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The field of youth health and well-being is divided between several sector ministries, with the Ministry of Health being the main actor in relation to health.
The healthcare system operates across three political and administrative levels: the Ministry of Health, the regions, and the municipalities (i.e. national, regional, and local levels).
The Ministry of Health has the overall regulatory and supervisory functions in healthcare. The five regions are primarily responsible for the hospitals, general practitioners (GPs), and psychiatric care. The 98 municipalities are responsible for a number of primary healthcare services as well as for elderly care.
The Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health is responsible for establishing the overall framework for the provision of healthcare, including mental health and sexual health. This includes legislation on the organisation and provision of healthcare services, patients’ rights, healthcare professionals, hospitals and pharmacies, medicinal products, vaccinations, maternity care, and child healthcare. The legislation covers the tasks of the regions, municipalities, and other authorities within the area of health.
The Danish Health Authority
The Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) is responsible for advising and supporting the Ministry of Health, the regions, and the municipalities on health issues in general. Through 47 national clinical guidelines, the authority ensures uniform healthcare services of a high professional quality across Denmark, including effective health emergency management.
The health authority disseminates knowledge/conveys information to the population and to public authorities on population health status and on risk factors such as unhealthy lifestyle and provides adequate prevention programmes and interventions to support healthy choices. This also includes rehabilitation, prevention, and support for elderly people, focusing especially on ensuring coherent efforts across the health and social sectors. The Danish Health Authority is responsible for national recommendations concerning obesity, physical activity, alcohol, and tobacco.
The Danish regions
The regions are responsible for hospital care, including emergency care, psychiatry, and for health services provided by GPs and specialists in private practice. The regions organise health services for their citizens according to regional needs, and the individual region may adjust services within the financial and national regulatory framework, enabling them to ensure the appropriate capacity.
The municipalities are responsible for a number of health and social services and are responsible for the general close-to-home prevention. Furthermore, the Act on Social Services (Serviceloven, Lbk nr 798 af 07/08/2019) obliges municipalities to establish a children and youth policy. Local healthcare services include disease prevention and health promotion, rehabilitation outside of hospitals, home nursing, school health services, child dental treatment, child and school nursing, physiotherapy, alcohol and drug abuse treatment, home care services, nursing homes, and other services for elderly people. In addition, municipalities co-finance regional rehabilitation services and training facilities.
Other ministries with responsibility within the field of young people’s health and well-being:
The Ministry of Children and Education: The Ministry of Children and Education is the responsible authority for the obligatory health and sexual education in primary and secondary schools. Furthermore, the Ministry of Children and Education is the top-level authority for the well-being assessments conducted in primary and secondary educations institutions each year.
The Ministry of Culture: The Ministry of Culture is the responsible authority for sport and leisure activities in sports associations as well as in associations within the area of general non-formal adult education. The Danish Health Authority, under the Ministry of Health, is responsible for recommendations regarding physical activities, and the Ministry of Culture is responsible for the financial support of associations where the physical activities often take place.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior: The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior is responsible for establishing the overall framework for the provision of social measures aimed at children and young people with special needs. According to the Act on Social Services, the municipalities are obliged to establish social measures for marginalised children and young people or children and young people with special needs that promote their possibilities of personal development, health, and well-being.
The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark: The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark is responsible for administrative and research tasks in the areas of environmental protection, farming, and food production.
Under the Ministry, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) is responsible for areas in relation to the production and quality of food as well as nutrition and healthy food. The DVFA’s tasks include hygiene, food labelling/nutrition label, food waste, and the official Danish dietary recommendations on a healthy diet.
The Danish Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (DIF): DIF is an umbrella organisation for both elite and non-elite sport in Denmark. DIF represents 62 sports unions.
Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations (DGI): DGI is an umbrella organisation with more than 6300 local associations and represents more than 100,000 volunteers. For 150 years, DGI has represented the interests of local sports associations and promoted gymnastics and sports among the Danish population. In 2017, DGI represented 1,586,378 Danes in local associations.
Danish School Sports (Dansk skoleidræt) aims to improve public health by means of multiple nationwide primary and lower secondary school activities such as Skolernes Motionsdag (Official Exercise Day for Schools), Sæt Skolen i bevægelse (Put the School into Movement), Legepatruljen (Play Patrole), Gameboosters, Skolesport (School Sport), Styr på Sundheden (Health under Control), Gåbus (Walking Bus), etc. Danish School Sports is rooted in both sports and school systems, and their vision is to excite and anchor the foundation to lifelong activity through sports, play, and daily movement in children and young adults. Danish School Sports is financed by the Danish Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education. Danish School Sports is a member of the ISF (International School Sport Federation).
