Today at the European Business Summit in Brussels a workshop was organized focusing on health entitled “Ageing and health: Pay for the grey”. The distinguished panel included Androulla Vassilliou, European Commissioner for Health, AGE, the European Older People’s platform, and the Japanese ambassador to the EU and last but not least industry representatives. Not surprisingly, there was strong consensus amongst all panelists that governments will come under tremendous pressure with increasingly older societies in Europe to sustain their healthcare systems.
Two points of the discussion struck me as particularly interesting. Claus Biermann M.D. of Philips pointed out to the Commissioner that according to a Price Waterhouse Coopers study only 3% of health expenditure in OECD countries is spent on prevention. It is common knowledge that prevention in the long run comes cheaper than treatment. This simple figure demonstrates that the Commission’s focus on preventing diseases as well as their treatment is spot on: needless to say fundamental shifts will be necessary going forward.
Second interesting point specifically in reference to the session’s title about the financing of the ageing society was raised by the Japanese ambassador to the EU. Nobutake Odano mentioned that the current Japanese government is considering an increase of VAT solely to fund the impact of the ageing society.
So what was the outcome? The discussion did show that there is large consensus amongst all stakeholders that there is a challenge ahead for Europe. Sadly, the panel did not produce any tangible answers or suggestions as to how the challenge of an ageing society can be addressed.
– Mark Grossien, Director Communications & External Affairs, Eucomed