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The operational objectives of the National Health Programme for 2016-2020 (Narodowy Program Zdrowia 2016-2020) promise, among other things, the improvement of the nation’s diets, nutritional intake and physical activity, and the minister dealing with health matters is the body responsible for the implementation of the Programme in cooperation with ministers responsible for physical culture, labour, family, tourism, public finance, agriculture, national defence as well as education and upbringing. The Programme also contains a provision relating to prevention and solving problems linked to using psychoactive substances, having behavioural addictions and displaying other risky behaviours. In this case it is the minister dealing with health matters who is responsible entity but for the purposes of the programme he is supposed to cooperate with ministers responsible for education and upbringing, national defence, labour, family, social security, internal affairs, justice, public finance and digitalisation. The Programme proposes a number of specific tasks aimed at improving the availability of products recommended for consumption and reducing the availability of those not recommended for excessive consumption, including restrictions concerning their marketing - in particular targeting children and youth - promotion of knowledge of healthy eating in schools and education system institutions, as well as the shaping, maintaining and promoting of healthy eating patterns. It is for this purpose that the National Centre for Food Education (Narodowe Centrum Edukacji Żywieniowej) was established on the initiative of the Institute for Food and Nutrition and because "it is necessary to disseminate knowledge about healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, make a positive change to eating attitudes and habits, thus improving the health of Poles". In response to the population’s need for access to free diet advice, the Centre runs an on-line nutrition advice centre - an on-line diet clinic where dieticians can be consulted individually. The National Health Programme also includes information and educational activities in the media, training, publishing and healthy lifestyle promoting activities targeting health care professionals, teachers, central government and food industry representatives, as well as pregnant women and parents of children aged 0-5 years. There are separate tasks focussing on being overweight or obese, comprehensive epidemiological research into the nation’s diet and nutritional intake, with particular emphasis on school children and pregnant women. The Programme offers funding to health policy programmes targeting the maintenance of a healthy body weight which are implemented by local government units using funds coming from the National Health Fund.
The following programmes which are coordinated, implemented and monitored mainly by the Minister of Health serve the purpose of reducing the young generation’s risky behaviours:
- The National Programme for Prevention and Solving Alcohol Problems (Narodowy Program profilaktyki i rozwiązywania problemów alkoholowych). It involves information and educational activities including awareness campaigns exposing risks faced by consumers and their families and resulting from alcohol consumption, raising adults’ awareness - including parents, teachers and people working with children and youth - of harm done by alcohol they consume and of effective preventive activities including assistance to children coming from families facing alcohol-related problems. The Programme also promotes and implements recommended preventive programmes and those focussing on selective prevention promoting mental health and targeting children, young people, parents and teachers, extending and raising the quality of the offer of psychological counselling, socio-therapy and care intended for children from families facing alcohol-related problems.
- The Programme for Limiting Health Consequences of Using Tobacco and Related Products (Program ograniczania następstw zdrowotnych używania wyrobów tytoniowych i wyrobów powiązanych), which provided for in-service training relating to effective preventive activities intended for teachers and other people working with children and youth, the provision of a Telephone Helpline for Smokers, and studies relating to the use of tobacco products and related products by adults, children and youth. The Programme concluded in 2018, its elements are currently included in the National Health Programme for 2016-2020.
- The Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction (Ustawa o przeciwdziałąniu Narkomanii), where most provisions refer the whole population (no indication of particular age groups), however, its specific provisions contain activities implemented as municipalities’ own tasks which involve - among other things - "preventive information activities, education and training relating to drug addiction problem solving, especially for children and young people, including sporting and recreational activities for school children, as well as activities focussing on providing food to children participating in after-school educational, care and socio-therapy programmes". The general education core curriculum and initial education programmes for teachers and people educating children and youth in schools and other institutions of the education system also include mental health and healthy lifestyles promotion with placing particular emphasis on combating drug addiction.
- The analysis of the currently applicable legal provisions from the perspective of protecting children and youth against too easy access to sexualising and pornographic contents (stemming directly from the provisos of the National Health Programme for 2016-2020. This analysis involves surveys exploring the consequences of being exposed to that kind of content for the psycho-sexual development and mental health of children and young people. The regulation also focusses on the development of an offer of prevention programmes based on science and their dissemination, as well as on training for various task forces (including teachers, doctors, sanitary inspectors, public prosecutors, uniformed services, municipal police) aimed at the relevant developmental risks and health consequences for children and young people
Activities aimed at the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and eating as well as the prevention and/or elimination of bad habits in this respect are also specified in documents of a more universal nature, including Poland 2030. Third Wave of Modernity. Long-term National Development Strategy (Polska 2030. Trzecia fala nowoczesności), describing the aim of intervention "as the preparation and implementation of cross-sectoral systemic solutions and steps improving access to health programmes (prevention, rehabilitation) resulting in the reduction of morbidity and mortality, due in particular to civilisation diseases", and in the 2020 Human Capital Development Strategy (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Ludzkiego 2020), where one of its strategic objectives relates to "the improvement of the nation’s health and the effectiveness of the health care system".
