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In big news for the Parkinson's community, the European Commission has announced it will take targeted action on neurological diseases as of next year. The Commission Directorate for Health (DG SANTE) lays out plans for a “Policy Implementation Roadmap” covering five non-communicable diseases (NCDs), one being mental and neurological diseases, to be published in June 2022.

This roadmap would identify concrete actions, with a likely timing for action on neurological diseases to come in December 2023. The goals of the roadmap include:

  1. improving EU level governance on NCDs
  2. sharing knowledge and improving data
  3. identifying best practice
  4. creating joint actions and target
  5. identifying gaps
  6. monitoring how countries are meeting their NCD goals.

As of January next year, member states will have the opportunity to input into the Roadmap via the existing Steering Group on Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases (SGPP).

This announcement is a turnaround for EU health policy-makers, who in the past have been reluctant to address NCDs separately due to concerns around fragmentation. As the leaked memo notes, “this will be the first time that the Commission addresses the main NCDs areas in a systematic, pragmatic and significant way”. The move is also indicative of the increased interest in EU health policy, both from the policy-maker side and from industry, patient groups and the general public. With the EU showing more ambition in health policy – driven by the COVID-19 pandemic – health lobbying is peaking, including on NCDs. Recent studies have shown that NCD patients have suffered disproportionately as a result of the pandemic, with a recent EFNA report indicating that people with neurological disorders feel that they needs have not been sufficiently taken into account in recovery planning.

Why does it matter to Parkinson's Europe?

This is a huge opportunity for Parkinson's Europe to deliver its advocacy messages and make the case for an EU health policy and pandemic recovery plan that addresses the unmet needs of people living with Parkinson's across the EU. For many years, neurological diseases were not prioritised in line with their burden, and health policy was nowhere near being an EU priority. While member states still have the final say on health policy, this initiative from the EU on NCDs is an opportunity to put neurological diseases in general, and PD in particular, on the table at the European level.

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