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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.4 Healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition

Last update: 9 November 2020
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  1. National strategy(ies)
  2. Encouraging healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition for young people
  3. Health education and healthy lifestyles education in schools
  4. Peer-to-peer education approaches
  5. Collaboration and partnerships
  6. Raising awareness on healthy lifestyles and on factors affecting the health and well-being of young people

National strategy(ies)

Public Health policy and action plan that will promote health-promoting community – with a special concern for children and youth until the age of 18 (September 2016).

The vision is; Icelanders are aware of the responsibility for their own health and the school system, workplaces and institutions are promoting health.

The main objective: In 2030, Iceland will be one of the healthiest nations in the world.

Specific objectives are:
a) All municipalities will be health promoting communities, including pre-schools, compulsory schools, upper secondary schools and workplaces.
b) Strategically preventions takes place in education and training, nutrition, physical activity, mental health, oral health, violence and injury prevention and tobacco, alcohol and substance abuse prevention.
c) Reduce the frequency of chronic diseases.
d) Develop social and health indicators, statistics that illustrate social and health status of the population under different circumstances of various social groups.
e) Government policies and strategic plans, will consider health and well-being of community residents. Health in all policies requires evidence-based information on the impact of factors on health.

Further information (Icelandic):


Medical Director of Health and Public Health ActNo. 41/2007. The objective is to promote the health of the people of Iceland, including through more active public health activities, ensuring the quality of health services, and grounding public health work and health services in the best knowledge and experience at all times. In addition to domestic research and experiences, health promotion and primary prevention practice initiated by the health sector is usually based on guidance and recommendations published by e.g. WHO, EU and the Nordic council of ministers. The Directorate of Health has the role to undertake preventive and health-promoting tasks and to promote public health work in collaboration with other parties involved in the field. Further information (English):

The Directorate of Health, action plan 2016-2017 is based on the stated role of the Directorate and relevant, national policies. The policy and action plan includes the main policies, goals and actions for each of the Directorate’s five divisions. Every year a more detailed work plan is published. One of the long-term strategies is “Encouragement and support for health promotion - Support local authorities, schools and primary health care in their health promotion initiatives”. Further information (English):

Action plan to reduce obesity – working group on behalf of the Ministry of Health (2013) (“Aðgerðaáætlun til að draga úr tíðni offitu”). It is recommended that government actions consist in the promotion of healthy lifestyles on a broad social basis without special focus on obesity or weight.

Proposals for priority actions; the top priority of the government is calling for the cooperation of all the ministries to coordinate actions to reduce unhealthy lifestyle and the increasing weight of the population.

  • Tax on unhealthy food - e.g. sugar tax
  • Regular monitoring on lifestyle (risk factors of chronic diseases) - evaluate activities
  • Improve health services
  • Prescription for physical activity  – work systematically towards  being a permanent option
  • Nutrition counseling within the primary health care
  • Implementation of the joint Nordic nutrition label – green key hole
  • Clinical guidelines on obesity for children (revised) and for adults
  • Health impact assessment
  • Mapping weight prejudice and prevent them

Further information (Icelandic):

Regulation on the use of the Keyhole food label in the marketing of foodstuffs. Further information (Icelandic):  

Regulation on the Maximum Levels for Trans-Fatty Acids in Foods. Further information (Icelandic):

Alcohol Act No. 75/1998. Further information (Icelandic):   

Narcotic Act No. 65/1974. Further information (English):

Policy on alcohol and drug prevention 2020. The policy focuses on young people and vulnerable groups. It states that an action-plan shall be written in 2014 and measures to be taken will address prevention, treatment, post-treatment, monitoring and rehabilitation, it is still in process. The action plan is to be evaluated every second year. Further information (Icelandic):

Tobacco Control Act, No. 6/2002. Further information (English):

Official public policy on tobacco control. The Ministry of Welfare and Directorate of Health, along with other stakeholders on ministerial and municipal levels, are currently preparing the policy on tobacco control. It is estimated that the policy will be followed by work on an action plan in tobacco control and tobacco prevention. 


Encouraging healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition for young people

Health promoting upper secondary school programme, part of the Directorate of Health strategy. All upper secondary schools are Health promoting schools in Iceland. Effective prevention strategies in the educational system that cover nutrition, physical activity, mental health promotion, violence and sexual health prevention and alcohol, drug and tobacco prevention. Schools are offered website, guidelines, and checklists criteria: bronze, silver and gold, followed by action plan and support. The programme is long-term in action and succeeds to be sustainable. Research evidence from ICSRA. Further information (Icelandic):  

Regulation on primary health care No. 787/2007. Primary health care are manage by the state and should conduct health protection/prevention: sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, alcohol, substance and tobacco use, communicable disease, accident and health prevention for youth. Further information (Icelandic):

  • Primary health care, guidelines made for professionals e.g. sex health education for schools, accident prevention and violence in close relationships. Further information (Icelandic):
  • Health behavior website, the Directorate of Health and Primary health care are currently in working process, developing website with material intended for people who want to change their health behavior. Guidelines etc. for children, youth and adults.  Further information (Icelandic):

