The European Society of Cardiology on Europe’s biggest killer

Cardiovascular disease
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Prof Martin Cowie, chairman of the Digital Health Committee for the European Society of Cardiology speaks to SciTech Europa Quarterly about Cardiovascular disease – Europe’s biggest killer.

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) is a global society that identifies cardiovascular trends, addresses inequalities and shares best practices to improve standards of care for patients. The ESC acts in the interests of patients by providing cardiologists with the support and tools they need to deliver the best possible care. This not only means saving lives but ensuring a good quality of life for the growing number of people living with cardiovascular disease.

Prof Cowie from the ESC speaks to SciTech Europa Quarterly about the biggest killer in Europe: Cardiovascular disease.

Can you tell us about the work and role of the European Society of Cardiology?

The ESC is a not-for-profit medical society led by expert volunteers. We unite Member National Cardiac Societies (from 57 countries), cardiovascular ESC sub-specialty communities (such as heart failure, cardiac intervention, imaging, arrhythmia), Affiliated Cardiac Societies from non-European countries, and distinguished Fellows of the ESC and individual members from around the world. This community of more than 100,000 healthcare professionals, allows us to reach out to the global cardiology community and keep our finger on the pulse of cardiology. Diversity is our strength!

The ESC’s mission is ‘to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease’ – how do you achieve this?

Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in Europe, accounting for four million deaths per year (47% of all mortality). It costs the EU economy an estimated €196bn (~£177bn) per year. Everything the ESC aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis and management of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. One of our main missions is to disseminates evidence-based scientific knowledge to cardiovascular professionals so they can better care for their patients. This means updating our members on new evidence from clinical trials, new ways of working (including digital transformation of all aspects of health and healthcare) and sharing examples of best practice.

What would you say are the biggest challenges of this, and how can these be overcome?

There is a global epidemic of heart disease – this is now the number one killer in virtually all countries in the world. Global trends in obesity and diabetes and hypertension suggest things are only going to get worse. There is also good news – we are now much better at diagnosing and treating heart and vascular problems – and working with patients to ensure good ‘outcomes’ of care.

There is still a wide variation in access to care across the world, even in Europe, and the ESC also works hard to measure this variation, looking for areas where more attention needs to be paid, and supporting our members to improve prevention and care wherever possible. Advocacy for heart and vascular disease is key – and the ESC has an office in Brussels to ensure that it can act as a voice for those with, or at risk of, heart or vascular disease. The media rarely cover these problems – despite their global importance.

The ESC Congress 2019 on in Paris is happening shortly (31 August till the 4th September). This year the spotlight is ‘Global Cardiovascular Health’. How did this come about? What would you say is the importance of having the congresses spotlight focus on global cardiovascular health?

The media, and many of the general public, consider that heart disease has been beaten and the major health problems are cancer and mental health. Important as these are, many people do not realise that heart and vascular disease is actually the number one killer across most of the world, hence the emphasis this year of the Congress on ‘global’ Cardiovascular health.

High blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure are major causes of death and disability in most countries. With life expectancy increasing and with a global epidemic of obesity and diabetes it is vital that all countries, and all stakeholders in our citizens’ health, are aware of the current state of play, and support initiatives from birth to older age that can reduce the risk of heart and vascular disease.

Such initiatives are health education, building and city design to encourage walking and cycling rather than the motorcar, lifelong physical activity, better food labelling and reduction in high fat and high salt foods, and better education of citizens and primary care physicians about the prevention and early detection of heart and vascular problems. The ESC is active in all of these areas, and in partnership with other medical societies, patients and patient advocacy groups, and policy makers.

What is next for the ESC?

Our job is never done. We wish to remain a clear and loud advocate of heart and vascular health, and best healthcare, across the world. With education, advocacy and research as our main activities, we will continue to rally our volunteers to constantly work towards a better future for our countries and their citizens.

The ESC is becoming ever more engaged with advocacy work, and patient groups, and also is focusing on the digital transformation that has started and shows considerable promise in ensuring better, more rapid and fair access to prevention and healthcare expertise and a sustainable future for ever better cardiovascular prevention and care.

For the first time, on 5-6 October 2019, the ESC is holding a digital summit (ESC Digital Summit) in Tallinn, Estonia to bring together many of the key stakeholders in digital disruption or transformation in heart disease prevention and care. The ESC and its members wish to be a key part of the conversation around the future of health and healthcare across Europe, and globally.


Prof Martin R Cowie


Digital Health Committee

European Society of Cardiology

+44 (0) 207 351 8856

Tweet @ProfMartinCowie

Tweet @escardio

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