'Dramatic increases in life-expectancy constitute one of the most remarkable advances of the twentieth century. Why prolong life if this is to be accompanied by increases in severe mental and physical disability ? A further challenge confronts us - increasing life-expectancy in good health'.

This was our concluding statement last year on the first page of the work-programme of the Concerted Action EURO-REVES: Harmonization of Health Expectancy in Europe. EURO-REVES began officially a few weeks ago and this first newsletter launches it for the next three years, with four practical pages summarizing its objectives and updating its work-programme.

Although disability-free life expec-tancy values are now available for 14 European countries (Austria, Bel-gium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), in fact 11 out of the 15 Union members, it is impossible to make meaningful comparisons due to the very great differences in the questions used and the research designs. This seriously limits the usefulness of the calcula-tions and justifies the implementation of a harmonization process at the Union level. One of the main objec-tives of EURO-REVES is to promote a common 'European Standard'.

A number of difficulties are still to be resolved and EURO-REVES has given itself three years to identify them and to examine possible solutions. For practical purposes, the work of the network is divided into three sub-committees: Policy Relevance and Conceptual Harmo-nization; Research Design and Calculation Methods; Mental Health indicators.

At present EURO-REVES consists of fifteen teams, representing a wide range of disciplines emanating from twelve European countries. EURO-REVES hopes to include at least one team from each member state of the Union (and some from the Eastern European Countries) in order to initiate calculations of health expectancies in countries where no calculations have been carried out up to now.

These teams should include members from the National Institutes of Statistics implicated in the generation of health statistics and academics specialized in the measure of health.

The Newsletter has three objectives : (a) inform the members of the extended network of internal time schedules and progress of the EURO-REVES project; (b) distribute throug-hout the Community information regarding work being carried out in member states on health expectancies and associated areas; (c) participate in the creation of a community "sanometric" culture. It is distributed in each country to the persons in charge of the health report, health and disability survey, survey methods, mortality and health statistics.

EURO-REVES seeks to formalize early attempts to coordinate calcu-lations within a European context. If the principal objective of social and health systems is not only to prolong life but also to maintain its quality in terms of autonomy and social func-tioning for as long as possible, then health expectancy comes close in theory to an ideal indicator for monitoring the realisation of health objectives in Europe. The Union has declared its responsibility for the development of a common European point of view in this area. Institutions such as EUROSTAT will be able to efficiently harmonize European health surveys if there exists true European 'sanometrics'.

Jean-Marie Robine

Project leader

n1 - January 1995