7.4 Healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition
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There is no strategy specifically aimed at youth health promotion.
However, there is a Policy Paper on Welfare, Public Health and Family submitted by the Flemish Minister on Welfare, Public Health and Family Jo Vandeurzen (Beleidsnota Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Gezin 2014-2019). The Policy Paper covers 2014-2019. It targets the population in general, but al lot of the actions are meant for young people.
The Policy Paper consists of six objectives:
- prevention of health and welfare problems and realisation of first line aid to strengthen the well-being of people
- realisation of tailor-made care, on the basis of possibilities of people
- strengthening support to families by aligning essential elements of the Flemish Family policy with each other
- the recognisable position of law centres in the policy domain Welfare, Public Health and Family and better cooperation between assistance and justice
- stimulation of quality of care and social entrepreneurship by focusing on regulatory and social instruments
- cooperation with three other policy domains, administrative level, science, actors on the ground and users to answer the increasing complex care issues
The Department of Welfare, Public Health and Family (Departement Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Gezin) is responsible for:
- preparation and evaluation of the policy plan, submitted by the Flemish Minister on Welfare, Public Health and Family and supporting the Flemish Minister in controlling and monitoring the policy implementation of the agencies
- policy implementation, including subsidising of welfare and health organisations
Youth health promotion
The policy domain Welfare, Public Health and Family intends to strengthen the well-being of (young) people by preventing health and welfare problems. The Agency Care and Health –embedded in the Flemish Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Family – is responsible for the preparation and evaluation of this Preventive Health Policy. A lot of these preventive actions, mentioned in the Preventive Health Policy, are meant for children and young people.
This Preventive Health Policy (Preventief Gezondheidsbeleid) consists of two methods:
- health promotion
- disease prevention
Since 1998, the Flemish Government developed Flemish Health Objectives (Vlaamse gezondheidsdoelstellingen) to set priorities in the Preventive Health Policy. These objectives are measurable, general accepted and should be realised within a certain period.
Since 2017, there are five Flemish health objectives:
- Health objective on vaccinations
- Health objective on population screening of cancer
- Health objective on suicide
- Health objective on incidents in the private sphere
- Health objective on living healthier
These objectives were based on the 2016 health conference. These objectives are accompanied by several scientific-based strategies to reach those objectives. The health objective ‘living healthier’ replaced the previous health objective on diet and physical activity and the health objective on tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The health objective on living healthier was accepted by the Flemish Government on 8 September 2017 and approved by the Flemish Parliament on 10 January 2018. For each of these five objectives, the Flemish Government draws up action plans. Some of the campaigns/action plans focus on young people, such as the strategy on living healthier and suicide prevention. These five Flemish health objectives should be realised by the end of 2025.
Healthy lifestyles promotion
The strategic plan 'The Fleming lives healthier in 2025', created by the Flemish Ministry for Welfare, Public Health and Family, is implemented to realise the Flemish health objective on living healthier. The strategic plan replaces the previous Flemish Action Plan on Diet and Physical Activity 2009-2015 and the previous Flemish Action Plan on tobacco, alcohol and drugs 2009-2015. It focuses on a health policy in the domains of family, leisure time, education, work and neighborhood. In other words, an integrated policy is put forward with a focus on diverse groups of the population, amongst others children and young people. Specific attention is paid to vulnerable (young) people.
Take your health in your own hands
The family as a context to stimulate a healthy lifestyle
Leisure time, healthy time
Health policy in education
Health policy in working contexts
More health in care- and welfare services
Good governance, the way to a healthy life
(Preventive) strategies to reach those objectives are concerned with:
Intervention in the environment
Agreements and regulations
Care and guidance
Healthy eating and nutrition promotion
The strategic plan 'The Fleming lives healthier in 2025' promotes healthy eating and nutrition (see healthy lifestyles) and includes projects and initiatives in this field.
Prevention of risky behavior and substance abuse
The strategic plan ‘The Fleming lives healthier in 2025’ focuses on the prevention of risky behaviour and substance use (see healthy lifestyles) and includes projects and initiatives in this field.
Funding available for the action plans
The budget of the Flemish Health Objectives and action plans is funded by the Flemish Government. The Flemish Government has annual budget allocated to Preventive Health Policy and this budget is allocated to actors, initiatives and projects in this field.
Monitoring and evaluation of the action plans
The partners, organisations and individual care providers which are recognised and/or subsidised by the Flemish Government for tasks of the Preventive Health Policy, are accountable and monitored. The Flemish Governments defines detailed rules.
Furthermore, there is policy evaluation of the action and strategic plans. An environmental analysis preceded the new (2016) Flemish Health Objectives.
Every school in Flanders is expected to develop a health policy. This is not required by decree, but there is a regulatory framework for the development of health policy in schools:
- the attainment targets/cross-curricular targets in school curricula (vakoverschrijdende eindtermen 2010)
- the assignments of schools regarding care (policy) and student guidance
- the legislation on health policy, security and infrastructure
At secondary level, subject-related attainment targets for health education can be found in courses of physical education and natural science. However, health education in secondary schools is mainly cross-curricular (cf. physical education and security, mental health and socio-relational development).
The Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, with the support of the Flemish Minister of Education and Training and the Flemish Minister of Welfare, Public Health and Family, provides a website with pedagogical tools and teaching material to develop a health policy and to support teachers responsible for health education.
Sex education and personal relationships education
Every school in Flanders decides whether or not sex education and personal relationships is part of the curriculum. It is a cross-curricular attainment target in school curricula.
