01.07.2014 At first hand

Editorial Stefan Spycher. Being part of the working population is an important factor in the health of the individual. Paid work not only ensures financial independence; it also creates a sense of personal achievement, security and social integration. But work also entails health risks that go beyond established health protection measures at the workplace. The term "work-related health problems" covers disorders that are not actually caused by specific working conditions but are nonetheless more common among the working population. They include, for instance, musculoskeletal disorders, or symptoms that can result from constant stress.

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In addition, pressures at the workplace may also be associated with pressures in private life. Since women are still more likely than men to combine going out to work with caring for their children and/or sick family members, they are more often subject to excessive pressures.

Global crises also take their toll on the Swiss economy, subjecting businesses to pressures on innovation, competition and wages that can aggravate any more negative effects of work. The Swiss economy's most important resource is knowledge, i.e. people. But knowledge can have a sustained effect only if those who possess it are in a position to wield it, i.e. if they are in good health. People's health is therefore the key condition that enables us to secure and further develop our prosperity.

At the federal level, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is primarily responsible for health-related improvements in the work environment. But health policy makers are also active: in the "Health 2020" strategy (www.gesundheit2020.ch) published in January 2013, the Swiss government argues in favour of strengthening health promotion, prevention and early identification – and thus also of stepping up efforts to foster health at the workplace. This was the backdrop to the November 2013 launch of the "Mental Health" dialogue project. This project envisages the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH),
the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Health Ministers and the Health Promotion Switzerland Foundation cooperating with a number of other players to develop measures that will help improve mental health in Switzerland. All efforts must aim at enabling as many people as possible to reach retirement age in as good a state of health as possible.

Stefan Spycher
Federal Office of Public Health

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