WELCOME to the 5th CHRODIS PLUS Newsletter

Dear Reader, 

The summer has come and gone and now new challenges and opportunities await us. The major change and news affecting us at present is one that you may have already heard about: our Coordinator Antonio Sarria Santamera has relocated to take up a new position in the Nazarbayev University School of Medicine in Kazakhstan. Over the summer, we conducted an interview with him that we will feature in this newsletter.

We would also like to invite you to a workshop and a webinar organised around the theme of the workplace and non-communicable diseases. The invitation to these unique events can also be found in this newsletter.  

Furthermore, this issue features an article about a Spanish city where over 50 elderly people now do regular physical training that follows a CHRODIS good practice. We also offer an interview with Dr. Tsoutsas Georgios, the Treasurer of the Panhellenic Federation of People with Diabetes, and Stephanie Tziatziou, a medical student from Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki. And what do they have in common? They are both diabetes patients and look to CHRODIS PLUS for professional inspiration. 

Does healthy food guarantee a healthy lifestyle? We took a closer look into this issue in an interview with an expert of the Italian Ministry of Health. 

We are also happy to share the latest project news and believe that you will enjoy reading our newsletter as much as we enjoyed writing it. 🙂

Greetings from your CHRODIS PLUS Communications Team:


Zuzana Matlonova  

Zoltan Albert Aszalos

Eva Csecsodi

Interview with outgoing Project Coordinator Antonio Sarría Santamera

Some of you may already know that our project coordinator Antonio Sarria Santamera has accepted a job offer to pursue a new and exciting position in another country. Before Antonio moved on from our project, we sat down with him to discover his motivation for accepting his new job and the challenges that he faces. Through this interview, you may learn something that you previously did not know about Antonio. 

Q: What was the major motivating factor for you as the coordinator of our CHRODIS PLUS project ?

Antonio: My motivation arises from my willingness to contribute to tackling the burden and complexity of non-communicable diseases (NCD).

NCDs are the leading European cause of ill health and disability, and create significant adverse effects for families, communities and countries in terms of reduced quality of life, premature deaths, as well as with respect to an excess of health services utilisation. NCDs impact the health of the population as well as the sustainability of the healthcare system. The economic burden for our societies is enormous: when lost economic productivity is included, the total economic impact is equivalent to nearly 20% of our GDP.  Long-term sickness absence often leads to unemployment and is a major predictor for all types of labour market exits, including disability pensions and early retirement. These are all major financial burdens for employers, governments and society in general. Unfortunately, those losses are projected to continue to grow. 

There is good news, however: cost-effective interventions do exist. The most successful strategies have employed a range of population-wide approaches combined with interventions for individuals. These approaches require concerted efforts by governments, community groups, employers, the health system, and individuals. In addition to disease-specific actions, changes are also required to provide improved support for people at risk of developing, or living with, all types of chronic diseases. CHRODIS PLUS is precisely about turning great ideas into tangible solutions that meet the needs that our societies are facing as well as produce sustainable benefits.

Q: Some articles in this Newsletter are focused on patients. How do you perceive the role/involvement of patients in our project?

Antonio: The role of patients in facing NCDs is essential, but that means moving further than the rhetoric, and making them really involved by “empowering” them to be actively involved in thinking about, monitoring, tracking and managing their health and NCD. That implies their meaningful involvement to co-create practical solutions that meet their needs: improving their health literacy; making them able to access relevant information; facilitate communication channels with their providers; ensuring continuity of care across the levels and settings of care; guaranteeing that the most vulnerable groups are not left behind.

Q: Can you reveal a bit more about your next steps – your future career ambitions?

Antonio: I’m moving to the Nazarbayev University School of Medicine (NUSOM), in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan in August. Nazarbayev University was established in 2010 to become the country’s flagship academic institution with aspirations of becoming a global research university. Although this personal change means that I will have to step down as the Coordinator for CHRODIS PLUS, for me this is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the commitment of NUSOM to improve the quality of medical education and to prepare physicians to become leaders in a new era of medicine and healthcare in the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as to have the opportunity to be directly involved in the transformation of the healthcare system that is required to meet the public health challenges of the country, and its willingness to be recognised as a Central Asian and international leader in biomedical research.