Encouraging young people to live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthily may be recognised as the objectives of the 2020 National Programme for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (Krajowy Program Przeciwdziałania Ubóstwu i wykluczeniu społecznemu 2020. Nowy wymiar aktywnej integracji) This new dimension requires active integration. The document covers an action described as "improving food safety", which is recognised as one of the forms in which families, children and youth can be helped, which could be done among other things by introducing children and youth nutrition programmes, providing them with the right amount of nutrients of appropriate quality, as well as educational activities focussing on a healthy lifestyle, including healthy nutrition. As the social impact of the Programme is very complex, it is coordinated by the minister responsible for social security, minister dealing with education and upbringing as well as by local government units.
Apart from the activities described above, those aimed at health- and healthy lifestyle-related education provided by schools also include an initiative of the Ministry of Health entitled Improved Access to Dental Care for Children and Young People at Schools in 2018 (Poprawa dostępności do świadczeń stomatologicznych dla dzieci i młodzieży w szkołach), which intends "to improve access to dental care provided by dental surgeries at public schools and offer effective dental care and mouth hygiene educational activities to as many children and young people as possible". There are activities focussing on "prevention of dental caries, regular check-ups of the oral cavity, preventive dental care (tooth sealing and coating) and health education provided to children and their parents". Under the programme, 41 dentists’ offices have been established in public schools, especially in small towns where service access may be otherwise difficult.
Education for Safety (Edukacja dla bezpieczeństwa), a subject provided in the core curriculum imposed by the Ministry of National Education, envisages education in public safety, including "the preparation for emergency response in cases of emergency (mass accidents and disasters), first aid fundamentals" and health-enhancing education. It also involves transferring the knowledge of civilisation diseases (hypertension, diabetes, lipid metabolism disorders, obesity), cancer, psychiatric diseases, those linked to risk behaviours and addictions, including their prevention and risk factors. Interestingly, the subject involves wide cooperation between schools and local police units, fire services, training centres, army units and non-governmental organisations such as Volunteer Fire Fighters, Polish Red Cross, National Defence League
Polish schools provide no regular and compulsory education focussing on relationships and sex. The Regulation of the Minister of National Education on Framework Teaching Plans for Public Schools (Rozporządzenie ministra edukacji narodowej w sprawie ramowych planów nauczania dla publicznych szkół) only proposes an optional subject, Family Life Education. However, while there is no number of hours specified, there is a reference to the provisions of the Act on Family Planning, Protection of Human Foetus and Pregnancy Termination Conditions (Ustawa o planowaniu rodziny, ochronie płodu ludzkiego i warunkach dopuszczalności przerywania ciąży) which provides that the minister will issue a regulation to determine the way of teaching and the contents of the subject, which, regrettably, is not included in the above Regulation.
Apart from the documents described above and dealing with the issue of raising awareness of healthy lifestyles and factors influencing young people’s health and well-being, there are also the specific relevant provisions that are included in the National Health Programme for 2016-2020 (Narodowy Program Zdrowia). They refer to, in particular, "mental health problem prevention as well as to the promotion of and education in appropriate public behaviour, namely: "constructive interpersonal relations, convictions, attitudes, behaviour and lifestyles supporting mental health, development of coping skills needed in situations posing a risk to mental health". The document states that the "development of potential and focussing on children’s and young people’s strengths is a characteristic of this policy". These activities are implemented by the Ministry of Health in cooperation with other ministries and entities selected under calls for proposals, including local government units.
Polish young people needing support in crisis situations can talk to a free and anonymous helpline for children and youth by dialling 116 111 - a number that is the same all over Europe. It is run by the Empowering Children Foundation, which responds to requests for moral support in difficult and crisis situations. Unfortunately, it is no longer financed by the State. At the moment it remains operative thanks to a business partner’s support.
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Information campaigns focussing on healthy lifestyles and factors influencing health and well-being usually have a broader scope and are aimed at all age groups or, sometimes, at particular ones just like in the case of a campaign of the Polish Cardiac Society entitled Healthy Children. Healthy Youth, Healthy Adults (Zdrowe dzieci, zdrowa młodzież, zdrowi dorośli). The 2016 education campaign intended to promote heart disease prevention emphasised the role of intergenerational interaction in adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Campaigns raising the young generation’s health awareness include an educational campaign initiated by the Ministry of Health in 2017 and entitled Prevention, Man! (Profilaktyka, Człowieku) which was to encourage young people (aged 18-35) to take greater care of their health and to sensitise them to a number of alarming symptoms that they are not yet aware of and a 2018 Aflofarm campaign (under the patronage of the Ministry of National Education) entitled Don’t let your health go up in smoke (Nie spal się na starcie) intending to prevent young people (aged 12-16) from reaching for the first cigarette. A Ministry of Health campaign is ongoing until the end of 2020, aimed at youth age 16-18 (co-financed by the National Health Programme), named #Stopfejkfriends. It is meant to popularize awareness of negative health impact of tobacco and e-cigarettes.
Raising awareness on healthy lifestyles and on factors affecting the health and well-being of young people
The Ministry of Health introduced three year programme of tooth decay prevention among young people aged 15-19. The goals of the programme are the following: to raise awareness on teeth hygene among young people, raising awareness on the right eating habits, diet and healthy lifestyle as facors influencing the health of teeth.