Fertility Europe is the Pan-European organization representing 25 patients’ associations from 23 countries. They are dedicated to infertility, enabling a network for those concerned with fertility problems, patient empowerment, engaging other stakeholders and the media since 2009.
We asked Satu Rautakallio-Hokkanen, who is Chair of Fertility Europe for an interview to learn more about the situation of people affected by infertility in Europe.
Satu Rautakallio-Hokkanen, can you tell us a little bit more about the creation of Fertility Europe? Why was this patient organization created and how did the creation take place?
Fertility Europe was created in 2008-2009 by 9 patient organizations from Belgium, Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Slovak Republic, Switzerland and the United Kingdom because they felt there was a need for patient organizations to unite in an independent, relevant and transparent association, dedicated to the needs and rights of those having difficulty conceiving and active in the field of prevention and responsible approach to health.
How many patient associations do you currently represent?
We currently represent 25 patient associations in the field of (in)fertility in 23 European countries.
What are the main goals of Fertility Europe?
The three main goals of Fertility Europe are to:
- build a strong European network among European patients and professionals in order to achieve the exchange of best practice
- promote education in the field of protection of reproductive health and a pro-active approach to family planning
- improve the situation concerning the rights of those affected by difficulties in conceiving in many areas.
In addition, networking and sharing of best practices, information, fundraising tools, policies, advocacy strategies amongst the national patient associations is extremely important. We learn from each other, our work together is based on transparency and democratic principles, we become more responsible and play a more important role both nationally and on the European level. With clear structure, transparent financing from diverse sources, elections, democracy and co-operation on all levels of fertility / infertility issues Fertility Europe is respecting all views and differences among people in Europe.
So, what is the current situation for people affected by infertility in Europe?
Today, in the European Union more than 25 million citizens are affected by infertility. Among those, many are still struggling to get access to the appropriate information, diagnosis and treatments. Against this background, Fertility Europe has been calling for a couple of years on European policymakers to ensure equal, fair and safe access to fertility treatments. Progress has been slow, however, in removing existing barriers. For this reason, this year’s European Fertility Week, organized on 2-8 November, aims to shed light on issues that must be addressed urgently to allow equitable access to fertility treatments and fertility education across Europe.
What outcomes are you expecting from this year’s European Fertility Week?
The European Fertility Week was launched in 2016 to bring to light the rarely talked about fertility and infertility dilemma in Europe. Ahead of the publication of the European Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy later this month, which brings equal access to safe, state-of-the-art therapies among its pillars, the EFW2020 will shed a special light on the uneven access to fertility treatments across Europe. We call on health authorities across Europe to ensure citizens’ right to access fertility screening and treatment, and to ensure that reliable information be made available about factors that influence one’s own fertility.
We thus call on the European Commission and Member States to foster dialogue and the exchange of best practices between national health authorities with a view towards ensuring equitable access to fertility treatments across Europe, therefore avoiding situations where patients are forced to travel abroad in search of medical support, incurring risks to themselves and their offspring, which are made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the middle of the greatest pandemic that Europe has known in a century and which has itself hampered patients’ access to infertility screening and treatment, we count on decision makers to take steps towards granting all EU citizens equal opportunities of building a family.