7.4 Healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition
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The Secretariat Responsible for Healthcare (Egészségügyért Felelős Államtitkárság), operates under the Ministry of Interior (Belügyminisztérium), has prepared the 'Healthy Hungary 2021-2027' Healthcare Sectoral Strategy ('Egészséges Magyarország 2021-2027' Egészségügyi Ágazati Stratégia). Although it is not a youth-specific strategy, it includes provisions concerning youth.
The main objective is to strengthen personal responsibility in maintaining health and to reduce the differences in health status of residents in certain parts of the country.
Among the explicit goals concerning youth, the health strategy also includes:
- reducing child poverty and its effects,
- ensuring the opportunity to start a healthy life,
- preventing chronic diseases in adulthood from an early age,
- establishing health centres for children and youth, which are currently lacking.
The Public Education Strategy 2021 - 2030
The Hungarian Government adopted the Public Education Strategy 2021 - 2030 (Köznevelési stratégia 2021 - 2030) in 2021. One specific aim of the Strategy is to 'Ensure the internal balance of the education' which means the aligned intellective, mental and physical development of the students and the development of the childhood institutional care. This aim includes programmes for
- strengthening national identity,
- family life education,
- developing artistic competencies,
- health preservation,
- digital child protection,
- reducing bullying.
The '5 national health programmes'
In order to support the health system, the Hungarian Government has established the '5 national health programmes' (nemzeti egészségügyi programok) to enable Hungary to achieve a healthier, and longer life for Hungarian citizens with far-reaching state support. The programmes are aimed at society as a whole, but some of their segments also apply to young people. The five programmes are the
- National Anti-Cancer Programme
- National Circulation Programme
- National Musculoskeletal Programme
- National Mental Health Programme
- National Child Health Programme: eradicating child poverty and its effects, to ensure a chance to start a healthy life, to prevent chronic diseases in adults from an early age.
The programmes were adapted in 2018 and its implementation run till 2030.
Healthy eating is regulated by different government decisions. Community catering in Hungary affects 1/20 of the residents each day. The laws regulating the sector try to influence suppliers and service providers to move towards the reform of community catering and healthy eating.
School Fruit and Vegetables Scheme
A ministerial decree contains the School Fruit and Vegetables Programme in Hungary, part of the European School Fruit and Vegetables Scheme, which is realised with the help of the European Union's financial support [15/2021. (III. 31.) AM rendelet].
Nutrition-healthcare regulations concerning community catering
In April 2014, a ministerial decree [37/2014. (IV. 30.) EMMI rendelet] was enforced on the nutrition-healthcare regulations concerning community catering, which aims to change the basics of the general culture of community catering in Hungary by setting healthy nutrition as a priority. The decree regulates the preparation and nutrient content of food served in school canteens and hospitals.
The main prohibitions are the following:
- carbonated or sugary soft drinks are forbidden,
- it is forbidden to use meat with high-fat content,
- it is forbidden to put salt or sugar bowls on tables,
- it is forbidden to add sugar to milk offered to drink,
- it is forbidden to use food powders, stock-cubes, seasoning creams, pastes; only for substance development or seasoning.
The aim of the Canteen Programme ('Mintamenza Program') was to increase the proportion of local and organic food to 30 per cent of school menus. The programme aims to include fish and game meat raised in Hungary in community catering.
Nationwide surveys of the National Food and Nutrition Institute
The National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (Országos Gyógyszerészeti és Élelmezés-egészségügyi Intézet) conducted nationwide surveys to assess the status of kindergarten and school catering ('Országos iskolai MENZA körkép'). 139 schools and their kitchens took part in the survey of 2016/2017. The survey aimed to get a nationwide picture of the situation of school catering in the community catering sector.
'The Buda Area Health Programme'
On 25 September 2019, the WHO, in collaboration with the since defunct Ministry of Human Capacities, organised a workshop to establish and launch the Hungarian Public Health Partnership. Participants, from the field of public health and related disciplines, agreed that only complex, participatory and multi-stakeholder interventions can improve population health at national, regional and local levels (according to the information provided by the Ministry in 2020).
