Healthy lifestyles to prevent chronic diseases
Chronic diseases are caused by wide-spread risk factors among the population. The most often among the risk factors are physical inactivity, followed by overweight, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Considering chronic diseases are influenced by unhealthy lifestyles it means they can be prevented by simply changing behaviours to healthy ones and with preventive public health measures. Focusing primary health care systems in the country on disease prevention and health promotion would bring benefits for the population and the country’s overall development, but this requires long-term perspective.
Multi-action approach to reduce health risk factors
The project encompasses several approaches: from development of regulatory frameworks, to promoting healthy lifestyles and educating family medicine teams. The end goal is to encourage and support BiH’s citizens to adjust their lifestyles in order to reduce their health risk factors, but also to contribute to the establishment of an effective system of public health governance.
In order to reduce the behavioural risks factors of the population it is necessary to develop framework policies in the area of tobacco control, alcohol con sumption, dietary, salt-, sugar-, and fats-intake regulation. These are complemented by activities on raising public awareness on the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles. Civil society organizations, the media, the private sector and municipalities will advocate and implement health policies to contribute to creation of healthy environments and lifestyles. In addition, family medicine teams will be trained on introducing effective preventive services to their patients, especially to high-risk individuals.
Considering that changing behaviours to healthy lifestyles requires full social mobilization, the scope of this project encompasses support to several groups country-wide, all with the power to con- tribute to reducing health risk factors in BiH. The project will directly work with 4,500 family medicine doctors and nurses, as well as public health institutions. It is estimated that 60% of citizens of BiH will benefit from the new health care services, raised health literacy, and reduced risks of chronic diseases. Special focus will be placed on reaching disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, as well as youth, who will be able to adopt healthy lifestyles in early adolescence.
Health authorities strongly committed to change
Ministries of Health of both entities individually requested support from all major health sector donors in BiH to put forward the improvement of the public health area. As a response to the request, the Swiss Embassy in BiH took the initiative in bring- ing together the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the World Health Organization, and the World Bank. In close cooperation with the BiH’s health authorities the project and the action plan were developed. Through this process, entity Ministries of Health have shown strong commitment in strengthening the public health system.