01.09.2011 At first hand

Editorial Andrea Arz de Falco. If you put the search terms «health and culture» into Google, it will start by offering you many ways to enhance your well-being and numerous city breaks – definitely in keeping with the time of year. You’ll also find a lot of information about migration and health, focusing on the challenges that arise at the interface between carers, healthcare professionals and patients as a result of different values based on different cultural, religious and ideological convictions and languages. An openness to and a basic understanding of other cultures are standard skills for doctors and carers nowadays, alongside medical knowledge in the narrower sense of the term and awareness of medical ethics, economics and law.

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Our culture sets great store by health. The value of health derives not only from our need for well-being; health is also an «enabler», something that makes other things possible. Health allows us to work and pursue hobbies, to maintain social contacts, be mobile, and so on. In this sense, health is rightly viewed as a very valuable, if not absolute, asset. Quality of life is determined not only by our (subjective and objective) health but also by our ability to cope with illness, disability and limitations. Characteristics such as a relaxed attitude, humour and cheerfulness are very useful in this respect.

Non-communicable diseases are closely related to lifestyle. We all know what the main risk factors are: smoking, too much alcohol, problematic eating habits and too little physical activity. Any systematic prevention policy would seem to be at odds with financial interests and the right to a self-determined life guided not solely by rational and health-oriented considerations. The balance between these in some respects divergent interests has to be negotiated through social and political processes. Yet it should not be forgotten that the foundation of a health-oriented lifestyle comprises things as simple as everyday physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet and a culture that nurtures relationships with family and friends.

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

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