The Danish Family Planning Association (Sex og samfund): The Danish Family Planning Association (DFPA) is Denmark’s largest non-governmental organisation in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Aids Foundation (Aids-Fondet): The Aids Foundation is an NGO involved in the effort to fight HIV.
Children, Youth, and Grief (Børn, unge og sorg): Children, Youth, and Grief is an organisation that offers counselling to grieving children and young people due to death or sickness among parents or siblings. The organisation offers free psychological treatment for children and young people under the age of 28, manages a telephone counselling service targeting the network around the child or young person, and educates professionals in contact with the target group, for instance nurses, GPs, and other healthcare providers.
Psychiatric Foundation (PsykiatriFonden): The Psychiatric Foundation is an organisation working to fight mental illness. The organisation works to ensure that all people with mental illness receive the assistance and counselling they need. Furthermore, the organisation manages a competency centre that distributes research on mental illness.
Headspace Denmark (Det Sociale Netværk/Headspace) is a mental well-being counselling service for young people between the ages of 12 and 25 years. The mission of Headspace is to help young people and to prevent mental problems from becoming too big when they are not talked about. Headspace aims to be a safe space for help and guidance and to perform preventative work against mental problems and all the struggles that come with being young in today’s society.
SIND – the Danish Association for Mental Health (SIND – Landsforeningen for psykisk sundhed) advocates the understanding and tolerance of people with mental problems and illnesses and their families. SIND seeks to attract more attention to mental health and make people care. SIND takes initiatives and supports initiatives to promote mental well-being, prevention, and treatment.
Better Psychiatry (Bedre Psykiatri) is an organisation working to improve the conditions for relatives of people with mental illness. The organisation fights to ensure more resources and better treatment in all sections of the psychiatric system.
Danish ADHD Association (ADHD-foreningen): The ADHD Association’s purpose is to create understanding and actual improvement for children, youngsters, and adults with ADHD.
LMS – the Danish Association for Eating Disorders and Self-Harm (LMS – Landsforeningen mod spiseforstyrrelser og selvskade): The association is a national patient and member association. The association provides counselling, educates professionals, conducts presentations and workshops, and manages a knowledge centre.
Danish Psychological Association (Dansk Psykolog forening): The Danish Psychological Association is a professional union and representative body for psychologists in Denmark.
Danish Children and Youth Psychiatric Society (Børne- og ungdomspsykiatrisk selskab): The society is a medical science society aiming to promote Danish children and youth psychiatry.
Danish Nurses Organisation (Dansk Sygeplejeråd): The organisation handles the interest of approximately 77,500 nurses. The organisation strives towards better conditions for nurses’ salary that reflect the profession’s high value to society and to professional nursing quality. Furthermore, the organisation participates actively in debates about health policies.
The Danish College of General Practitioners (Dansk Selskab for Almen Medicin): The Danish College of General Practitioners is the scientific college of general practice. The purpose of the college is to strengthen education within general practice, to encourage research in general practice, to strengthen the international contacts between general practitioners, and to ensure quality development.
The Danish National Federation of Early Childhood Teachers and Youth Educators (BUPL): The union handles the interest of Danish pedagogues.
Children’s Welfare (Børns vilkår) is an organisation working to ensure and protect the rights of children. The objective of the organisation is to put an end to child neglect in Denmark. The organisation manages a range of counselling services.
Save the Children Denmark (Red Barnet) is an organisation working to protect children all over the world. In Denmark, the organisation focuses on tackling bullying, preventing violence and sexual abuse towards children, and helping children living in poverty.
The Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) works for a strong, active effort against cancer. The society conducts research and patient support.
The Heart Association (Hjerteforeningen) supports people with heart diseases. Furthermore, the association conducts research into cardiovascular diseases and offers courses in life-saving treatments.
Danish Red Cross (Dansk Røde Kors) is a humanitarian organisation that helps people get through crisis situations and disasters. In Denmark, the organisation helps the most vulnerable towards a better life.
Mothers Aid (Mødrehjælpen) is a social-humanitarian organisation that provides counselling and supports pregnant women and families with children in times of difficulty.
Union of Young People with Disabilities (Sammenslutningen af Unge Med Handicap) is a political umbrella organisation for young people with disabilities. The association works to promote an inclusive society and to make young people with disabilities visible in the political debate and in society.
