LivingIn Spain you live longer and healthier

In Spain you live longer and healthier

Before the end of the year, it is the order of the day for international organizations to take stock and point out future challenges. The European Commission has done so, and provides us with interesting conclusions about Spain within the 28 member states studied. In the Report on the state of health of Spain 2019 we once again see how, despite the health cuts by governments under the excuse of the economic crisis, in our country the levels of health, quality and life expectancy are among the highest of Europe . Little by little the levels of public investment in health are rising, but despite this the European report, which handles data from 2017, positions Spain at 8.9% of GDP, below 9.8% of the European average. This leads us to reflect on what is unique about our country and our public health system so that even with public health spending below the European Union average, citizens generally enjoy better health, fewer premature deaths from preventable causes and higher survival rate from cancer, reaching the highest life expectancy in the European Union .

In the report, implicitly, are also some of the keys that explain this reality. The first is that Spain is proud to treasure a universal public health system . This removes many accessibility barriers present in other countries. And that less pronounced social inequality in health matters, which the report mentions, makes global health improve with such excellent results. In addition, it refers to Primary Care as a solid pillar of the National Health System . This is a quantitative and qualitative difference compared to other health systems and private health. Because Primary Care is key to universality, it represents close, comprehensive, affordable care, with the capacity to act in the prevention and promotion of health, based on the community and capable of responding throughout life to most of people’s health needs. In conclusion, I dare to say that the key is in a universal public health system that obeys a more just, equitable and cohesive society .

The challenges for 2020 therefore, taking into account the conclusions of this report, are clear to me, and almost go hand in hand with the threats we are facing in the field of health.

In the first place, protect and pamper the National Health System. Strengthen investments and budgets so that they are adequate and allow their sustainability and necessary transformation. A strong system that continues to deepen in eliminating barriers to access, either by perfecting the implementation of universality or eliminating dissuasive copays . It is also essential that in the necessary transformation to care for chronicity, Primary Care takes the necessary role, both at the investment and care level.

Health prevention and promotion policies must be at the forefront. Pollution and climate change are already a serious threat and unhealthy lifestyles are gaining ground in people’s daily lives . A third of deaths are due to tobacco consumption (be it old cigarettes or new vapers and electronic devices), the harmful consumption of alcohol , sedentary lifestyle and poor diet that is far from our Mediterranean diet . There is an increasing trend in obesity and overweight that now reaches 17% of Spaniards; and the figure worsens, above the European average, to 20% in the case of adolescents.

The commitment to mental health must also be visible. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 19 and 50% of mental illnesses appear from the age of 14, which unfortunately are not well diagnosed or treated. For this reason, I consider it essential to deal with mental health as an essential part of the health of the person, and to do so with a human rights approach.

And finally, I am convinced that it is necessary to defend the scientific evidence and broaden the knowledge of the public on health issues. This is the only antidote to ignorance of the dangerous pseudoscience and anti-vaccine movements that threaten people’s health. In the case of vaccination, one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent diseases, it is especially serious when it affects childhood (for example, measles cases have increased by 30% worldwide) and also in the case of protection against the next influenza pandemic (the report warns about the trend of reduction in the vaccination rate in risk groups). And in this section, the responsible and appropriate use of medications , especially antimicrobials, could also be added to avoid increasing resistance.

These are some, not all, of the challenges that I want to address at the end of the year and that should not be missing from the 2020 European health agenda to live longer and healthier.

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