01.07.2010 At first hand

Editorial Pascal Strupler. A wide and varied spectrum of health promotion, prevention and early identification measures have been established in Switzerland in recent decades. They are aimed at the general public, young people, schools, etc. It has been scientifically proven that, under certain conditions, prevention is both effective and saves costs.

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But do such measures reach all those who need them?

Against the background of social development in the 21st century, this long-standing question needs to be asked again. Never in history have so many people in the industrialised countries enjoyed such good health and such long life expectancy. However, national and international surveys show that not everyone benefits to the same extent from this development. In terms of health, there is a distinct gulf between the lowest and highest social strata. The life expectancy of semi-skilled workers, for instance, is five years shorter than that of university graduates. What is more, they suffer more frequently from health problems, despite their shorter lives.

Health and the development of illness do not depend on behaviour alone. They follow social patterns that are shaped largely by the conditions under which people live – their level of education, occupation and income. But origin (migration), gender and the availability and use of healthcare services – including prevention and health promotion – also play a role.

This edition of «spectra» gives an insight into the interfaces of health’s social determinants. Readers will see that, at both the conceptual and the implementation level, good approaches exist for promoting equality of health opportunities – for everyone. The Federal Office of Public Health will in future have to increasingly address these questions, because in the interplay of society, the economy and health, it is health that holds an absolutely central place, whether as a determining factor or one that is itself determined.

Pascal Strupler
Director, Federal Office of Public Health

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