Incontinence is a major health issue that affects a large part of Europe’s population, but is currently not receiving the focus and attention it should. It does not only have a significant impact on patients and their loved ones, but also national health systems, the economy, the environment and society. The EAU Policy Office has initiated a new Europe-wide campaign, called An Urge to Act, which aims to achieve substantial change in EU policies relating to incontinence.
Continence problems are a prevalent issue with consequences that are felt across all genders, regardless of age or socio-economic background. They are often the result of another condition or a side effect of treatment, are debilitating and often chronic, and can result in a serious negative impact on the patients’ quality of life. Physical, psychosocial and economic consequences for patients and their carers are common. While optimal continence health should be a reality for everybody, we must acknowledge that risk often correlates with age, and the burden of long-term care for people suffering from continence problems still falls disproportionately on women.
The good news is that there are many ways to improve continence health, and a lot more can be done to reduce the burden on patients, their carers, and society. “An Urge to Act” will lead the call for policymakers to recognise the burden of continence health problems, improve diagnosis and optimise patient outcomes in Europe through increased prevention, better care and access to supportive interventions, including treatment.
An Urge to Act perfectly ties into European health initiatives such as collaborative programmes on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and research, as well as European legislation on waste management, green policies and the classification of continence-related products. With the upcoming European elections this is the moment to act and to get continence health on the agenda.
While interventions to prevent, manage, and even cure incontinence exist, these interventions are not currently being implemented to their full potential. Thus, many patients endure unnecessary suffering. On top of this, the associated healthcare costs, productivity losses, reduced quality of life, and ecological problems due to incontinence product waste impose substantial burdens on individuals, families and society. Healthcare professionals and informal carers are putting in a strong effort within the existing constraints of Europe’s various healthcare systems.
However, the current systems have not yet fully adapted to support continence care. Policies and laws across Europe and in individual EU member states need to prioritise continence care, especially because of its prevalence and the vast availability of solutions. If no action is taken to support continence health, continence problems will become one of the leading health issues in Europe. It is time to take urgent action and address the continence health challenge head on.