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HEAL celebrates its 10th anniversary

On 25 September, HEAL celebrated 10 years of vibrant existence with a special evening reception at the European Parliament.

The successful evening reception to discuss new horizons for better health and environment-friendly lives was hosted by MEPs Peter Liese, Jo Leinen, Satu Hassi and Corinne Lepage.

Keynote speakers included Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and Philippe Grandjean, Harvard School of Public Health and University of Southern Denmark.

HEAL was also pleased to share videos from the EU Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard and EU Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg.

Formal remarks were also presented by HEAL’s president, Dr. Peter van den Hazel.

Génon K. Jensen, HEAL’s Executive Director, introduced the brand-new online photo diary “HEAL’s environmental health champions” – made up of the individuals who have made a difference in securing more protective health policies in Europe and beyond.

So far only a first group of champions have been uploaded in the gallery available here More individuals including those from HEAL’s membership will soon be online as well.

The following are some quotes and photos from a very special evening:

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe

‘Today we also know that a large part of cardiovascular diseases are directly caused by the fine particulate matter in the air that we breathe, and that environmental pollution with mercury or lead severely affects mental health and human intellect. Non-communicable diseases are the leading health concern today, and one quarter of the burden of diseases is attributed to environmental determinants.

So addressing the environmental determinants of diseases is public health at its best: it ensures longer, healthier and happier life for all of us.

’I am not a fortune teller, but evidence tells us that air quality, climate change, the safe management of chemicals, and sufficient, reliable and safe sources of water, food and energy are the great public health challenges of today and tomorrow in a world marked by population growth, urbanization, longevity and economic growth and prosperity’.

Addressing those environmental determinants is among the key interventions for preventing cancer, cardiovascular and the other non-communicable diseases that dominate the health agenda. On the environment side, the daunting task of understanding the challenge of sustainable development and “getting it right” for future generations is the most important question of all.’

Full speech available here: Why environmental protection matters for public health – new evidence and frameworks for policy makers

Philippe Grandjean, Harvard School of Public Health and University of Southern Denmark

‘HEAL is expected to produce advocacy, and during its first 10 years of its existence, HEAL has done a superb job in using scientific documentation to propose effective means to better protect human health and the environment. In fact, HEAL’s proposals are often so well documented that they sound like visionary science translation.

HEAL is acting like the caring physician, in this case with the environment as the patient.

I admire everybody who is part of this highly qualified, well argued, and socially responsible effort. And my admiration is much greater than my envy.’

Full speech available here: Envying an environment NGO

Host MEPs from left to right: Dr Peter Liese MEP, Jo Leinen MEP, Corinne Lepage MEP and Satu Hassi MEP

EU Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik

‘HEAL’s support over the past 10 years has been most valuable. We have set a path for a strong alliance between health and environmental interests. We have worked well together and together steered a sense of direction on many key issues.

If I were to summarise our working relationship in two words, it would be “respect” and “co-operation”. Although we might have difference views on some issues, we always look at them from the same perspective. We know that our health depends on the environment, just as much as the health of the environment depends on us.

Any policy without the real integration of environmental policy is a short-term illusion – and this is even more true for health policy.To illustrate with three examples:

  • Endocrine disruptors found in a wide range of products, including in cosmetics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals and the growing concern of how this may affect the hormone system.
  • Air quality – and the terrible effects of air pollution on our health
  • And Mercury – Minamata – an environmental health disaster that ended in a health tragedy. The agreement on the final text of the Minamata convention on mercury is an excellent example of how much we can achieve if we work closely together. The convention will be signed in Japan in a few weeks, after years of negotiations, will help us to take global action coordinated internationally towards reducing exposure to mercury. This is indeed a result we can be proud of.

But integration is never simple. Finding the right approach in dealing with sensitive issues is always a challenge. This is why your support, your experience and your expertise are so important.

And the support of the health community will be even more important as we bring forward our proposal on EU air policy and on a new strategy on endocrine disruptors, which I know many of you are waiting for.’

Full video speech available here as mpeg2:

Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard

‘Let me begin by congratulating you on your 10th Anniversary. You know better than anybody that health issues are an important aspect of climate action – with actual or potential impacts on people’s health and well-being – ranging from the impacts of extreme weather to the increased spread of diseases. Extreme higher temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular & respiratory diseases.

To minimise these impacts and their costs, Europe is not only going to have to mitigate climate change but also to adapt to climate change.

We must continue the transition to an efficient, low carbon economy. Yes, it costs, it doesn’t come for free but so does business as usual and that’s what people really must grasp. It also costs something to continue “business as usual”. That is why we do not want to continue “business as usual” in the Commission.

Thank you very much for your input. I wish you a fruitful debate and happy celebration this evening – and all the best for HEAL’s next 10 years’.

Full video speech available here:

EU Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg

‘First let me congratulate the Health and Environment Alliance for its 10th anniversary and for 10 years of working towards an environment for healthier people.

We all know that pollution has negative consequences on peoples’ health. Air pollution, for example, is a cause of cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma. In the EU alone, over 400,000 people die prematurely each year due to the effects of pollution.

By harming peoples’ health, pollution has wider effects on society: ill-health and premature death caused by pollution translates into time away from work. Disability causes shorter working lives. Cleaner air prevents diseases, helps reduce health costs and fosters longer, productive lives.

EU-funded research will provide air quality guidelines for schools from pollutants that can harm children’s health.

Improving air quality now and for future generations is our shared goal for a healthier, cleaner Europe.’

Full video speech available here:

First photo: From left to right - Dr. Peter van den Hazel, Génon K. Jensen, Zsuzsanna Jakab and Philippe Grandjean.

HEAL 10th anniversary photos available here

Photo copyright: HEAL/De Ribaucourt Photography

Last updated on 10 October 2013

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
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Phone: +32 2 234 3640
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Press: Elke Zander

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