08.09.2015 At first Hand
Editorial Ursula Koch and Roy Salveter. Health is not something that is achieved and remains unchanged forever; it is a "balance" that has to be maintained throughout a person's life and actively sought every single day. Nowadays health research assumes that people are able to take responsibility for themselves, for their health and for the world around them. Individuals, their life circumstances and their ability to play a part in shaping the world they inhabit are central factors in this approach. This is why the goal of strengthening people's health skills has for many years been the focus of all the prevention efforts undertaken by the Federal Office of Public Health and its partners.
However, there are limits to the individual's resources. Our everyday lives are determined by the realities of modern society, such as changes in our working, environment and living conditions. Our lifestyle plays a decisive role in the development or prevention of non-transmissible diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. In addition to promoting the individual's health skills, therefore, societal framework conditions also need to be designed in such a way that they contribute to equality of opportunity and quality of life for the population at large. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion first published in 1986 describes five key action areas that are intended to enable people to take control over their health and the factors that determine it. These are the development of a healthy public policy, the creation of supportive environments, strengthening health-related community actions, the development of personal skills and the reorientation of health services. This guideline for action is still as valid today as it was 30 years ago. Today we know that people's health is determined largely by factors outside the scope of healthcare and health policy. It is therefore vital to include other areas of policy in the task of developing healthy environments. Politicians must be reminded of their social responsibility for health, interdisciplinary cooperation must be strengthened through new partnerships. Integrated care models must be developed that establish not only treatment but also prevention as integral components of basic healthcare provision.
Ursula Koch and Roy Salveter,
joint heads of the National Prevention Programmes Division, Federal Office of Public Health
Ursula Koch left the FOPH at the end of August 2015.