Historic decision for women’s health made by the European Commission

16 FEBRUARY 2006

For the first time the EU Community Public Health Programme will, in 2006, include a specific reference to the need for “information and definition of indicators to improve relevant information for specific aspects of women’s gynaecological and menopausal health (eg. endometriosis)”.

Especially important is that the Programme specifically mentions endometriosis. This could lead to improved understanding of the impact of endometriosis and how best to diagnose, treat, and care for the estimated 16 million women in Europe living with this chronic condition.

One major reason that this decision was taken is due to results from a 2005 pain and quality of life survey completed by 7,025 women with endometriosis worldwide, which clearly demonstrated that much more is required to deal with the effects of this illness [1].

There was also further endorsement from MEPs with 36% supporting a European Parliamentary Written Declaration on Endometriosis. This was the highest number of signatures ever achieved for a health issue [2].

National support organisations make a difference

Lone Hummelshoj, co-founder of Endometriose Foreningen in Denmark, and Robert Music, chief executive of the National Endometriosis Society in the UK, have been working closely with representatives of the European Commission and MEPs over the past two years to highlight the unacceptable fact that, in 2006, funding for and awareness of endometriosis is still worringly low.

Following this historic decision, Hummelshoj and Music said:

We are delighted that the European Commission have chosen to include support for women with endometriosis. With an estimated 16 million women in the EU suffering from endometriosis, it is a vitally important area in which to increase focus and efforts.

So many women continue to struggle to obtain a correct and prompt diagnosis, and to suffer hit and miss treatments, which is simply unacceptable in 2006, for a disease which has such a profound effect on lives. We hope that the EU’s decision to include women’s health, and endometriosis in particular, in their 2006 Programme will help increase funding for vital research and widespread awareness efforts.

Cost and diagnostic delay of endometriosis

It is estimated that endometriosis may cost the EU €30 billion annually alone in lost days at work due to the impact of the disease. Furthermore, endometriosis can wreck relationships, destroy careers, contribute to infertility, and have an untold impact on quality of life.

The 2005 survey [1] showed an average diagnostic delay of 8.3 years, with 65% of women originally being misdiagnosed with another condition. In a recent press release, Maria Rauch-Kallat, Minister for Health and Women in Austria, said:

More gender sensitivity is required here in order to recognise symptoms and to treat them in good time. Women are not men, and this fact also has to be taken into consideration in medical training and treatment.

The Austrian Presidency aims to initiate a women’s health report, which should document the status of all 25 EU member states in the field of women’s health. In addition, Rauch-Kallat will ensure that women’s health is the central theme of the April meeting in Vienna of European Health Ministers [3].

References
  1. The 2005 pain and quality of life survey was carried out by the Endometriosis All Party Parliamentary Group in the UK, and comprised 7,025 women with endometriosis from 52 countries.
  2. The 2005 Written Declaration on Endometriosis was authored by Diana Wallis MEP, John Bowin OBE MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Catherine Stihler MEP, and Charles Tannock MEP, and was signed by more than a third of all MEPs.
  3. Maria Rauch-Kallat’s plan for 2006 can be found in www.bmgf.gv.at and www.eu2006.at

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