OREANDA-NEWS. In the European Union (EU), 1.7 million persons aged less than 75 died in 2013. Among them, around 577 500 deaths (or 33.7% of total deaths) could be considered as premature, as they could have been avoided in the light of medical knowledge and technology. Heart attacks (184 800 deaths) and strokes (almost 94 000 deaths) accounted together for almost half (48%) of these total avoidable causes of death of people aged less than 75.

This information on avoidable deaths through optimal health care (i.e. amenable deaths) comes from a report issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The concept of avoidable mortality is based on the idea that certain deaths (for specific age groups and from specific diseases) could be 'avoided' – meaning they would not have occurred at this stage – if there had been timely and effective health care in place.

This indicator on amenable mortality is aimed to be used in a global context of health system performance assessments. Assessing the performance of health care systems is of increasing importance in the EU. While the amenable mortality indicator is not meant to be a definite or unique measurement of the quality of health care in the Member States, it provides some indication of the quality and performance of healthcare policies in a country.

Largest shares of avoidable deaths in Romania and Latvia, lowest in France

The proportions of potentially avoidable deaths through optimal health care among all deaths of persons aged less than 75 in 2013 vary considerably between EU Member States. The highest shares of avoidable deaths were registered in Romania (49.4%) and Latvia (48.5%), followed by Lithuania (45.4%) and Slovakia (44.6%). On the other hand, the share was below 30% in France (23.8%), ahead of Denmark (27.1%), Belgium (27.5%) and the Netherlands (29.1%).

A third of potentially avoidable deaths in the EU concerned heart diseases

In the EU in 2013, heart attacks (184 800 avoidable deaths or 32% of total avoidable deaths of persons aged less than 75) accounted by far for the largest share of potentially avoidable deaths. They were followed by strokes (93 900, or 16%), colorectal cancers (67 000 or 12%), breast cancers (50 800 or 9%), hypertensive diseases (28 700 or 5%) and pneumonia (24 100 or 4%).