Article | Last updated: 2013-01-21 | Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation
Safeguarding the health of their inhabitants is an important part of the responsibility of the county and municipal authorities. The goals of public health work are to increase the number of years of life in good health for the individual and to reduce social health differences in the population at large.
The population’s health is among society’s most important resources. Safeguarding the health of their inhabitants is an important part of the responsibility of the county and municipal authorities. The goals of public health work are to increase the number of years of life in good health for the individual and to reduce social health differences in the population at large.
The population is generally in good health, but diseases related to lifestyle and an ageing population have increased and there is still a potential for improving health and preventing disease and premature death. Big social inequalities in living conditions and lifestyles are leading to greater differences in people’s health.
Physical activity, diet, smoking and the use of alcohol and other drugs are affected to a great extent by financial and social background factors that individuals have not chosen themselves. Availability affects the consumption of unhealthy food and drink, and nutrition concerns make it necessary to ensure good availability of and access to healthy alternatives.
Population growth presents new and big challenges for social planning. In the next few decades, the proportion of elderly will double, which involves a need for services and adaptation, among other things. This makes it necessary to maintain and strengthen the population’s health and ability to work and function. These challenges can only be solved by involving most social sectors.
As a whole, the Norwegian population is among the least physically active in Europe, and the negative trend is persistent. Physical activity can help to prevent, postpone or alleviate chronic diseases, and planning can create a good framework for increased activity in all population groups.
Outdoor pursuits promote health and well-being and offer nature experiences, recreation and a chance to be social. Everyone should therefore have access to green areas, parks and outdoor recreation areas in their vicinity. Access to greater nature areas and facilitating the use of rights of way through agricultural landscapes is also important. Pedestrian walkways, cycling paths and walking trails make it easier for people to be physically active in their everyday lives and promote safe and environmentally friendly modes of transport.
Healthy local communities and opportunities to engage in leisure activities are important to secure good living conditions, opportunities for development and a safe childhood environment. Children and young people are entitled to participate in and influence the planning work so that they can influence their own childhood environment.
Planning shall clarify how Sami interests will be taken into account, including how the Sami language, culture, social life and industries can be developed. It is necessary to secure land and facilities that provide an opportunity for interaction between children to maintain, pass on and further develop the Sami culture and identity.
People with functional impairments shall have the same opportunities as others for personal development, participation in society, safe living conditions and a good quality of life. Universal design is a long-term strategy to make society accessible to everyone and prevent discrimination. The principle of universal design contributes to ensuring equal opportunities for people with functional impairments.
Local air pollution and noise have negative impacts on health in several urban and peri-urban areas. Health problems due to poor air quality are particularly prominent in the big cities during winter.
The biggest sources of pollution are road traffic, wood burning and long-transported pollution. Noise is among the environmental problems that affect the most people in Norway. As many as 1.7 million people are exposed to noise where they live, and almost 0.5 million are strongly or very strongly affected. Road traffic is also the most important cause in this context.
Many houses, schools and kindergartens are situated in areas with high radon levels. Almost half the radioactive radiation we are exposed to comes from radon gases in the ground. Radon problems can be prevented through conscious localisation and building design.
For persons under the age of 45, accidents are the biggest cause of death in Norway, and injuries caused by accidents are a major public health problem. Measured in years of lost life, personal injuries as a result of accidents rank almost as high as cancer.
Health, quality of life and childhood environment in figures
Life expectancy in Norway is among the highest in the world and continues to increase. This is linked to reduced mortality from cardiovascular diseases through many years. Low infant mortality also contributes to the favourable development. The age of Norway’s population will increase considerably up until 2040.
The number of persons over the age of 67 will be nearly doubled and around one fifth of all inhabitants will be 67 years or older. At the same time, more elderly people will be older than 80 years. This major change in the age distribution will have a significant impact on how we plan services, housing and infrastructure, local communities and cities/towns.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor environmental quality is the cause of 14 per cent of the diseases that can be prevented in Norway. They account for 73,000 fewer years of life in good health and 7,500 deaths per year.
Serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and allergies can be triggered or worsened by elements in the environment. The facilitation of outdoor pursuits, play, recreation and more physical activity can prevent health problems and diseases in the population. In the past decade, land used for play and recreation areas, walking paths and trails in and around Norwegian peri-urban areas has increased considerably.