As the result of this workshop the 'Buda Area Health Programme 2018-2030' ('Budakörnyéki Egészségprogram 2018-2030') was developed as an international model programme. It is implemented by the National Koranyi Institute of Pulmunology (Országos Korányi Pulmunológiai Intézet) and the Budakörnyéki Municipal Association (Budakörnyéki Önkormányzati Társulás).
One of the aim of the programme is to improve children's health which would indirectly promote the renewal of Hungarian public health. The implementation of the project started at the end of 2019 with a grant of about EUR 258 000 (HUF 100 million).
The National Core Curriculum
The National Core Curriculum (Nemzeti Alaptanterv) which was announced in 2020, states that one main aim of the Science class is that students acquire the habits of the healthy lifestyle. More specifically, the student should know the basic principles and components of a healthy lifestyle and be aware of the activities necessary for the development of physical and mental health. Biology classes also emphasise that the student must apply knowledge about the human body in making healthy lifestyle choices. In addition, the student must be oriented and reflect on his/her own physical and mental health, see it as valuable and work for it on a daily basis.
Scholarship programme for students in healthcare vocational schools
In 2017, the government has introduced a scholarship programme for students of vocational schools in the health sector. The scholarship programme was funded by EUR 14.2 million (HUF 4.4 billion) from the Human Resource Development Operational Programme. It aimed at supporting 3 200 students during their studies and developing a nation-wide mentor network for them. The monthly scholarship was about EUR 130 (HUF 40 000). The programme lasted till 2021 and 3 214 students was supported and 2 800 of them have obtained a job in their profession ('Ápolói ösztöndíjprogram').
Local health promotion programme
The schools should develop (in collaboration with school health services) the local health promotion programme, that complies with the Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről):
'In day-time education, in classes teaching subjects in cultural domains, schools shall organise daily physical education within five physical education classes per week'.
Two curricular classes per week may be substituted by
- education organisation forms and sports disciplinary teaching,
- sports activities pursued within school sports clubs,
- organised training within a sports organisation, based on the request of students who are either certified members of a competitive sports club or have an amateur sports contract.
Based on this law, in the 2014/2015 school year, Grade 1 to 2 to 3, Grade 5 to 6 to 7 and Grade 9 to 10 to 11 students had daily physical education, which is equivalent to 5 times 45 minutes of physical education per week. In the 2015/2016 school year, the concept of daily physical education was introduced in all 12 classes of the public school system.
Sex education and the promotion of health protection in education
In Hungary today, sex education is called 'family education' in which sex is mentioned only in passing, or 'sex education', which focuses on the physical aspects of sex.
The so-called common modules (11152-16 Health Education and Development, 11221-16 Nursing) of the health care vocational training deal with health, including the topic of sex education.
The promotion and protection of health is a social task, the basic requirements of which include the improvement of the population's health literacy and health awareness, as well as the appropriate dissemination of information about their health to the Hungarian population. Education for a healthy lifestyle should start with the youngest, with school being one of the most important venues.
According to the EMMI regulation no. 20/2012. (VIII. 31.) [20/2012. (VIII. 31.) EMMI rendelet] in the everyday activity of the education institution they should pay special attention to tasks related to comprehensive health development, including the prevention of abuse and school violence, based on the children's right to health and safety. The aim of mental health promotion in the educational institution is to support steady mental development and positively influence personality changes.
In secondary school, the topics of sexuality appear at a higher level than in primary school in grades 9-10 (Biológia kerettanterv a 9-10. évfolyam számára), also within the framework of the subjects of ethics and biology. They deal with specific problems also such as fishing for sexual data or defence against sexual diseases.
'Education for family life'
This is not a compulsory subject, schools can teach 'Education for Family Life' (with sex education as a central theme) at the expense of their freely planned lessons in grades 1 to 12. The framework curriculum for grades 9-12 deals with
- the families (how they work, communication in family, rules etc.),
- social relationships, communication, conflict management,
- personality and values,
- self-awareness and emotional intelligence,
- gender, male/female identity, sexuality, relationships,
- risks and deviances and decisions,
- consequences and change management ('Családi életre nevelés 9-12. évfolyam').
