01.11.2011 At first hand
Editorial Gaudenz Silberschmidt. Whether it’s flu epidemics, food crises, trade in medicines or development aid, many health issues require global responses. The WHO – the United Nations’ authority for coordinating public health at the international level – has been providing them for over sixty years. As the sole global regulatory body in the health field, it lays down internationally valid rules and standards that serve the individual member states as guidelines for their national health policies. Switzerland is no exception: our national prevention programmes on tobacco, alcohol and diet & physical activity were shaped in part by the corresponding international strategies, agreements and resolutions of the WHO. Likewise, the draft of our Prevention Act was also influenced by the WHO Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.
Alongside the WHO, the EU has also developed into a major player in international health policy in the last few years. The rise in the free movement of people and goods has increased the importance of our collaboration with the EU on health issues. Since 2008, Switzerland has therefore been negotiating a health agreement with the EU with the aim of standing up for an effective health policy at the European level.
Clearly, then, when formulating its health policy Switzerland looks at what the rest of the world is doing – but, conversely, the world often directs its gaze at us as well. For instance, Switzerland’s policy on drugs is widely regarded as being particularly innovative, and many countries have copied it. And in 2006 Switzerland became the first country to create an official framework for a targeted health-related foreign policy. The framework is a target agreement concluded between the Federal Office of Public Health and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. This approach, i.e. inter-ministerial coordination, is currently being updated, but has already aroused interest in many other countries, and Switzerland is now consulted as an expert in the field.
Effective health policy needs this kind of reciprocal openness between international bodies and individual countries. After all, both sides are mutually dependent, and in the struggle to create a healthier world they can claim to be both pioneers and allies.
Ambassador Gaudenz Silberschmidt
Vice-Director, Federal Office of Public Health
Head of the International Affairs Division