01.01.2011 Paving the way for a healthy lifestyle

National Programme on Diet and Physical Activity 2008–2012 (NPDPA). Sedentary activities, lack of exercise and an unbalanced diet shape the way our society lives nowadays. Such habits are contributing to the increase in «diseases of civilisation» such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), in cooperation with the Federal Office of Sport (FOSPO), Health Promotion Switzerland and the cantonal authorities, has been tasked by the Federal Council with implementing the National Programme on Diet and Physical Activity (NPDPA) 2008–2012.

Pictures Paving the way for a healthy lifestyle


The NPDPA defines the long-term goals and responsibilities of the individual partners in the Programme at national level. Health Promotion Switzerland is responsible for implementing the cantonal action programmes to encourage the achievement of a healthy bodyweight. The fact that 22 of the 26 cantons are implementing such programmes testifies to their great commitment to the goal. The Federal Office of Sport is involved in encouraging children and adolescents to engage in more physical activity through its Youth + Sport programme in the area of sports provision outside the school system.

Make the healthy choice the easy choice
The changes that have taken place in lifestyle habits mean that prevention programmes have to target both the behaviour of individuals and their environments. The FOPH’s core task is ensuring nationwide coordination within different areas of activity (including everyday physical activity, improvement of counselling and treatment services). The FOPH has therefore decided to focus its efforts on environments and to shape them in such a way as to make it easier for people to choose a healthy lifestyle, in accordance with the motto: «Make the healthy choice the easy choice».

Monitoring system for diet and physical activity (MOSEB)
MOSEB is being developed by the FOPH in close collaboration with the most important data sources in Switzerland (Federal Office of Sport, Federal Statistical Office, Health Promotion Switzerland, the Swiss Observatory for Sport and the Swiss Health Observatory). Thanks to continuous gathering of comparable, representative data on specific indicators of dietary and physical activity status, trends can be described and any changes identified and responded to, thereby enabling the FOPH to define its prevention strategy in this field. The indicator collection is MOSEB’s key product (www.moseb.ch). In addition to the regular indicator updates in May and November, there are plans to coordinate MOSEB with the «WHO/EU project on monitoring progress on improving nutrition and physical activity and preventing obesity in the European Union» in 2011.
Switzerland is one of the few European countries that do not have data on food consumption. It is therefore not known who eats and drinks how much of what in Switzerland, and how often, where, when or why. The planned National Dietary Survey under the leadership of the FOPH aims to gather data on the food consumption and the dietary and physical activity behaviour of the Swiss population and make it available. As soon as the resources for this project have been secured, the National Dietary Survey will be put out to public tender (autumn 2011). Data gathering is scheduled to begin at the end of 2012.

Successful start to «actionsanté»
«Actionsanté» (www.actionsante.ch) is now over a year old. Through this initiative the FOPH seeks to motivate businesses operating in the physical activity and nutrition fields to take specific action to promote the health of the population. All activities are voluntary. Businesses can help promote a more balanced diet by, for instance, reducing the salt, sugar and fat content of foodstuffs or they can organise targeted campaigns to encourage people to take more exercise. The achievements to date are impressive. On the basis of the FOPH’s salt strategy, the first two partners of actionsanté have successfully reduced the salt content of their bread products without consumers noticing and without any drop in sales. Besides Coop and Migros, the partners of actionsanté now include Selecta, Traitafina, Unilever and Mars, which are involved in eleven campaigns.

Improving information for consumers
Food labelling is an important con­sumer aid. Surveys conducted by the Swiss Nutrition Society (SGE) on behalf of the FOPH show that labelling is making good initial progress, but no model has been developed that could be adopted one-to-one. What is more, the most important business players consulted reject the proposals for improved, standardised food labelling. So there is not as yet any such label in sight for Switzerland! The FOPH is, however, determined to improve consumer information and is now examining further options. In order to promote fruit and vegetable consumption, the FOPH together with the Swiss Cancer League will continue to support the «5 a Day» campaign.

Quality standards for community catering
Since community catering in Switzerland provides meals for about a million people a day, the FOPH has decided together with the SV Foundation to provide financial backing for the project to draw up «Quality standards for healthy community catering». Nutritional scientists and practitioners from Berne University of Applied Sciences (BFH), the Haute école de Santé, Geneva and the SGE have developed and published a set of quality standards (www.goodpractice-gemeinschaftsgastronomie.ch). This means that community catering businesses and professionals active in corporate health-promotion can now draw on a tool that supports their practical efforts to achieve healthy conditions.

Promoting everyday physical activity
Engaging in healthy physical activity does not necessarily mean participating in sports. Brisk walking, cycling or climbing stairs have the advantage of being easily integrated into the daily routine. The built environment is a factor that can significantly facilitate or hinder physical activity. For this reason the FOPH has, in collaboration with the agencies specifically concerned (Federal Office of Physical Development, Federal Roads Office, Federal Office of Energy, etc.) decided to support efforts to create attractively designed neighbourhoods, safe footpaths and bicycle routes and to promote non-motorised traffic. Through SuisseBalance, the FOPH, together with Health Promotion Switzerland, also supports projects and measures that encourage children and adolescents to take pleasure in everyday physical activity and in a balanced diet of food and drinks.

Improving counselling and treatment provision
Though increasing numbers of people are suffering from overweight and obesity, tools are lacking for the treatment of such patients. This situation prompted the FOPH to cooperate with various experts in developing a treatment pyramid for overweight adults and children. The experience gained in the different projects shows that changes in lifestyle habits take time. Networks such as nutrinet.ch (improving health through nutrition) and hepa.ch (support for health-enhancing physical activities) also make a major contribution to health promotion and prevention. Thanks to them, it is easier for experts and practitioners to exchange experience and information and for projects to be more effectively coordinated. The extent to which the NPDPA can continue to be implemented in accordance with the prescribed goals depends among other things on the provision of human and financial resources by the Federal Government.


Liliane Bruggmann, Nutrition and Physical Activity Section, liliane.bruggmann@bag.admin.ch

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