World Health Organization (WHO) has recently published a report entitled Preventing Chronic Diseases a Vital Investment. This report concurs that 61% of global deaths in the year 2005 will be caused by non-communicable diseases; 30% by communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies; and a further 9% by injuries. In all Europe and certainly in Central and Eastern Europe the share of lifestyle dependent chronic diseases is even larger than given below as the recent report from the WHO European Region shows. EUROSTAT in turn has published results concerning life-expectancy at birth in the 25 European Union nations. These figures show that not only is the life-expectancy at birth in the 15 member European Union longer but also differences between men and women smaller in comparison to the ten new member states. This result also refers to great lifestyle differences by gender in the new member states.
The above shows that the health of the Central and Eastern European nations is very much dependent on lifestyle, and that the problem involves the male sex especially. Mortality trends examination shows that the health situation of the Central and Eastern European nations deteriorated significantly after the collapse of the socialist regime, and that only in few of them the trend has turned again into a positive direction. For reasons related to the societal turmoil and attempts to control it the male stress has increased and lifestyle worsened.
The WHO Global Burden of Disease Project showed that in the high income European countries (referring by and large to the 15 European Union countries) ischemic heart disease is the greatest killer among persons over 45 years of age while depression and dementia cause the greatest diseases burden in them. In the low income European countries (including the Central and Eastern European countries) ischemic heart disease is the primary cause for mortality after 30 years and the most significant reason for burden of disease after 45 years of age - in the age bracket 5 to 45 depression is the most significant cause for burden of diseases.
Behavioral medicine strives to understand the development and integration of sociocultural, psychosocial, behavioral and biomedical knowledge relevant to health and illness and to apply this knowledge into diseases prevention and health promotion. Based on the above description concerning health challenges and knowledge of the research interests in behavioral medicine it is easy to conclude that behavioral medicine knowledge is very relevant for trying to cope with health challenges of Europe.
The European Society of Cardiology has already noticed that and employed International Society of Behavioral Medicine (ISBM) expertise in the creation of its current clinical care guidelines. The same development will very likely happen as far as diabetes care is concerned. WHO in turn has used behavioral medicine expertise in its effort to increase chronic diseases treatment compliance in patients.
The Central and Eastern Europe has currently three member societies of ISBM. The Hungarian Society has together with persons representing other countries of the region started a behavioral medicine network that has worked very efficiently partly on the basis of resources derived from ISBM. While the network certainly improves communication between researchers and experts and can arrange, e.g., symposia, it would without doubt be good if the network would evolve into an organized regional society of behavioral medicine encompassing all countries and joining to ISBM. I am confident that the First Symposium of the Central Eastern European Behavioral Medicine Network 14-16 October 2005 in Targu-Mures, Romania contributes to both of the aforementioned goals.