Association for education prevention and health promotion (“Fræ”). NGO organization, run by people interested in alcohol and drug prevention. They provide upper secondary schools counseling, publish newsletter and provide website with information. Further information (Icelandic):

Compass&Total conseling, website (“Áttavitinn&Tótalráðgjöf”). Online information for young people, they can ask questions about health, sexual health, mental health, physical health etc. and professionals answer the questions. Information and articles about these issues are on the website. Further information (Icelandic):


Health education and healthy lifestyles education in schools

Upper Secondary Education Act 2008 No 92 12 June. Addresses healthy lifestyle. Further information (English):

The Icelandic national curriculum guide for upper secondary school (2012). Health and well-being is now stated as one of the six fundamental pillars of education in upper secondary schools. The main health factors that are to be encouraged are: positive self-image, exercise, nutrition, rest, mental wellbeing, positive communication, security, hygiene, sexual health and understanding of one’s own feelings and those of others. The main purpose of the health promoting school work is to support schools to fulfil their role in incorporating health as a pillar of education. Further information (English):

Health and Well-being one of the six fundamental pillars (“Heilbrigði og velferð – grunnþáttur menntunar”) (2013). Explains the importance of implementing health promotion work into schools schedule and curriculum. Further information (Icelandic):


Health promoting upper secondary school toolbox. Manuals, checklists, guidelines, videos, brochures, posters etc. on nutrition, physical activity, mental health promotion, alcohol-, drug and tobacco prevention.  Further information (Icelandic):

Recommendations published by the Directorate of Health:

Physical activity recommendations. Further information (Icelandic):


Peer-to-peer education approaches

Peer to peer counsel. Located in Hitt húsið youth center own by the city of Reykjavík. The group consists of very diverse young people age 17-21. All peer consultants undergo preparation course that consists of presentations and lectures from professionals in the field of youth culture and the group gets through training in public speaking and facilitation. The topics of the preparation course include public health, self-image, alcohol, tobacco and drug use, sex, body image and respect, porn, rights of young people, addiction, mental health and bullying. The peer consultants visit youth clubs, schools and the summer work school with training programme.  Special emphasis is on a strong self-image, healthy lifestyle, and the disadvantages of drug use and communication, both online and in person. No information are available about mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation. Further information (Icelandic):

The Youth Council of the Icelandic Youth Association UMFÍ, is available for young people age 16-25. The Youth Council is a forum for young people within UMFÍ who have an opinion on the association and want to help it grow. They work with the board of UMFÍ in matters concerning young people. The biggest project of the Youth Council each year is a youth conference Young People and Democracy (“Ungt fólk og lýðræði”). The Youth Council has nine members from all over the country and works in accordance with best practices concerning gender distribution, age distribution and residence. The members of the youth council serve on the council for two years at a time and meetings are every month.


Collaboration and partnerships

Youth forum (“Æskulýðsvettvangurinn”).  Cooperation forum with The Icelandic Youth Association (UMFÍ), The Icelandic Boy and Girl Scout Association, YMCA Iceland, Icelandic association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR). This cooperation focuses on projects working on prevention work e.g. bullying, sexual harassment and hatred discourse. Further information (Icelandic):

The Youth Act. The Minister of Education is the highest authority on youth affairs according to this act. The national authorities and municipalities will, in co-operation with youth clubs and youth organizations support young people in participating in a diverse youth activities possible. This act is intended for youth activities for children and young people, especially aged 6 to 25. Youth activities are organized club or leisure activities intended for children and young people to use their spare time working in concert for ideals, goals and interests which they themselves value. Further information (English):  

Together group (“Samanhópurinn”), group of professionals working in the field of prevention and promotion. Associated partners are 23 and represent municipalities, and serval of state institutions e.g. the police, the Directorate of Health, the Ombudsman for Children and serval of NGO´s. The main object is to get positive massage to parents, about spending time together and knowing what your children are doing, the importance of knowing the friends of your children and friends parents etc. The goal is to prevent adolescent to start using alcohol to soon. Researches have shown a great decrease since 2000. The collaboration is funded; The Public Health Fund, the City of Reykjavik Prevention Fund and donations by the municipalities. Further information (Icelandic):

Getting in the right direction (“Náum áttum”), group of professionals working in the field of prevention and promotion. Associated partners are 12 and represent serval of state institutions e.g. the police, the Directorate of Health, the Government Agency for Child Protection and serval of NGO´s. The main object is to held seminars about issues that concern children and youth prevention and promotion and well-being. The target groups are professionals working in this field and parents. Seminars are every month during the wintertime, to raise issues that require special attention. Further information (Icelandic):


Raising awareness on healthy lifestyles and on factors affecting the health and well-being of young people

Week 43 – Prevention week (“Forvarnarvika”). Collaboration of an Association of prevention NGO´s (“SAFF”). The group makes awareness of one prevention issue in week 43 every year. Awareness made for e-cigarettes in 2016 and the same will be in 2017. Further information (Icelandic):

Medical Students prevention work (“Ástráður”). Medical Students visit upper secondary schools and educate, inform and talk to students about sexual health. Website is available with information. This is collaboration work; the University of Iceland, medical student senate, upper secondary school authorities and counselors and student senate in upper secondary schools. The Ministries of Health and Education fund the project, among others. Further information (Icelandic):