I am confident that I will be able to make a difference developing distinctive responses to those challenges, partnering with local political stakeholders and with my academic activities support the tackling of NCDs  through prevention and promoting healthy lifestyles, and improving local healthcare delivery systems, including the professional competencies in the field of NCDs. I look forward to the hands-on work with colleagues at NUSOM to meet those challenges through teaching, research and service.

Webinar invitation: Employment and Chronic Conditions in Europe – Facing the Challenge

Organisers: CHRODIS+ Work Package 8 “Chronic Diseases and Employment” in collaboration with the EU Health Policy Platform

Title: Employment and Chronic Conditions  in Europe – Facing the Challenge

Date: 19 September 2019 from 14:00 to 15:00 (CET)

Webinar link: here

This webinar aims to inform viewers about the launch of the CHRODIS PLUS Training Tool. This tool has been developed to help employers understand the benefits of the workplace inclusion, integration and reintegration of people suffering from chronic diseases. Managers are encouraged to implement the Training Tool to evaluate the inclusiveness and workability of their teams so as to create facilitating environments for reaching desirable organisational outcomes: productivity, job satisfaction of all employees, and organisational commitment. Thus, it gives a general heads up on the importance and impact of these themes in today’s society.

One out of four working people are interested in the topic of employment and chronic diseases. The webinar will demonstrate the importance of informing managers, HR and employers in regards to the capacities of people with chronic conditions so that they can continue working, return to work, maintain their work, and challenge stigmas and inappropriate behaviors when there is a disclosure of a chronic condition. 

Information on the draft agenda and instructions on how to connect to the webinar are available on our website here.

We look forward to your participation in this webinar.

Invitation to a Policy Dialogue on Employment and Chronic Conditions in the European Parliament – 12 November

Date: 12 November 2019, Tuesday 09:00-11:00

Location: Room JAN 6Q1, European Parliament, Brussels

Official language: English

The aim of the EU Policy Dialogue on Employment and Chronic Conditions is to define together with relevant EU stakeholders a European roadmap able to achieve a common understanding of  the benefits of  inclusion, integration and reintegration of people suffering from chronic diseases and to promote the adaptation of the workplace to facilitate access, health prevention and maintenance of work of the general population. The desirable outcome of the Policy Dialogue is to come up with shared recommendations on the importance of considering people with chronic diseases in the workplace and on how stakeholders at European and national level can implement it. This goal can be also reached by means of using the Chrodis Plus Toolbox on employment and chronic conditions developed within the EU Joint Action CRODIS PLUS  and presented at the EU Parliament during the policy dialogue. The Policy Dialogue aims to achieve inclusive employment for all people with or without a health condition. More details to come here.

CHRODIS PLUS to improve the health of European citizens

The town of Utebo in Aragon, Spain is promoting a pioneering experience based on the CHRODIS best practice from Iceland, to encourage active aging among the elderly

Every day, José Luis Guardado and Petri Belver, a retired Utebo couple who are 72 and 68 years old, respectively, try to take a break to go walking “at a rapid pace”. On Mondays and Wednesdays, they also train in the fitness room and on Fridays participate in the scheduled walk on the athletics track. “We had never set foot in a gym until now, but since we have started this activity, we have made it a routine and it is a commitment for us now, and we feel better.” The same opinion is  shared by Fidel Palacián (70) and María Monzón (68), who participate enthusiastically in the programme: “It’s wonderful. I have regained flexibility, strength in my legs and, despite the short amount of time that we have been doing the programme, we are noticing the benefits. “The recipe is to combine movement with a healthy diet.”

These individuals are four of the 53 volunteers participating in a pioneering programme in Utebo, included in the European health plan CHRODIS PLUS, which seeks to repeat the success of the Icelandic experience in encouraging active aging among people over 65 years, as well as promoting sports with guided exercises and periodic controls. See a description of the Icelanding best practice here.

