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WORLD HEALTH DAY | 7 April 2020
Healthcare is considered one of the major challenges in Europe and worldwide. In the upcoming decade healthcare will remain a top priority politically as well as socio-economically, and its importance will be intensified due to demographic change and spiralling costs that put even the richest nations under pressure.
The UN’s specialised agency for international public health, the World Health Organisation (WHO), is constantly striving to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.
World Health Day is a means to draw attention to the matters of the WHO, for example focussing on the need for universal primary healthcare for all people – an objective that has in fact always been central to the WHO.
On 7 April 2020, this year’s World Health Day will place a spotlight focus on nurses and midwives. In this International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the WHO aims to strengthen and raise the profile of this key pillar of the healthcare workforce.
The provision of sustainable, safe and reliable health services around the world is importantly underpinned by research in measurement science (or, metrology) – a field that governs our ability to measure everything that is needed for human activity.
Huge efforts have been made in the last two decades to improve the reliability and accuracy of measurements in the health sector. These measurements support precise diagnosis, safe and effective treatment and the thorough assessment of new medical techniques. From the quantification of infectious agents for the improved diagnosis of tuberculosis, to radiation dose measurements for the safe delivery of ultrasound cancer treatments; metrology plays an instrumental role in supporting clinicians and nurses with the diagnosis, treatment or even prevention of illnesses and diseases worldwide. This not only contributes to improved public health but supports an important industry as well.
EURAMET (the European Association of National Metrology Institutes) is responsible for coordinating measurement science research across Europe. The collaborative structure of Europe’s measurement science community has been shaped by pooling together the expertise from metrology institutes, academia and industry to develop accurate and reliable measurement standards and methods that can meet societal and healthcare needs. The impact oriented work of EURAMET also helps policymakers to implement critical regulations, like the Medical Device and In-Vitro Diagnostic Directives, which have been set out to ensure the safety of everyday medical procedures taking place around the region.
EURAMET’s most recently completed programme - the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP*) - has supported various health projects to deliver positive impact to medical clinicians, researchers and instrument manufacturers alike. Notably, the medical therapy and imaging sector were found to have made early use of improved metrology capabilities to better diagnose and treat both degenerative and cancerous diseases. Following the EMRP, the European Metrology Programme for Innovation and Research (EMPIR**) is presently the driving force behind innovative measurement solutions for healthcare – particularly important in the current existential crisis caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Another pressing healthcare challenge today is the rise of anti-microbial resistance in disease-causing pathogens. Anti-microbial resistance is the ability of a pathogen to prevent anti-microbial drugs (like antibiotics) from working against it, rendering treatments for infectious diseases ineffective. In 2016, almost half a million people across the globe developed multi-drug resistance to tuberculosis alone. This rise in anti-microbial resistance has affected the accurate and timely diagnosis of many life-threatening infectious diseases – which are normally detected in clinical laboratories using standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques. A EURAMET research project has improved a highly accurate digital form of the PCR technique, making it easier to identify drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases, and therefore to effectively treat serious infections like influenza, malaria and tuberculosis.
Other EURAMET research projects have focused on advancing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is widely used in healthcare to provide high-resolution images for diagnosing medical conditions – including chest tumours, liver diseases and heart problems – using strong magnetic fields and radio waves to scan the inside of the body. An EMRP joint research project has helped new, higher strength MRI scanners to be adopted into hospitals by addressing concerns about the safety of their clinical use. EMRP projects have additionally created a platform for stakeholders to collaborate in health research; in this case, leading manufacturers of MRI scanners and X-ray therapy machines were able to join forces to develop an MRI-guided radiotherapy technique. This ground-breaking new method will allow clinicians to track target tumour sites in real time – helping to deliver more precise, targeted radiotherapy cancer treatments than ever before.
Today, EURAMET continues to inspire the European measurement community to collaboratively conduct the research needed to tackle global healthcare challenges. Under EURAMET’s collective umbrella, measurement science institutes maintain their efforts to develop new metrology technologies and concepts, supporting healthcare infrastructures and workforces across Europe, and taking us closer to achieving the UN’s primary goal of high-quality, universal healthcare for all.
**EMPIR is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.
*EMRP has been jointly funded by the EMRP participating countries within EURAMET and the European Union.
World Health Day Campaign
To find out more about the role and impact of measurement science in healthcare, follow EURAMET’s #measurementsforhealth hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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EURAMET thanks all the institutes that have contributed to the development of this campaign: