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Public Health

Health-EU newsletter 239 - Focus

Wishing you a safe and enjoyable summer holiday!

In this last newsletter before the summer holiday, European Commission Director of Public Health John F. Ryan briefly discusses how summer impacts public health and the EU measures that keep EU citizens safe, not only during summer holidays, but all year round.

Do some health risks escalate during the summer?

Health issues that go hand in hand with warmer temperatures and longer, brighter days include skin cancer, heat stroke and the risk of food contamination, but there are also issues like insect-borne diseases and the higher danger of respiratory problems due to elevated ozone levels.

The European Commission actively works to lower risks in each of these areas in a variety of ways, from producing risk assessments on sunscreens and funding and promoting the European Cancer Code, to organising and running the Better Training for Safer Food programme.

When the weather is extreme, social inequalities and differences between access to health can become more apparent. The elderly, the homeless and those living in substandard situations are at much higher risk for the problems associated with extreme heat. One of our priorities is and has been to ensure that every EU citizen has their basic needs met, including their right to good medical help.

Are there health concerns for travellers in particular?

EU citizens travelling within the EU can seek medical help and get prescriptions when visiting other EU countries and be reimbursed for all or a part of it, thanks to the work of the EU. That’s a huge advantage. Increasingly we are working to make all medical visits and filling prescriptions easier through ehealth initiatives, and we’d also like to see better linkage in vaccination schedules so that people going from one country to another are equally protected against vaccine-preventable disease. We help inform citizens of any travel warnings and health threats around the world, working together with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. We also conduct Rapid Risk Assessment in case of health crisis, and stand ready around the clock to respond in case of any cross-border health emergencies.

You’ve mentioned elevated risks, but does summer holiday also bring health benefits?

Absolutely. Increasingly, public health is shifting to prevention and health promotion. The importance of good nutrition and physical activity cannot be overstressed, and people on holiday tend to walk more, bike and swim, engage in outdoor activities more often. And healthier, lighter fare is often more appealing in summer and people tend to drink more water, both of which are necessary and good for the health.

People also need time off work, time with friends and family, or time alone. It’s not only our telephones that need recharging. The Commission advocates a healthy work-life balance, which also has a huge impact on people’s well-being. As famously stated in the WHO’s definition of the term, health is not merely the absence of disease, it is a state of optimal physical, mental and emotional well-being. And to achieve that, people need to relax, change gears and appreciate life, not only on holiday, but regularly.

Activities at EU level

Cross-border healthcare

European Commission – Health and Food Safety

112 - European emergency phone number

European Commission – Digital Single Market

European Health Insurance Card

European Commission – Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion


Know before you go!

Know your rights concerning seeking healthcare in another country. This factsheet addresses common questions and supplies the basic facts!

Find out more about how the EU can assist with travel issues in general

What are your passenger rights? What travel documents do you need? Can you allowed to drive elsewhere? What provisions and services are available to the disabled? What should you do in case of emergencies? Check out the ‘Your Europe’ site’s travel section for full information.

Over 85% of European bathing sites rated as excellent for water quality

Just over 85% of bathing water sites across Europe monitored last year met the European Union's highest ‘excellent' and most stringent quality standards for water cleanliness, according to the latest annual European bathing water quality report.

‘Avoid too much sun’ is one of the 12 recommendations to reduce your cancer risk!

Find all 12 in the European Code against Cancer. While sun exposure is more of a risk during summer, nice weather also provides more opportunities for physical activity and the may lead people to make lighter, healthier food choices – which are also ways to reduce your cancer risk.

10 ways to help stay safe during the school holidays

Given the risks associated with road trips, swimming, excessive heat and sun exposure, it’s especially important for parents, caregivers and members of the community to be extra vigilant about safety. Here are 10 different ways how, provided by the WHO.

What can you do in extreme heat to stay safe and healthy?

Keep out of the heat and keep your body cool and hydrated. The WHO Regional Office for Europe has some tips.

Other interesting links

WHO - Regional office for Europe

ECDC - European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control