06.04.2016 Prevention rather than cure: National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases

Prevention. The Swiss government and cantons have approved a national strategy for preventing and combating non-communicable diseases. Some 2.2 million people in Switzerland currently suffer from one or more chronic diseases, generating around 80 percent of the country's entire health-related costs. The objective of the strategy is to prevent or delay the development of conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and to mitigate their consequences. It builds on existing prevention activities and bundles the resources of all the players involved. Appropriate measures will be drawn up by the end of the year.

Pictures Prevention rather than cure: National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases

TODO CHRISTIAN

Pictures Prevention rather than cure: National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases

TODO CHRISTIAN

Pictures Prevention rather than cure: National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases

TODO CHRISTIAN

Pictures Prevention rather than cure: National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases

TODO CHRISTIAN
Pictures

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose major challenges for the Swiss healthcare system. At the present time, every fourth person in Switzerland suffers from one or more chronic diseases, and NCDs are the most common cause of death. They are responsible for half of all fatalities among men and 60 percent among women under the age of 70. Demographic developments will result in a marked rise in the number of elderly people – and therefore also of chronically ill patients – in Switzerland.  

Non-communicable diseases not only cause a great deal of suffering for those directly affected and limit their quality of life, they also generate substantial costs. In 2011, they were responsible for 80 percent of Switzerland's total health-related costs of just under 65 billion francs. On top of this come the estimated indirect costs of around 30 billion francs a year that are generated by absences from work, provision of care by family members and early retirement.  

Strengthening personal responsibility

In its overall "Health 2020" strategy agenda, the Swiss government defined the National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases 2017-2024 (NCD Strategy) as a health-policy priority and made it a key issue of the 2016-2019 legislative period. Because the Swiss healthcare system was designed primarily to care for the acutely ill, it is only partially equipped to deal with the steady rise in chronically ill patients.  

Prevention is of cardinal importance. Individual behaviour plays a determining role in the development and course of NCDs. Key risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, low levels of physical activity, unbalanced diet and the frequently associated overweight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy lifestyle can prevent or at least delay around half of all illnesses.  

Focus on the five most common diseases

The National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases focuses on the five most common conditions – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and disorders of the musculoskeletal system. These generate direct costs of about 25 billion francs a year. The strategy will support the population in its efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to prevent the development of risk factors.  

The strategy is now being fleshed out in three priority areas: the responsible organisations are jointly drawing up measures aimed at improving cooperation between all players, institutionalising prevention in primary healthcare and strengthening health management at the workplace. The measures will be submitted to the Swiss Parliament and the "Dialogue on National Healthcare Policy" platform in autumn.  

Improving coordination of activities

A substantial proportion of the prevention activities will be implemented at the cantonal and municipal levels in the framework of cantonal prevention programmes. An objective of the strategy is to improve coordination of the activities of NGOs, private-sector health organisations, cantonal agencies and other players among themselves and with those of the federal government. The available resources are to be deployed in a more efficient and more targeted manner. The groundwork builds on tried and tested approaches used in the current national programmes on tobacco, alcohol and nutrition & physical activity. The Federal Office of Public Health, together with the cantons and a wide range of partners, have been implementing these programmes for a number of years. The programmes have helped bring about a rise in the number of physically active people and stabilisation, after an initial marked decline, in the number of smokers over the last few years. Alcohol use, particularly high-risk consumption among schoolchildren, has steadily fallen in recent years.  

Institutionalising prevention in primary healthcare

The strategy aims to establish prevention as an integral component of primary healthcare in domiciliary practice, pharmacies, domestic care services, hospitals and care homes. It attaches particular importance to preventing or delaying conditions in which people require care. This area will build on experience acquired in projects such as health coaching.  

Strengthening health management at the workplace

The strategy aims to improve workplace health management in cooperation with industry. It also aims to strengthen partnerships, for instance with a view to developing and marketing healthier products.  

Participatory approach

The NCD Strategy has been drawn up by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the Conference of Cantonal Health Ministers (GDK) and the Swiss Health Promotion Foundation in close cooperation with a wide range of other players.    

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