Peer-to-peer (teaching each other – learning from each other) is not a new initiative in pedagogy, nor in the content regulations. Cooperative study organising methods are mentioned also in the National Core Curriculum (Nemzeti Alaptanterv), in the general introduction of specific fields of literacy and certain subjects.
Various church and civil organisations provide further information and training on sexuality education and teacher preparation.
'Youth on Life Threshold'
At the request of the AIDS-prevention group of the National Institute of Health (Nemzeti Egészségvédelmi Intézet AIDS-megelőzési csoportja), the church-based Christian educational society, the Timothy Society (Timóteus Társaság), launched a programme called 'Youth at the Threshold of Life' ('Fiatalok az élet küszöbén') in 1994 to help young people to develop healthy self-knowledge, meaningful relationships, joyful sexuality, a happy family life and a stable value system, and to teach them to say no to the various environmental pressures. They offer various manuals for teachers and informative publications for young people.
'For Happier Families'
The 'For Happier Families' Family Life Education School Programme is curated by a church-based organisation. The main aim of the programme is to protect and strengthen marriage and the family. They regularly hold lectures, courses and counselling to young people and married couples throughout the country. Since 1993, they have been teaching about family planning, education and family life in primary and secondary schools. The trainings on family life are called 'family-lessons', and are aimed at young people aged 7 to 24 ('Boldogabb családokért' családi életre nevelés iskolai program).
The 'My Fertility Matters' (MFM) project as a church initiative was launched in Hungary in November 2005. The founder of the Munich programme took over the training of Hungarian MFM staff. The first training was held in Budapest, in November 2006 ('MFM-Projekt').
Since the launch of the project in Hungary, MFM co-workers held a total of 2 697 'Cycle-shows' for 33 084 girls and provided information about the programme to 19 872 adults from 15 May 2007 to 31 December 2022. Currently, there are 80 MFM consultants in the country ('MFM-Projekt, Statisztika', 2022).
The central idea of the 'Cycle show' programme is as follows: the self-image and feelings of adolescent girls are primarily determined by how they experience and value their bodies, what messages they receive with their bodies - and thus, about themselves. Experiencing the value of one’s own body is important in order to be able to deal responsibly with one's health, fertility and sexuality ('Ciklus-show' programme).
Ars Erotica Foundation
In the civil sector the Ars Erotica Foundation (Ars Erotica Alapítvány) has a similar task. They conduct sex education in primary and secondary school classes and groups as part of their curriculum. Their positively oriented activities, based on several methodological tools, focus more on raising awareness and developing skills than on imparting knowledge. They support young people to become sexually aware, healthy adults.
In addition to providing information about sexuality, the Ars Erotica Foundation also offers methodological training to help educators and youth workers deal with mostly sensitive issues in a more conscious, creative and self-confident way. In addition, internships are offered to professionals in whose work body and sexuality are present on a daily basis (family and youth workers, health professionals, social workers, special educators, asylum professionals, etc.). These trainings help to deal with situations where young people feel individual differences in terms of body, gender roles or sexuality.
Hintalovon Children's Rights Foundation
An important civil initiative is Yelon, the online sex education website of the Hintalovon Children's Rights Foundation (Hintalovon Gyermekjogi Alapítvány) for children aged 10 to 18 years old and responsible adults.
Raising awareness on healthy lifestyles and on factors affecting the health and well-being of young people
Since 2014, 61 Health Promotion Offices have been operating throughout the country, mainly in disadvantaged regions. In 2013, they were able to reach 170 000 people, 46 000 of whom live in disadvantaged areas. In 2021, 113 offices were in operation. They are usually linked to local hospitals or work independently.
The offices offer thematic programmes, in September 2017, the topics were the school environment, community catering and the family as a safety net. (For more information on Health Promotion Offices, see sub-chapter 7.2 Administration and Governance)