To assure the correct development of the project, different actors participate, who make up a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional team. It is coordinated by the Aragonese Institute of Health Sciences (IACS) and advised by the Carlos III Health Institute. This pilot programme takes place in Utebo, with the participation of the health centre and municipal sports services of the city council. Two of the technicians, Juan Luis Felipe and Juan Carlos García, traveled to Iceland before the implementation of the programme so that they could then adapt the guidelines for Aragon. Felipe reports that, although the programme has only been running for a short time, “the results are very positive” and “there are people who start to find themselves physically better from the first minute of beginning the plan”.

Nurse Pilar Grajera remembers that before starting the training course, they carried out controls and tests on all of the participants: “We measured different parameters, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, weight, blood pressure …”. And they also conducted some tests on their state of health: “They undertook it with great enthusiasm and are motivated, because they go in a group and see that they are progressing”. The volunteers are over 65 years old and the age range is diverse, with the oldest being 82.

Felipe summarses that they have a daily walking routine, although on Friday they all go for a walk together and do warm-ups and stretching exercises. Two gym sessions are also scheduled: “There are two important things, awareness and the institutional collaboration of the sports and health service”.

Link to the original article:


Interview with Valentina Strammiello, European Patients’ Forum

In this edition of the CHRODIS + Newsletter we present one of our European project partners – the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) represented by Senior Programme Manager, Ms Valentina Strammiello, who speaks about patient involvement throughout the project and the very first European Congress focused solely on patients.

Q: What has been the greatest achievement for you in promoting the benefit of patients through the CHRODIS + project?

Valentina: Meaningful involvement of patients in the CHRODIS + project happens through several channels. One of the strongest and most impactful ways is to engage patients within Work Package 7 (WP7) and the study visits linked to it. The aim of WP7 is to foster high-quality care for people with chronic diseases through the implementation of a set of quality criteria and recommendations defined in the previous Joint Action CHRODIS. EPF Secretariat has organized and attended 5 study visits throughout 2019 together with other project partners and have witnessed how patients and patient representatives have taken active part during the days of the study visits, where they were the target group. These visits aimed at disseminating and communicating activities that included different national stakeholders, presenting a mid-term analysis of the data and information on each site, and with a goal to introducing changes into the Pilot Action Plans (PAPs) in the five countries, embedding the perspectives of patients as well. Furthermore, patients and patient representatives have been consulted when developing and implementing these respective PAPs and will continue to do so until the end of the Project.

Q: What is the main message you would like participants to understand during the upcoming EPF Congress?

Valentina: This will be the first European Congress on patient involvement truly driven by patients. Patient involvement in regulatory and health policy-decision making has become more and more advanced over the years, however there is much work to be done, and the  Congress will shed light on the various areas and ways in which this can be achieved for patients and with patients.

The Congress will result in tangible learning outcomes and guidance to advance meaningful patient involvement in the design of effective healthcare systems and services, including to medicine development pathways. All participants will acquire an overall in-depth knowledge of the added value of meaningful patient involvement, new knowledge and ideas on the patient’s intrinsic role in valuable innovation and an understanding of how different EU countries and areas of health systems are faring in patient engagement and involvement. They will also gain an unforgettable experience, an unparalleled opportunity to connect and network with a very diverse audience from across the health sector, from patient representatives, to public authorities, industry representatives and researchers, to name a few.

Voice of the patients

Interview with Stephanie Tziatziou, Medical student at Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki. Diabetes patient

Q: What do you expect from the CHRODIS PLUS programme?

Stephanie: Diabetes patients need more precise medication since there is room for improvement with respect to a more personalised treatment with medicine. In fact, the entire system of medication should be improved. As far as food is concerned, many diabetes patients are not aware of the diet they should be following when they are looking to stabilise or improve their health status. So this is another challenge where we expect CHRODIS PLUS to provide support. 

Q: What do you do personally to keep yourself healthy? 

