Improving Quality in Disease Prevention


Brussels, 01 February 2016



Improving quality in disease prevention: moving forward

With the chronic disease epidemic rapidly evolving and imposing an increasing burden on health systems, disease prevention and health promotion have not been given adequate priority. Caused by common modifiable risk factors like tobacco, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and aggravated by underlying socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental determinants, chronic diseases are increasingly affecting vulnerable groups. As a result, inequalities in health are persisting across EU Member States, with a difference of 19 healthy life years between the lowest and highest values[1]. WHO’s recent report[2] ‘Preventing chronic diseases – a vital investment’ says that inexpensive and cost-effective interventions to address common modifiable risk factors exist.

In this context, it is important to provide the best arguments for raising the investment in disease prevention and health promotion. This challenge has been taken up by Quality Action, a Joint Action of European Union member states, aimed to promote the health of the community through maximising the quality of HIV prevention projects and programmes.

Why is quality important? Quality Action’s partners argue that approaches, interventions and methods for HIV prevention must not only be appropriate to the situation they address, they must also be carried out at a high level of quality to maximise effectiveness. Quality Action’s conference 2016 (26-27 January, Berlin, Germany) brought together more than 120 representatives from governmental and non-governmental organisations to share their experiences in applying five quality improvement tools.

Acting Director John Ryan from the European Commission highlighted the role of quality in the effectiveness of interventions and for maintaining disease prevention funding while governments face increased expenses in their health systems. Professor Kevin Fenton, from Public Health England, presented and shared his insights into the challenges and opportunities to mainstreaming quality at all levels of Public Health England’s work.

Caroline Costongs, Managing Director at EuroHealthNet, said “adopting a quality improvement procedure is not a sign of weakness, but of success and needs to be integrated in overall disease prevention and health promotion strategies. These tools include evidence-based information on how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness, be it for preventing HIV/AIDS or chronic diseases”. In Quality Action, EuroHealthNet’s role is to promote the use of quality improvement tools across public health policies and interventions.

Representation from across Europe at the conference reflected one of Quality Action’s main achievements, the creation of a community of quality improvement practitioners who have so far implemented more than 80 practical applications of the tools and have published case studies on Quality Action’s website.

Over the course of a three year period, Quality Action trained more than 400 prevention experts in using the five quality improvement tools which are available in a range of languages. The Quality Action Charter for Quality in HIV Prevention provides key principles for reinforcing the effectiveness of HIV prevention through quality improvement. What is more, practitioners, who had established strong links across 26 EU Member States during the project, committed to continue to improve quality and to coordinate action for the sustainable impact and development of HIV Prevention.


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[1] Health inequalities in the EU — Final report of a consortium. Consortium lead: Sir Michael Marmot, Published by the European Commission Directorate- General for Health and Consumers. © European Union 2013

[2] World Health Organization. Preventing chronic diseases : a vital investment : WHO global report. 1.Chronic disease – therapy 2.Investments 3.Evidence-based medicine 4.Public policy 5.Intersectoral cooperation I.Title. ISBN 92 4 156300