The Czech Health Ministry on Wednesday presented a national strategy to improve public health, which has in some respects deteriorated over the past decades. The document entitled Health 2020 addresses 16 areas, from lack of physical exercise to better institutional health care.
Czechs live longer than in the past but not necessarily more healthily. A majority of the population – around 57 percent – is overweight, and the Czech Republic is the only country in the EU where the numbers of young smokers are on the rise.
These are some of the major issues addressed by the government’s strategy for improving public health in the country entitled Health 2020. One of its authors is Deputy Health Minister Vladimír Valenta.
“Life expectancy in the Czech Republic has grown over the years but the quality of life for elderly people is often lower due to illnesses. The ageing population is not a major factor here because when we look at Sweden, for example, we see that that people enjoy good health for nine more years compared to the Czech Republic.”
Between 1962 and 2010, the life expectancy of Czech men grew from 67 to 74.6 years. But their life expectancy in good health has in fact decreased over the same period by six months to 62.2 years. Czech women’s life expectancy has also grown to 77.8 years but on average, they are likely to live in good health only until the age of 64.6 years.
The government plan, based on recommendations by the World Health Organization, addresses 16 major issues such as physical exercise, healthy diet, mental health, infectious diseases control, vaccination and others. Mr Valenta says one of the major issues is the lack of physical activities.
“We need to ask: are there conditions for people to start moving around and exercising? Are there enough cycle paths? Do schools pay sufficient attention to physical education? What options are available to people who want to exercise? And this is just one area of the plan for which the state can come up with incentives to improve the situation.”
Czech lawmakers are also planning to curb smoking in the Czech Republic, the only EU member where numbers of smokers are not decreasing, and smoking among young people is on the rise. A comprehensive ban on smoking in bars and restaurants should reach the lower house later this year.
Improving public health would also have a considerable effect on the state finances. Some 20 billion crowns could be saved each year if the prevalence of lifestyle diseases is cut by 5 percent, according to the Health Ministry.