[WATCH] Malta targeting antimicrobial resistance action plan by end of year

European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitus says health issues should be brought to all political sector

Health minister Chris Fearne and health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitus
Health minister Chris Fearne and health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitus
Malta targeting antimicrobial resistance action plan by end of year

The government plans on publishing an action plan on tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by the end of the year, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced today.

“AMR is one of the European Union’s main concerns as it threatens the resistance of an increasing range of illnesses,” Fearne told the parliamentary standing committee on health.

The government, the minister told European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitus, would also establish Mater Dei as a national coordination reference hub.

“The aim is to create a centre for communication and allow member states to share best practices on rare diseases,” Fearne said.

The EU Health Commissioner emphasized the need to bring health issues to all political sectors, including finance and education among others.

Speaking at the standing committee, Andriukaitus said the issues highlighted by Malta – including child obesity – held a particular significance throughout the EU. The EU, he said, was committed to providing better education and availability of healthy foods to fight the phenomenon.

“Promoting the importance of e-healthcare is also one of my priorities,” he said, referring to the conferences scheduled to be held in Malta next year, with the aim of targeting the use of technology for the health sector.

He also commented on the refugee crisis and explained that the commission had dedicated  €5 million of the EU’s budget for healthcare to the needs of migrants and refugees at the various camps across the continent.

He added that the EU should share competences and research to ensure that international action and development as well as best practices.

“Good health and food safety go hand in hand,” the Commissioner said, adding that food safety is a contentious area requiring research as well as enforcement and control.

He explained that ensuring the consumption of healthy foods required looking into the cross border controls and policies in various areas including the CAP among others.

Andriukaitus said that reducing the presence of certain products like salt and sugar in ready-made products, had to be addressed by looking at marketing strategies like showing the effects of certain ingredients on the packaging of products, much as they do in the tobacco industry.

“We have to show consumers and governments what the risks are even through an economic  viewpoint, like outlining losses that could occur due to premature deaths or disability can cause,” he said, stressing that understanding the ways to prevent these illnesses rather than finding ways to cure them was essential, even in view of the fact that health issues and diseases cost around 10% of a country's GDP on average.

Earlier on, the speaker of the house of representatives Anglu Farrugia also met the commissioner and discussed issues like child obesity,  diabetes and healthy eating.

He also praised the PN’s private member's Bill about healthy lifestyles, and explained that the bill, the first of its kind in the EU, was in line with the idea of bringing in different disciplines into the discussion of the health sector.