Asthma-Allergy Union (Astma-Allergi forbundet) is a patient organisation working to ensure that all people suffering from asthma, allergies, eczema, and pollinosis have a better everyday life.
National Association for Children and Parents (Landsforeningen for Børn og Forældre) offers the counselling of children, parents, and step-parents regarding a positive cooperation in relation to divorce and family breakup.
The Danish Diabetes Association (Diabetesforeningen) is a patient organisation supporting diabetics in Denmark.
The Danish Multiple Sclerosis Society (Scleroseforeningen) is a private disease-combating organisation. The society funds research and provides support and information.
The Muscular Dystrophy Foundation (Muskelsvindfonden) is a patient organisation that aims to improve the lives of people with muscular dystrophy.
Many organisations in section 4.2 are involved in the work for children and young people’s mental well-being.
General distribution of responsibility
The distribution of responsibility in the area of health resembles the distribution of responsibility in other sectors. The Ministry of Health establishes the overall framework with laws passed in parliament, but the regions and municipalities have the freedom to decide how local measures are designed. The local government (kommunalt selvstyre) in Denmark entails a lot of room to manoeuvre for the municipalities as long as they live up to the legislation and ministerial objectives.
In the area of sports under the Ministry of Culture, the Danish state’s practical influence on and promotion of sports and physical activities aimed at the youth population is highly decentralised. The framework policies are decided by the Danish government and the Ministry of Culture, but the majority of the actual strategies are promoted and initiated by the sports organisations and sports federations in the civil society.
The Danish field of sport is characterised by a significant degree of autonomy. The principle of ‘arm’s length’ is often used to describe the Danish model for financing and regulating sports. The principle implies that the sports organisations receive an annual amount of public funding that is left to each individual association to distribute in the organisation in accordance with the associations’ internal democratic structures and control – this is done at both the national and local level.
In Denmark, voluntary sports – or grassroot sports – are organised in two major umbrella organisations: the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association (DGI) and the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF). Half of all local sports clubs/associations in Denmark are members of both organisations. Besides these two umbrella organisations, the Danish Federation of Company Sports (DFIF) organises sport in local clubs/associations connected to companies and workplaces in Denmark.
Regarding financial support, receipts from the national lottery and football pools (udlodningsmidlerne) are distributed to a number of non-profit causes, including sports and culture. The Act on Receipts from the National Lottery and Football Pools (Udlodningsloven, LOV nr 1532 af 19/12/2017) sets a fixed level of funding that is adjusted according to the price index, which ensures financing of the umbrella organisations for grassroot sports in Denmark.
Similarly, the Act on Non-Formal General Adult Education (Folkeoplysningsloven, LBK nr 1115 af 31/08/2018) ensures municipal support to the local clubs/associations in the form of the allocation of grants for active members under the age of 25 years, and providing available local authority halls and facilities.
Public health reflects both the lifestyle of the citizens and the ability of the healthcare system to prevent, treat, and cure diseases. The general social and living conditions, such as education, income, housing conditions, work environment, and the organisation of the healthcare system all play an important role in ensuring a healthy life.
Therefore, the field of health demands a coherent strategy, which often involves several ministries, for instance the strategy ‘Food, Meals and Health’ launched by the Ministry for Environment and Food, Ministry of Children and Education, Ministry of Health, and Ministry for Social Affairs and the Interior.
Furthermore, in order to strengthen the early and preventive measures for children and young people, a range of cross-sectoral initiatives have been launched in the municipalities, such as SSD (municipal social service, school personnel, day care, after-school care, municipal health services). See section 4.2 and 7.6.
Partnerships between public and private actors within the field of health are common. Examples of such partnerships are:
ABC for Mental Health: A cross-sectoral partnership between municipalities, organisations, and voluntary associations that work with mental health.
Healthy City Network (Sund By Netværket): Since 1991, this has been a partnership between several public and private actors. Among the public partners are the Danish Health Authority, National Institute of Public Health, Local Government Denmark, and Regional Denmark. The network supports the work with public health in Denmark by creating synergy in the cooperation between public and private partners.
STOP HPV is an initiative launched by the Danish Health Authority, the Danish Medical Association, and Danish Cancer Society. The partnership has launched an information campaign in order to provide parents with information about the HPV virus and the free HPV vaccination for all young girls, and, from 1 July 2019, for all boys aged 12 and above.