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The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health shares the strategies in place for non-communicable diseases and the importance of evidence-based prevention policy

One-quarter of the Swiss population, or about 2 million people, already have a non-communicable disease (NCD), and the trend is increasing. Around 80% of direct health-related costs (CHF 50 billion in 2013) are caused by non-communicable diseases. Treatment of the 5 most common NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer, respiratory and musculoskeletal disorders – accounts for around 40% of direct health-related costs, and this situation will intensify as society ages.

The strategy for the prevention of non-communicable diseases in Switzerland

A “National strategy for the prevention of non-communicable diseases” has been developed in Switzerland to deal with these challenges. It is based on established approaches used in prevention work but at the same time strikes out in new directions. For example, prevention will be intensified in the healthcare setting with support from general practitioners and therapists. A further aim of the NCD strategy is to promote the health-related skills of the individual whilst also creating conditions that make it easier to adopt healthier behaviours on a daily basis. It is a fact that a large proportion of non-communicable diseases could be avoided or at least delayed by a healthy lifestyle.

Scientific principles in the service of an evidence-based prevention policy

An effective prevention policy for non-communicable diseases requires a sound scientific basis. The national NCD monitoring system is intended to show where needs exist and where progress has been made. The monitoring system comprises of 99 indicators that are derived mainly from existing national data sources and describe the disease burden, risk factors and social determinants. It involves the systematic collection of comparable and nationally representative data that allow current health developments to be observed more effectively.

The monitoring system will also create a basis for comparing the situation in Switzerland with that in other countries. Additional surveys will be designed and carried out to fill any major gaps in the data. The monitoring system will also permit the targeted promotion, funding and scientific follow-up of prevention projects that are tested and evaluated on a regional basis or for a limited period before possibly being launched nationwide or for the long-term.

The NCD monitoring system

The Global Monitoring Framework (GMF) published by the World Health Organization (WHO) creates the important foundation needed to develop the monitoring system and select the indicators. The indicators contained in the GMF are being modified to suit Swiss needs and resources and are being optimised. They have been divided into key and additional indicators in line with the WHO’s proposal. The 99 indicators have thus been prioritised and categorised as follows:

  • 13 strategic lead indicators that show whether the objectives of the NCD strategy have been achieved.
  • 32 key indicators for central dimensions of the NCD strategy (e.g. differentiation according to target groups of the NCD strategy: children and adolescents, adults, the elderly).
  • 54 additional indicators for specific information that is important for developing, reviewing and optimising measures adopted within the NCD strategy.

Attention was paid to give equal consideration to themes relating to the risk factors alcohol, tobacco, nutrition, physical activity and overweight. In this way, the monitoring system provides a sound basis for an evidence-based evaluation of the strategy and enables it to be adapted to new challenges.

Knowledge transfer from research to field and informing the public

It is important to make the population as a whole, and vulnerable individuals in particular, aware of what causes non-communicable diseases. The monitoring system and departmental research will provide the data and outcomes needed to inform people about the causes and consequences of NCDs and about the important role played by living, working and environmental conditions. At the same time, healthcare professionals will be assisted in their efforts to implement situation-appropriate prevention in the healthcare setting. Switzerland’s NCD strategy actively supports the efforts of the WHO and work being done to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.


Federal Office of Public Health, Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 462 21 11


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