01.07.2013 At first hand

Editorial Andrea Arz de Falco. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has a vested interest in schools because they play an important role in public health. All children in Switzerland have the right to a basic education. During the years that children and adolescents spend at school, they also learn a great deal about their health. In the classroom they are taught the essentials of hygiene and biology, and in the corridors and during the breaks they learn behaviour and skills relating to diet, physical activity and how to deal with stress, conflict and risk situations. This stands them in good stead for the rest of their lives. We also know that a good atmosphere at school has a positive effect on performance in teachers, children and adolescents.

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Thanks to school medical services, the municipalities and cantons can keep the health-related information they provide for children up to date, and they can implement measures that are important for public health. These include early identification and early intervention in cases of risk-taking behaviour, the provision of healthy canteen meals, the creation of school settings conducive to physical activity, and vaccination services.

Much that is nowadays taken for granted was not a topic for the classroom when I was at school, for instance discussions about addiction problems, how to cope with violence, or smoking. However, we did learn how fresh produce could be used to cook a healthy meal. My two daughters, now well beyond school age, benefited a great deal more from schools as health-promoting institutions – and I am very glad they did so.

The FOPH therefore wishes to support cantons and municipalities in their efforts to make the most of the school system's potential for promoting the health not only of children and adolescents, but also of teachers.
This issue of spectra reports on the activities of our partners in the field of health promotion and prevention in schools. I wish you a stimulating read.

Andrea Arz de Falco
Head of the Public Health Directorate, Vice-Director Federal Office of Public Health

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