01.01.2011 At first hand

Editorial Didier Burkhalter. Migration & health, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, HIV/AIDS and diet & physical activity – these are the topics of the many National Programmes that are addressing the different health challenges facing us. But what the programmes all have in common, regardless of their thematic focus, is the aim of acting ahead of events to help improve the health of people living in our country. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. At the most recent OECD Health Ministerial Meeting, it was again clearly stated that «prevention programmes are highly cost-effective in improving health and longevity».

Pictures At first hand


The number of chronic illnesses (such as cardiovascular diseases) is growing at a worrying rate in Western societies. Individual choice of lifestyle is partly responsible. If we are to bring about changes in behaviour that have an impact on health, action that influences living and working conditions and the environment and extends the choices available to people needs to be taken. But such action must also ensure that the different sections of the population are well informed and it must appeal to people’s sense of individual responsibility. In other words, there is a need for measures that extend beyond the actual health sector.
This is the task of our prevention programmes, and they have already notched up some tangible successes. For instance, tobacco consumption and the threat from passive smoking are decreasing, the migrant population enjoys better access to healthcare information, AIDS-related deaths among drug users have plummeted, intercantonal cooperation on alcohol control is being stepped up with the staging of conferences on the cantons’ alcohol action plans, and the food industry and the big retailers are reviewing the composition of their foodstuffs in the framework of the «actionsanté» drive for better food and more exercise. We should not forget, however, that it takes time for the positive effects of prevention work to be felt.
But however encouraging these outcomes are, the prevention programmes have not yet attained their goals and so their efforts must be continued. The Prevention Law as drafted by the Federal Council would give us a valuable tool that would help maintain and improve the health of the population while also putting a brake on soaring health costs.

Didier Burkhalter
Federal Councillor, Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs

Source cited: www.oecd.org

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