University of Minnesota

European Society of Cardiology: Epidemiology and Prevention

The Seventh European Congress of Cardiology was held in 1976 in Amsterdam in elegant European style. Top-level scientific sessions and a stunning social program included a glittering reception at the Van Gogh Museum, a concert of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, and parade bands with a banquet in an immense medieval Guild Hall.

This Congress was also a milestone in the evolution of the ESC in that the Executive Board decided to hold annual Congresses and established six specialty Working Groups, among which was the Working Group on Epidemiology and Prevention. These far-reaching decisions arrived in a stagnant academy, and were mainly brought about through the turbulent force of Paul Hugenholtz, Professor of Cardiology at the Thoraxcenter, Rotterdam, and Member of the ESC Board. He sought to implement in the ESC certain features he admired from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, while preserving its European distinctions.

ESC congresses became annual events following the Tenth European Congress of Cardiology in Vienna in 1988, when Hugenholz headed the society. They have become almost as popular (and monstrous and commercial) as annual sessions of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology!

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) originated among members of national cardiac societies in 1950 at the First World Congress of Cardiology in Paris, during the growth of modern cardiology that accompanied economic recovery after World War II. The First European Congress of Cardiology was held in London in 1952 under the Presidency of Sir John Parkinson, and then every fourth year thereafter, with little activity in the interval years, at least until the late 1970s rejuvenation described here.

The ESC Working Group on Epidemiology and Prevention, established at Amsterdam in 1976, originated in the International Society and Foundation of Cardiology (ISFC) Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, when a core of some 150 cardiologists and investigators, having matriculated through the International Ten-Day Seminars in Epidemiology and become ESC members, were mobilized by Geoffrey Rose and Kalevi Pyörälä with the idea of forming a subsection of the Council to enhance contacts between Europeans involved in prevention. Enlisting Fred Epstein, Risteard Mulcahy, and George Lamm, they led an organizational meeting at the Amsterdam Congress, where, after due process, the Working Group was approved by the ESC Board and General Assembly. Geoffrey Rose and Heiner Günther were made founding Chairpersons, with Kalevi Pyörälä the Secretary.

The ESC Working Group has gone on to serve the same stimulatory role as the AHA Council on Epidemiology and Prevention: to get representation of epidemiological research in the programs of the ESC Congresses and to forward communications among clinical and academic groups concerned with CVD epidemiology and prevention research, practice, and policy.

The Working Group was subsequently strengthened by its role in creation of the Joint European Societies’ guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention (Pyörälä 1994; Wood 1998; De Backer 2003; and Graham 2007). It also established the Geoffrey Rose Lecture on Population Sciences held at ESC Congresses since 1995, and, since 1992, a Geoffrey Rose Young Investigators Competition held in connection with Working Group meetings.

The Working Group shares with the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention an annual Memorial Lecture in honor of Frederick Epstein, alternating European and American speakers and sites. It also initiated the SCORE project for practitioners to quantify cardiovascular disease risk based on European (rather than 1950s Framingham) cohort study data, and EUROASPIRE studies evaluating the practice of prevention in patients with clinically established coronary heart disease (Conroy 2003; EUROASPIRE Study Group 1997; EUROASPIRE II Study Group 2001; and EUROASPIRE I and II Group 2001).

Winds of the new millenium led further to the Working Group joining with the Working Group on Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Physiology in launching a new journal, the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. In 2003, the ESC Board began to plan the merger of these and smaller groups to form a new broad organization within the ESC, the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR). This merger, accepted in 2004 at the European Congress held in Munich, consists of six Sections: Basic Science, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Epidemiology and Public Health, Exercise Physiology, Prevention and Health Policy, and Sports Physiology. The new organization holds annual meetings called EUROPREVENT each spring. (

The EACPR continues the traditions of the Working Group on Epidemiology and Prevention in contributions to programs of the European Congresses of Cardiology and in sponsoring special lectures and award competitions. It continues the work on guidelines to cardiovascular disease prevention, in leadership on the Joint European Societies CVD Prevention Committee, and in EUROASPIRE studies to monitor practice of prevention and EUROACTION studies testing models of comprehensive preventive measures in hospital and primary health care settings.

Chairpersons of the ESC Working Group on Epidemiology and Prevention, 1976 to 2012

Geoffrey Rose (U.K.) & Heiner Günther (German D.R.) 1976-1979
Lars Wilhelmsen (Sweden) 1979-1981
Marcel Kornitzer (Belgium) 1976-1979
Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe (United Kingdom) 1979-1981
Zbynek Pisa (Czechoslovakia) 1981-1983
Dag Thelle (Norway) 1983-1985
Guy DeBacker (Belgium) 1985-1988
Susana Sans (Spain) 1988-1990
David Wood (United Kingdom) 1990-1992
Felix Gutzwiller (Switzerland) 1992-1994
Ulrich Keil (Germany) 1994-1996
Ian Graham (Ireland) 1996-1998
Jaakko Tuohilehto (Finland) 1998-2000
Andrzeij Rynkiewicz (Poland) 2000-2002
Hugo Saner (Switzerland) 2006-2008
David Wood (United Kingdom) 2008-2010
Pantaleo Giannuzzi 2010-2012



Conroy, R.M., K. Pyörälä, A. P. Fitzgerald, S. Sans, A. Menotti, G. De Backer, P.
Ducimetière et al. 2003. Estimation of ten-year risk of fatal cardiovascular disease in Europe: the SCORE project. European Heart Journal 24: 987-1003.

De Backer, G., E. Ambrosioni, K. Borch-Johnsen, C. Brotons, J. Dallongville,
S. Ebrahim, O. Faergeman et al. 2003. European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. Third Task Force of European and Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention Rehabilitation 10(Suppl 1):S1-S76.

European Society of Cardiology website:
EUROASPIRE Study Group 1997. EUROASPIRE. A European Society of Cardiology survey of secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Principal results. European Heart Journal 18:1569-82.

EUROASPIRE I and II Group 2001. Clinical reality of coronary prevention guidelines: a comparison of EUROASPIRE I and II in nine countries. The Lancet 357:995-1001.

EUROASPIRE II Study Group 2001. Lifestyle and risk factor management and use of cardiovascular drug therapies in coronary patients in 15 countries. Principal results from EUROASPIRE II Euro Heart Survey Programme. European Heart Journal 22:554-72.

Graham, I., D. Atar, K. Borch-Johnsen, G. Boysen, G. Burell, R. Cifkova, J. Dallongvile et al. 2007. European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. Fourth Joint Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and
Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention Rehabilitation14 (Suppl 2):S1-S113.

Pyörälä, K., G. De Backer, I. Graham, P. Poole-Wilson, and D. Wood. 1994. of coronary heart disease in clinical practice: Recommendations of the Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology, European Atherosclerosis Society, and the European Society of Hypertension. European Heart Journal 15:1300-31.

Wood, D., G. De Backer, O. Faergeman, I. Graham, G. Mancia, and K. Pyörälä. 1998. Prevention of coronary heart disease in clinical practice. Recommendations of the Second Task Force of European and other Societies on Coronary Prevention. European Heart Journal 19:1434-503.