One of the leading causes of preventable mortality in Cyprus is deaths from lung cancer and mortality from diabetes is the highest in the EU, although it has recorded a significant downward trend since 2004, according to Cyprus’ State of Health profile for 2019, released by the OECD and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies in cooperation with the European Commission.
The reports on both the State of Health in the EU and Cyprus were presented Thursday at an event that took place at the EU House, in Nicosia.
Presenting the data on Cyprus, Erica Richardson, Technical Officer at the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, said that “Cypriots live a very long time,” adding that at 82.2 years Cyprus has one of the highest life expectancies in the EU.
“At 82.2 years, Cyprus has one of the highest life expectancies in the EU.”
She continued saying that “deaths from many diseases have actually been decreasing.” Particularly notable, she noted, are ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Mortality from those causes have been falling in Cyprus, she added.
According to Richardson, the two which stand out are lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease where mortality has been increasing. With Alzheimer’s disease, she explained, that is likely to be linked to changes in the way the disease is defined, adding that “this might not be a very clear finding.”
“Mortality from ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes have been falling in Cyprus.”
Certainly, she pointed out, “the increase in deaths from lung cancer is notable and that is very much linked to a legacy of high smoking rates in the country.” At the same time, according to the data she presented Cyprus only spends 1% of its GDP on preventive services compared to the EU average of 3.1%.
Richardson also said that “one of the notable things about Cyprus is the increase in the number of people aged over 65,” adding that “that as a demographic trend is notable because the health system has to adapt to meet the needs of that population.”
Referring to the risk factors she said that one in five deaths is tobacco-related in Cyprus and smoking rates are high. She also said that obesity is also high in children. “These are issues that the authorities are aware of and they have been putting things in place to try and address them,” she added.
“The two which stand out are lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, where mortality has been increasing.”
According to the data presented by Richardson, Cyprus has the lowest binge drinking in the EU. However, in an intervention by Constantinos Stylianou from the Cyprus National Addictions Authority who said that according to the authority’s data Cyprus ranked third in the EU in the binge drinking of minors.
As regards the country’s health system, according to the data presented Cyprus spent in 2017 6.7% of its GDP on health compared to an EU average of 9.8% of GDP. According to the data, the public share of health expenditure which stands at 43% is the lowest in the EU which has an average of 79%.
Conversely, private health expenditure which mainly consists of direct out-of-pocket payments amounted to 56% of total spending which the highest in the EU.
“Cyprus spent in 2017 6.7% of its GDP on health, compared to an EU average of 9.8% of GDP.”
At the same time, Cyprus has the lowest preventable mortality rate in the EU and low mortality from treatable causes, reflecting lower risk factor impacts among adults.
On his part, European Commission’s DG for Health and Food Safety Policy Officer Dimitrios Florinis presented the State of Health in the EU cycle and Companion Report.
Among other things he spoke of the five big trends, the report raises in order for EU health systems to be transformed.
The first has to do with vaccine hesitancy, a phenomenon which is considered as a major public health threat across Europe which can be tackled by improving health literacy, countering disinformation and actively involving health workers in the process. To that effect, Florinis gave the example of people dying from measles in the EU in recent years.
“Cyprus has the lowest preventable mortality rate in the EU and low mortality from treatable causes.”
He also spoke of the digital transformation of health promotion and disease prevention which requires “targeted oversight and safeguards for its full potential to be harnessed.”
We need to reflect and deal with challenges such as privacy laws and how to choose the right technologies, he noted.
At the same time, Florinis said that more evidence is needed to truly capture access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality. He warned that poor data quality risks complacency about health system accessibility.
“The European Commission supported the new health system (GESY) in practice by, among other things, funding the software development of the new health care system.”
Another trend includes the skill mix innovations used by countries such as Spain and France which shows great potential for increasing the resilience of health systems.
In a welcome address, Ierotheos Papadopoulos, head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus said that the four pillars of Europe’s “Beating Cancer Plan” will be presented in a few days, on February 4, by European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
He also referred, among other things, to the implementation of the new National Health System in Cyprus, noting that the European Commission supported this reform endeavor in practice by, among other things, funding the software development of the new health care system.