06.09.2016 At first hand

Editorial Andrea Arz de Falco. Ever more people are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as cancer or diabetes. These conditions are a heavy burden not only on the patients and their families but also on our healthcare system.

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If we want to understand why people fall ill, we need to broaden our focus, taking in not only their present circumstances and illness but also their entire life history. This is because the behaviour, events and experiences of each phase of life – whether early childhood, adolescence, adulthood, or advanced age – have a lasting impact on health. In addition, specific transitional events such as pregnancy, divorce or change of job have an impact on health and on behaviour relevant to health. We therefore need to take a global view, examining people's entire physical and social environment, work setting and political and economic situation. This comprehensive understanding is key to our being able to develop measures that combat the increase in non-communicable diseases effectively and sustainably.  

Specialists agree that the development of the child in the mother's womb and the first five years of life play an immensely important part in determining our future health. But this does not mean that an ideal start in life makes us immune to health risks. Nor does a bad start mean that all hope is lost. Whatever our age, we can always choose the path of health – be it by engaging in more physical activity in everyday life, drinking less alcohol or stopping smoking. It is never too late to maximise our own health potential and thereby boost our chances of staying active and fit to a ripe old age. People's health can always be improved. We aim to deploy this knowledge in future prevention and health promotion activities. We want to create general conditions that make it easier for people to become self-empowered and well informed enough always to opt for the path of health and wellbeing.  

We are committed to improving the health of babies, children and adolescents, to keeping adults healthy for as long as possible and to minimising loss of quality of life and health in the elderly. These are the ambitious goals we have set ourselves in the national NCD Strategy and the "Health 2020" strategy.    

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

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