Plans/strategy | Date: 06/09/2013
All pull together
One thing we know – we must all pull together. If we do, we are sure to win!
The man behind this optimistic message is Klaus Hanssen. He was chairman of the National Anti-Tuberculosis Association about a hundred years ago. The efforts of the voluntary organisations were vital in stopping communicable diseases. The organisations carried out both preventive and palliative work. They educated nurses and health visitors. They founded public health clinics and promoted public information in the form of periodicals, films, exhibitions and brochures. This commitment was the beginning of what gradually became a public responsibility and that is the basis for today's welfare state.
A hundred years ago, public health work was decisive in curbing communicable diseases. Today's public health work is decisive in curbing the noncommunicable national health problems and lifestyle diseases. Today, many of us become ill as a result of tobacco, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and alcohol. More people contract cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and cancer.
In order to meet thise challenges, we must prevent more and capture disease at an early stage – where people live. Those who need help in living with a chronic disease must receive support and guidance in their local environment, and hospitals and specialists must collaborate more seamlessly on what is offered locally. That is why we are implementing the Coordination Reform and strengthening local authority health services.
But these challenges cannot only be met in hospitals or doctors' surgeries. These are challenges that we must meet in all sectors of society.
The municipalities already have a statutory responsibility for public health policy where we live. This is not only the responsibility of the medical officer for health. Those responsible for planning and building, industry and transport must also think health in everything they do. The local authority's vision may be better health for residents, but this is of little use if the woodland near residential areas where children play is rescheduled for commercial development, or if the new nursing home is built beside a motorway where nobody dares to go for a walk.
In both the private and voluntary sector, there are people and organisations that are very important for public health work. For those in industry, both the companies and the employees will benefit if they make provision for physical activity and healthy food in the canteen. Football teams can make sure that hungry little players taking part in organised events get smoothies and sandwiches instead of cola and brownies. Supermarkets can offer healthy options and make the path to the checkout something other than a narrow corridor of crisps and chocolate.
Last, but by no means least: the patient organisations are important players when it comes both to prevention and to improving health services.
A hundred years ago, it was the poor who bore the greatest burden of illness. This is still the case. For this reason, public health work is not just to improve the health of the whole population, but also to reduce social inequalities. This is no small job.
But Klaus Hanssen was absolutely right. If we all pull together, we are sure to win!
Jonas Gahr Støre
Minister of Health and Care Services