This policy brief reports key findings of a study carried out by the NDPHS Expert Group for Non-communicable diseases. The study analyzed official mortality data on premature deaths under 70 years of age in eight countries in the Northern Dimension area (Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden) and found that the PYLL rate (“Potential Years of Life Lost”) differs considerably among ND area countries. A striking feature is its gender difference, being on average 2.5 times higher for men than for women. Most of this difference is due to external causes of death such as suicides and traffic accidents. Alcohol-related causes also have a heavy male over-representation. The general development in public health outcome was however good in 2003-2013, resulting in an average 26% PYLL reduction. Encouraging trends include a decrease in losses caused by vascular (heart) diseases, cancer and external causes, such as suicides and alcohol-related causes, in all ND countries that participated in the study.
The results of the study led to the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 1. Premature mortality can be prevented effectively by designing and implementing health and economic policies on health promotion and disease prevention. Evidence-based treatment of diseases also makes a difference, but is less effective than the prevention of diseases and accidents.
- Recommendation 2. Positive changes in male health behavior have an immediate decreasing effect on overall premature mortality. Policies should be targeted towards improving traffic and occupational safety, and decreasing harmful use of alcohol.
- Recommendation 3. Public health strategies should be intersectoral and involve all stakeholders. Practising Health in All Policies (HiAP), promoting healthy lifestyles and holistic healthcare are crucial for preventing and avoiding many premature deaths.
- Recommendation 4. PYLL rate was selected in 2015 as the indicator to measure the progress of the current 2016-2020 Strategy of the NDPHS. Continuing this practice in the renewed strategy beyond 2020 is highly recommended. The ongoing ND PYLL-2 study should also pre-assess the 2020 COVID-19 caused years of life lost in order to evaluate its burden on the public health of populations.
- Recommendation 5. Health policy makers are invited to discuss the results of the PYLL-2 study, launched by the NDPHS NCD Expert Group in 2020, in workshops that will be organized in 2021 in selected NDPHS countries.
The Policy Brief can be downloaded here
For more information contact the author Mikko Vienonen, NDPHS/NCD Expert Group, vienonen.m.[at]gmail.com