However, sex education and personal relationships are mostly part of the courses natural sciences and ‘project general courses’ (PAV). This involves knowledge about reproductive organs, contraceptive methods and sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, Sensoa (Flemish expertise centre of sexual health), with the support of the Flemish Minister of Welfare, Public Health and Family, provides pedagogical tools and training to teachers responsible for sex education. Sensoa has a database with teaching material on their website and also organises training in schools for students
Recently, the Flemish Government and the Flemish Parliament were discussing with stakeholders the curriculum for the 21st century and the use of learning outcomes as final objectives. Hilde Crevits, Minister of Education and Training states that sexual education and personal relationships education is relevant to teach in a comprehensive manner. With the gruadual introduction of the modernized curriculum, sex education and personal relationship education will be linked with several key competences (Physical and mental health, social-relational competences, digital competences…).
There are no measures for peer-to-peer educational approaches aiming to enhance young people’s knowledge and understanding of factors related to their health and well-being.
In Flanders, school governing boards have broad autonomy and can decide freely on their teaching methods, timetables and curricula.
Every school in Flanders is expected to develop a health policy. The school health policy pays attention to collaboration with school services (centres for educational guidance and educational guidance services) and external partners (expertise organisations and local health organisations).
The (content-specific) collaboration with schools, CLB’s (centres for educational guidance) and external healthcare organisations is regulated through protocols. At the school level, the policy contract with CLB also sets out cooperation arrangements.
Raising awareness on healthy lifestyles and on factors affecting the health and well-being of young people
Agency Care and Health
The Agency Care and Health (Agentschap Zorg en Gezondheid) promote healthy lifestyles and nutrition. Together with the Flemish-funded partner organisations, the Agency provide advice and information on healthy nutrition, physical activity and mental resilience.
Flemish-funded partner organisations
These partner organisations, such as the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living and VAD, are expertise centres of preventive health care. They are also responsible for health promotion. They give information and advice, develop methodologies and other material and support the implementation and the use of it.
The cooperation between the Flemish Government and these partner organisations is defined in a management agreement and further concretised in annual plans and budget plans.
- The Flemish Institute for Healthy Living
The Flemish-funded expertise centre, the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living helps the Flemish Government to achieve the Flemish Health Objectives.
The Flemish Minister of Welfare, Public Health and Family defines the policy priorities and budget allocation through a management agreement between the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living and the Flemish Government.
The Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, as partner organisation, is responsible for the general health promotion and for promoting health policy in settings (schools, local authorities, the workplace, etc.) and to target groups (general population, persons of lower socioeconomic status, etc.). By doing so, the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living has projects and campaigns for general health promotion.
The expertise centre VAD is a partner organisation of the Flemish Government regarding the Preventive Policy on Alcohol and Drugs.
The Drugline is the public service of VAD for all questions about alcohol, illegal drugs, psychoactive medication and gambling. The Drugline is a telephone and online helpline. It offers information about drugs and helps with questions about assistance, prevention and documentation material.
Youth-targeted information campaigns
The Flemish Institute for Healthy Living sets up different projects and actions to encourage every Fleming to live healthy, eat healthy and exercise more. There are a lot of practical instructions to live healthy on their website. Some actions and initiatives target the population in general, others are specifically meant for young people. Examples of such projects and initiatives are:
- 'Eye for Tasty Stuff' ('Oog voor Lekkers') is a Flemish school project to promote the consumption of vegetables, fruits and/or milk at school. Together with the mascots, students discover different kinds of vegetables and fruits. They are also given a taste of milk. The aim of this project is to inform and sensitize students.
‘Woogie Boogie’: together with Disney Benelux, the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living tries to tackle inactivity among toddlers by the project Woogie Boogie (3-6 years).
‘10.000 Steps’ to exercise enough. This project is organised by the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living.
- 'Healthy Guests' is a project targeted at young people who reside in, or are guided by, child and youth care centres. Because these young people often have more difficult socio-economic living circumstances, they generally have less opportunities to develop a healthy lifestyle. To help youth care organisations to support their 'guests' to develop healthy habits, a Healthy Guests-methodology is developed.
'Generation Smookfree' is an initiative of the Alliance for a Smookfree Society. The organisation Fight against Cancer (‘Kom op tegen Kanker’) and the Foundation against Cancer (‘Stichting tegen Kaker’) launched the initiative. The implementation happens together with the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, the Flemish association for Respiratory Healthcare and Combating Tuberculosis (VRGT) and the Foundation for Respiratory Infections (FARES). This initiative aims to contribute to the creation of a society – by 2019 – in which children and young people can grow up smookfree, can play and have fun in smookfree environments. Such smookfree environments are important because children and young people are likely to copy behaviour, also smoking behaviour. Children and young people who observe that other young people or adults smoke might get the idea that smoking is a normal aspect of daily life rather than an unhealthy addiction. A website is developed and provides an overview of different initiatives that are yet undertaken and that can inspire parents, schools, municipalities, etc. to create smookfree environments for young people.
'Flanders quits smoking'
Flanders quits smoking is a media initiative and website of the Flemish Government and the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living. The website offers anti-smoking support in Flanders. There is information for:
- smoking young people (smartstop app)
- parents of smoking young people
- professionals in schools, workplace, municipality and care sector
Smartstop for young people is implemented in the second and third level of secondary education in Flanders.
'Don’t be fooled' campaign
In 2014, there was the 'Don’t be fooled' (Laat je niet vangen) anti-cannabis campaign of the Flemish Government. This campaign was a great success.
The Flemish expertise centre VAD wants to raise awareness of cannabis through their Drugline-project by boosting the 'Don’t be fooled' campaign every two years.
The new campaign builds on the success of the previous campaign. This campaign is a media initiative and consists of videos for young people, their parents and other family members on youtube, facebook and public service TV.
Joetz (youth work division of the socialist health service) has awareness raising actions about safe sex. One of their projects is called 'Condoshop', a web shop that delivers condoms at home by post.