Stephanie: I kick box on a regular basis; in fact I train for two hours every day. It goes a long way towards  keeping myself being and feeling healthy. I follow a healthy diet, which contains vegetables, fruits and chicken, and I generally prefer to eat food with a lot of protein and less fat. I am also looking forward to suggestions on a healthy lifestyle from CHRODIS PLUS, something that I can use for daily guidance.

Interview with Tsoutsas Georgios, the Treasurer of the Panhellenic Federation of People with Diabetes, medical doctor, a Type 1 Diabetes patient

Q: Why do you think CHRODIS PLUS is important for your organisation? 

Tsoutsas: Our Diabetes Federation is part of the CHRODIS PLUS project, as this programme can directly provide support to patients to live a healthier life. We have to take into consideration that in our public health system, doctors do not have all of the necessary time to listen to patients and provide them with the best advice on how to live with diabetes.

More than half of the patients have already been diagnosed with a complication, for example with their kidneys, eyes, etc. and medical intervention may prove to be late. Thus, as a Federation, we aim to raise awareness about recognising diabetes from early symptoms, especially in the case of Type 2 Diabetes. We work to prevent complications, and for those with a recognised form of diabetes, we promote a different lifestyle: more intensive physical activity and different eating habits. We believe CHRODIS PLUS will help us to improve our efforts to serve about 100,000 diabetes patients in Greece. 

Healthy food – healthy living 

Interview with Pasquale Simonetti, Veterinary Officer in the Italian Ministry of Health

Q: Why does a veterinary officer work at the Ministry of Health? What is the link between animal and human health?

Pasquale: Italy integrated animal and human health, food safety and nutrition under one ministry. There is a strict connection between animal and human health, as 60 percent of animal diseases are also human diseases. There is obviously also a strong connection between food and animals as depending on eating habits, a significant portion of our food is of animal origin. We try to prevent food pollution by working on the health of animals raised for food. 

Q: How does the food we eat influence our health? How can we prevent diseases by eating healthy?

Paqsuale: According to my PhD, food strongly influences health. With all public funds invested in healthcare, we believe more focus should be put on prevention. In Italy, for instance, we have the so called ‘mediterranean diet’, which is a good example of how to prevent chronic diseases through healthy eating. It is efficient in combating NCDs and achieving long human life, while it also enables us to move towards more sustainable agricultural practices. 

CHRODIS PLUS site visits in Andalucia and Aragon

Two CHRODIS PLUS institutional partners: the Carlos III Institute of Health (ISCIII) and the Agència de Qualitat i Avaluació Sanitàries de Catalunya (AQuAS) have participated in two visits to two locations in Spain – Andalucía and Aragón, where two good practices are implemented in our project. 

On 7 June 2019, Carmen Rodriguez-Blazquez (ISCIII) and Elisa Poses-Ferrer (AQuAS) visited the San Jose de la Rinconada primary care center in Seville. They received information on the Andalusian Comprehensive Healthcare Plan for Patients with Chronic Diseases (which includes training activities for health professionals), and the way Individualized care plans for multimorbid patients are completed within the corporate electronic health record (Diraya), and shared with patients. 

Visit to implementation site in Seville (Andalucía), Spain

Fifty-three volunteers are participating in a pioneer programme in Utebo, a rural town close to Zaragoza, that aims to replicate the success of an Icelandic programme that promotes active aging for those over 65 years of age, as well as guided physical activity and periodic controls. (See the patient perspective in our article above.)

On 21 June 2019, Carmen Rodriguez-Blazquez and Maria João Forjaz (representing the Carlos III Institute in Madrid), paid a visit to the Aragon Health Sciences Institute (IACS) in Zaragoza, Spain. They visited the primary care centre Actur-Norte as well as the Chronic Care Unit at Royo Villanova Hospital. The implementation team presented the three main strategies of the practice: training of professionals in multimorbidity (eMultiPAP), integrating complex chronic patient components (comprehensive assessment, virtual interconsultation, and electronic health records), and community care actions (health needs identification and resources map). 

Visit to implementation site in Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain

Both site visits offered a great opportunity to deepen the knowledge of the activities of Spanish sites and to share the lessons learned by implementers.


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