01.01.2012 At first hand

Editorial Martin Werner. The following statement concerning sexual health has caused a particular stir in parts of Switzerland in the last few months: «In cooperation with the cantons, the aim is to integrate age-appropriate sexual health education into the curriculum of compulsory and post-compulsory schooling as part of health promotion.« This sentence occurs in the National Programme on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (NPHS) 2011–2017, which the Swiss Government published a year ago. Since then, certain Swiss media have attacked the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) with such headlines as «porn for pre-school kids».

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Yet the FOPH’s desire to make sexual health a school subject that is accessible to all is driven by noble objectives such as equality, justice and non-discrimination. The fact is that not all children enjoy the same initial and developmental opportunities with regard to sexual health. This injustice constitutes a challenge to society. Sexual health is therefore not just a private matter, it is also a public issue.

Over the last year, however, we have had to respond on an almost daily basis to a stream of angry questions, most of them triggered by articles in the «Weltwoche» and «Sonntagsblick» weeklies. They do not make our everyday work any easier. But is it such a bad thing for private individuals to meddle in public affairs? Viewed in terms of the interesting question as to how a society deals with its problems and addresses future challenges, these voices of concerned or outraged members of the public can also be rated positively, i.e. as a sign that social changes in Switzerland enjoy broad support and momentum in public discourse or, rather, that the public is aware of them and helps shape them. There is therefore a constant need to negotiate compromises between justified private concerns and equally justified public interests.

These insights are dealt with in greater depth in a course of study on public health that, with support from the FOPH, I have been able to complete. I am now leaving the FOPH to embark on the «third phase» of my life, and I should like to express my heartfelt thanks and best wishes to all my colleagues in their continued efforts on behalf of public health.

Martin Werner
Prevention and Promotion Section, Federal Office of Public Health

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