01.12.2014 At first hand

Editorial Pascal Strupler. Even just a few decades ago, communicable diseases were the main threat to the lives of our parents and grandparents. They have now been contained or eliminated, thanks to advances in research and medicine and to socio-political measures. Nowadays, most deaths are the result of non-communicable conditions – cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the major threats to our health. We are living longer, but in our final years we are increasingly likely to develop these diseases.

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Though we have access to an ever greater range of healthy food, we do not eat a balanced diet. We enjoy a high degree of mobility, yet we do not take enough exercise. We can choose from an infinite number of leisure activities, yet we suffer increasingly from stress. A significant section of the population makes itself susceptible to chronic illnesses by smoking, drinking to excess, indulging in an unbalanced diet, avoiding physical activity or using illegal drugs. Thus our lifestyle often unnecessarily undoes the advances made in food safety and medicine.

Over the last few years, the FOPH, together with the cantons and numerous front-line organisations, has done major pioneering work through its national prevention programmes for tobacco, alcohol, nutrition & physical activity and drugs. Building on this experience and taking new facts, insights and challenges into account, a National Strategy for Non-communicable Diseases is to be drawn up and implemented. The stakeholders of the healthcare system are already working flat out on it. Without resorting to bans or compulsion, the strategy will seek to empower people to make the best possible decisions regarding their health. To promote health and prevent disease, increasing use is to be made of knowledge transfer, provision of advice and awareness-raising measures. The aim is not to provide a substitute for the personal responsibility of the individual, but – on the contrary – to strengthen it. The fact is that personal responsibility can be exercised only by those who know how not to put their health at risk and what they can do to improve it. Knowledge is power – and that applies to our own health too. Anyone who perceives this form of prevention as a threat to personal responsibility probably does so – for whatever reason – against their better judgement.

Pascal Strupler
Federal Office of Public Health

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