Health Priorities in French-Speaking Swiss Cantons

Document Type : Short Communication


1 University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland

2 Institute of Global Health, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

3 Swiss Health Promotion Foundation, Bern, Switzerland


In Switzerland, the federal authorities, the cantons, and the communes share the responsibility of healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion policies. Yet, the cantons are in most health matters independent in their decisions, thus defining as a matter of fact their own health priorities.
We examined and analysed the content of the disease prevention and health promotion plans elaborated during the last decade in six French-speaking cantons with different political contexts and resources, but quite similar population health data, in order to identify the set health priorities.
The plans appear significantly inhomogeneous in their structure, scope and priorities. Most of the formal documents are short, in the 16 to 40 pages range. Core values such as equity, solidarity and sustainability are explicitly put forward in 2/6 cantonal plans. Priority health issues shared by all 6 cantons are “physical activity/sedentariness” and “nutrition/food.” Mental health is explicitly mentioned in 5 cantonal plans, whereas tobacco and alcohol consumptions are mentioned 4 times.
Less attention has been given to topics that appear as major public health challenges at present and in the future in Switzerland, eg, ageing of the population, rise of social inequalities, increase of vulnerable populations. Little attention has also been paid to issues like domestic violence or healthy work environments.
Despite some heterogeneity, there is a common base that should make inter-cantonal collaborations possible
and coordination with national strategies easily feasible.


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