common voice to advise the decision makers on priorities. In turn, the impact of this advice is much enhanced by the personal commitment of the MEPs who helped to make this important launch event a success – there is an exciting prospect of increasingly effective partnership between the scientific and parliamentary communities.