In an increasingly networked world, the significance of international cooperation is also steadily growing in the health sector. Two key factors are international cooperation as a means of promoting health in Switzerland, and health as a component of development aid.
Editorial Diane Steber Büchli. Towards the end of the 20th century, illicit drugs became a serious public health problem in Switzerland, gaining widespread attention due to impoverished drug addicts and open drug scenes. To protect public health as well as public safety and security, professionals and politicians developed a multidisciplinary approach to the drug problem in the shape of the so-called "four-pillar policy", focussing on the pillars prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement. Many of the bold and innovative measures of the Swiss approach– needle exchange, injection rooms, substitution therapy with methadone and, in particular, heroin-assisted treatment – generated great interest and were taken up in other countries, too. more
UNGASS 2016. Eighteen years after its last Special Session on the topic of illicit drugs, the General Assembly of the United Nations has an opportunity to take ground-breaking decisions on international drug policy at a new Special Session scheduled for April 2016. Does it want to do so? Can it do so? What are its chances of success? more
Pompidou Group. In many countries, the prescription of opioid medicines such as methadone or buprenorphine is subject to rigorous restrictions. An expert group of the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group, the international cooperation group to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking in drugs, has now spoken out in favour of a paradigm shift: decisions to permit or prohibit the prescription of opioid medicines should be based on scientific findings and respect for human rights rather than on a repression-oriented approach. These medicines are the best possible treatment for large numbers of dependent opioid users, and therefore, in compliance with human rights, access to them should not be withheld or subjected to restrictions. On Switzerland's initiative, the experts nominated by participating Pompidou Group Member States are drawing up guidelines to help member states review their regulations on this form of therapy. Switzerland has been mandated to head this project. more
Interview with Ruth Dreifuss. After an interval of 18 years, a second United Nations Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem is to be held in New York in April 2016. Former government minister Ruth Dreifuss represented Switzerland at the 1998 Special Session as health minister. She will now be attending an UNGASS for the second time. We asked Ms Dreifuss what had changed since 1998. more
Switzerland's health-related foreign policy: which objectives does it pursue and what has it already achieved?
Swiss Health Foreign Policy. The process of globalisation and the internationalisation of the public health sector generate a great demand for coordination between health, foreign and development policies. In order to ensure Switzerland’s capability to be a convincing partner with a coherent position and to represent its interests in the best way possible, the Swiss Health Foreign Policy (HFP) was approved in 2012 to serve as an instrument for this coordination. Thematic areas such as transport, environment, energy, security and global health are increasingly important topics in international relations. They play a substantial role in the sustainable development of societies, and can therefore no longer be addressed in isolation – nor be restricted to a state’s territory. Thanks to its HFP, Switzerland is well equipped to formulate and implement a coordinated and coherent health policy approach at both national and international levels. In addition, health is a useful tool for strengthening and further developing our international relations with key partners. more
Editorial Tania Dussey-Cavassini. The health problems of a specific population are not confined to its residential area. Viruses, for instance, do not have passports, nor do national borders stop them from spreading. more
«People make behavioural choices, we cannot deny that. But the creation of the environment is part of the State’s responsibility.»
Interview with Gauden Galea. Federal and Cantonal authorities joined Swiss Health Promotion on June 22nd at the NCD Stakeholders' Event to present and discuss a draft for a National Noncommunicable Diseases Prevention Strategy. Dr Gauden Galea, Director, Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Lifecourse, WHO Regional Office for Europe, travelled from Copenhagen in order to show admiration for the Swiss model from the international perspective. Galea had special praise for the integrative aspects of the Swiss Strategy Draft, its solid basis on evidence, emphasis on prevention, and inclusion of economically disadvantaged and vulnerable population groups. He also commends the consultative and participatory process. more
Non-communicable diseases. Cancer, cardiovascular diseases or diabetes mellitus: non-communicable diseases are now the number-one cause of death all over the world. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan described the spread of these diseases as a "slow motion disaster" and one of the biggest health challenges of the future. more
Tobacco control. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan calls for human rights concerns to play a greater role in the fight against the tobacco industry. more
Conferences on opioid dependence. Two conferences on the treatment of opioid dependence were held concurrently in Geneva on 18 and 19 October: NaSuKo (3rd national conference on substitution treatment) and TOD (3rd francophone international symposium on the treatment of opioid dependence). More than 450 experts from Switzerland and a number of other French-speaking countries attended the two conferences. more