Members of the European Parliament admit that they have little knowledge of cardiovascular disease, according to a new survey.
More than half of MEPs surveyed acknowledge they know little about cardiovascular disease, with only 6% saying they know a great deal about it. 41% said they “know a fair amount”.
The survey was conducted by British pollster ComRes among one hundred MEPs between March and September this year. The full results will be unveiled at a EurActiv event in the European Parliament on Tuesday (29 September) to mark World Heart Day.
Part of the survey was aimed at testing lawmakers’ awareness of Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH), one of the most common genetic disorders in the world characterised by very high levels of so-called bad cholesterol in the blood.
While the prevalence of FH was thought to be 1 in 500 people, recent research has found the proportion to be around double (1 in 250).
The ComRes survey shows that MEPs’ awareness of FH is extremely low, with only 38% aware that the disease can be treated.
MEPs across the political spectrum agree that action is needed to tackle cardiovascular disease, arguing that prevention will help bring down related healthcare costs and productivity losses for the European economy.
“The argument for dealing with FH which resonates most strongly with MEPs is that reducing CVD in Europe will reduce healthcare costs and productivity losses: three in five strongly agree with this (62%), with a further 29% saying they tend to agree with this,” ComRes said.
However, the survey also showed differences in attitudes to hypercholesterolemia in general between political factions in the European Parliament.
80% of MEPs from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) agree that the management of hypercholesterolemia should be a key pillar of cardiovascular disease prevention in Europe. This statement was also backed by MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), although in a lesser proportion (66%). But only 42% of MEPs from the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group agreed.
This is seen by ComRes as “particularly significant given that this statement has a greater impact on general pan-European health policy than the other statements which are more specific to FH / CVD”.
Political groups in Parliament also have a fairly consistent misconception of the European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention, the survey found.
Almost half of MEPs (44%) are aware that the use of tobacco is not part of the European guidelines. But over a quarter of the respondents mistakenly believe that the same is true for not being overweight or having a low level of blood cholesterol.
Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder characterised by high cholesterol levels which can cause cardiovascular diseases. FH magnifies risk for developing premature cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, diagnosting and treating FH at an early stage will not only benefit patients, but also the economy of the healthcare sectors in the EU.
FH has recently been found to be more common than previously thought in countries such as the Netherlands, South Africa and the US.
29 September.: World Heart Day and EurActiv Institute stakeholder debate in the European Parliament, "Cholesterol at the heart of the family."
- ComRes: MEPs research report