Major new European initiative

Three commissioners with responsibility for information technology, health and social affairs opened the conference 'European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing – From Plan to Action' in Brussels on 3 April. As Vice-President of the Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes championed the role of ICTs in health and social care for older people. “Without you the plan would just be the next pile of documents,” she said. Lászlo Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, stressed that “to achieve our goals, much of the innovation required does not need to be technological or medical. Instead... it is social innovation which plays a major role.”

The long-standing challenge of an ageing population is the driver behind the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Active and Healthy Ageing. Its overarching goal is to increase the healthy lifespan of EU citizens by two years by 2020. The initiative is reliant for success on the commitments to action, research and innovation of partners (i.e. governments, ICT companies, health services) rather than on new EU policy initiatives. A ’commitment’ is defined as a “measurable and concrete engagement in support of an action or a group of actions” under the three pillars: prevention; care and cure; active ageing and independent living.

Prevention, integrated care and independent living were the subjects of three parallel sessions. Speakers in the prevention session championed ways of preventing falls, frailty and malnutrition with the right diet and exercises. In the integrated care session, three regions talked about on-going reforms:

  • The Basque Government stressed sustainability is determined by service redesign, not more money
  • Northern Ireland has a new model for integrating specialist, planned and emergency care
  • Scotland is integrating health and social care and expanding telecare and self-management of conditions

The independent living session looked at ambient assisted living and age-friendly places. Presentations are available here.

From ESN’s perspective, the issues covered by the EIP are very much a current challenge for social services in Europe. Although this initiative comes from the health sector, several of its ‘specific actions’ would require social services’ involvement in delivery, notably: falls prevention, prevention of frailty and functional decline; ICT solutions to help older people stay independent, age-friendly places. ESN is considering how best to support the partnership.

You can find further information about funding opportunities, commitments and potential projects at the EIP’s new website.