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The past two years have put our healthcare systems in Europe to the test, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought an added setback on top of the public health challenges that countries were already facing.

Each wave of COVID has brought new challenges to systems struggling with stretched services. System pressures have distracted Member States from their core health priorities, including diagnosis and management of chronic disease. Europe’s #1 cause of death is cardiovascular disease (CVD), and attention has been diverted through the COVID crisis. This is despite the fact that CVD is a clear predictor of poorer outcomes for people impacted by COVID, but also that COVID has significant cardiovascular impacts.

Despite ranking as Europe’s #1 killer, efforts to prevent and treat CVD lag behind other diseases. CVD-focused public health information and actions to raise awareness are lower than for other conditions. Despite the high impact of CVD, there is low public awareness of its risks. This is in stark contrast to cancer – Europe’s #2 cause of death. Here, stakeholders have access to a wealth of information on cancer diagnosis, prevention, and cure. Today most EU countries have cancer initiatives, including screening programs in breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. Very few have national cardiovascular strategies.

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