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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.4 Healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  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)

The Strategy for Youth Health Development in the Republic of Serbia adopted in 2006, states three main Strategic goals:

  • promotion of healthy lifestyles, preservation and improvement of youth health;
  • achieving equality of young people in health, regardless of differences according to gender, health status, socio-economic status, ethnic, religious and other affiliation;
  • redirecting health care from a clinical approach to health promotion, intersectoral cooperation, community involvement, active youth participation and the development of individual responsibility for health.

Related to this, the expected strategic outcome referring to healthy lifestyles is that at least 50% of young people have adopted healthy lifestyles and benefit from adequate health care services. The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV infection, childbirth among young adolescents, termination of pregnancy, mental health disorders, suicide or suicide attempts, violent behaviour of young people, abuse of psychoactive substances among young people, especially among vulnerable, marginalized and socially disadvantaged young people are the indicators defined by the Strategy.

Specific strategic goal of theNational Youth Strategy for the period 2015-2025 is improved health and well-being of young women and men. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to:

  • to improve health promotion and risk prevention programmes for young people to make them available to more young women and men;
  • create conditions for the development of healthy lifestyles of young women and men;
  • improve conditions for working with young people at health risk;
  • improve measures for housing and independence of young people;
  • develop responsibility of young women and men towards environmental protection.

Ministries in charge of these specific objectives are the ministries in charge of youth, of housing, the ministry in charge of the environment and the ministry in charge of health.

To create conditions for the development of healthy lifestyles of young women and men, the Strategy recognize that policies and programmes for the development of healthy lifestyles of young women and men need to be improved through:

  • supporting research on monitoring the lifestyles of young people and analysis of trends according to international standards, which will include a gender perspective;
  • establishing a mechanism for cooperation of youth policy entities in the exchange of information and development of guidelines for healthy lifestyle programmes;
  • improving public policies for funding healthy lifestyle programmes;
  • supporting programmes for the development of healthy lifestyles of young people and their monitoring and evaluation.

Further, within the same strategic goal aims at improved opportunities for young women and men for quality leisure time and participation in sports and recreational activities should be achieved through:

  • support to the development and implementation of programmes of youth policy actors for the development of healthy lifestyles;
  • supporting and developing programmes of sports sections and other extracurricular activities aimed at the development of health through life skills, with special emphasis on young women;
  • improve and develop the system of school competitions and the introduction of a variety of sports disciplines and stimulate the inclusion of all young people, with special reference to young women;
  • support the activities of introducing physical education classes in the curricula of higher education institutions;
  • support the construction, rehabilitation and adaptation of public spaces and putting into function the quality of leisure time of young people.

The evidence-based evaluation of the implementation of the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 for the period 2015-2020 reports that the Strategic goal “Improvement of the health and well-being of young women and men” had the highest level of fulfilment out of the all strategic goals. The highest percentage of fulfilment of the indicators - 94.01% was achieved in 2019, followed by 83.03% in 2020, 58% in the period from 2015 to 2018 and lastly - 45% in 2018. More details on the National Youth Strategy is provided in Chapter 1/1.3 National youth strategy. An initiative for revision of the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 or the development of a new Strategy was launched in 2021, see more about forthcoming policy developments in Chapter 1/1.9 Current Debates and Reforms.

Decree on the National Health Care Programme for Women, Children and Youth points out adopting healthy lifestyles in adolescents as one of the specific goals in achieving preservation and improvement of the health of adolescents aged 10 to 18, i.e. until the end of secondary school education. The expected results, according to this regulation, are: at least 40% of adolescents who have adopted healthy lifestyles; improved knowledge and greater motility of adolescents, families and the whole society for healthy lifestyles and reduction of various forms of risky behaviour.

The Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia by 2030 (Strategija razvoja obrazovanja i vaspitanja u Republici Srbiji do 2030. godine) pinpoints, as a part of a broader strategic goal, the development and implementation of training programs for educators at implementing preventive and interventional activities in the field of mental health and prevention of risk behaviour, as well as developing resources for parents and students in the same field.

Encouraging healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition for young people

Тo develop and practice a healthy lifestyle, develop awareness of the importance of one's own health and safety, the need to nurture and develop physical abilities, as well as prevent violence, drug addiction, juvenile delinquency, the schools in Serbia can organize a school sports week. School sports week includes:

  • physical activities adapted to the age and abilities of pupils;
  • cultural events with the aim of promoting physical exercise, sports and health (art and other exhibitions, folklore, dance, music and sports workshops ...);
  • workshops on health, physical exercise, sports, etc ...

Withing a specific goal defined in the Decree on the National Health Care Programme for Women, Children and Youth - prevention and treatment of obesity and eating disorders it is expected to reduce incidence and prevalence of obesity, obesity and eating disorders among adolescents by 20%; an increase in adolescents who are physically active by 10%. This can be achieved through the following activities.

  1. regular monitoring of body weight, body height and body mass index, within the framework of systematic and control examinations;
  2. providing conditions and promoting physical activity, especially among girls;
  3. adequate monitoring and treatment of adolescents with overweight and obesity should be carried out according to professional and methodological instructions;
  4. education of health workers for early detection of eating disorders in girls and boys should be conducted according to professional and methodological instructions;
  5. education of adolescents, parents or guardians for early detection of eating disorders is carried out with the aim of detecting eating disorders in the early stages of the disease, in order to start treatment as early as possible;
  6. multidisciplinary, gender-sensitive teams for the treatment of eating disorders (pediatrician, nutritionist, endocrinologist, psychiatrist, psychologist) should be organized in order to provide appropriate treatment of adolescents with eating disorders.

Based on the Work Plans of health institutions, health educational work is planned in all organizational units of the health centre based on the analysed needs. Counselling at the youth health centres offer health  educational activities for adolescents and young people up to the age of 19 in: reproductive health, proper nutrition (combating obesity), prevention of substance abuse and domestic violence, prevention of behavioural disorders, and the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports supports different initiatives and projects to encourage healthy lifestyles among young people.  A project "Active youth for a healthier life: Health, lifestyles and physical fitness of young people" is one such example implemented by the Association for Sports and Sports Medicine Belgrade in cooperation with the Institute for Sports and Sports Medicine of the Republic of Serbia, the Institute for the Evaluation of the Quality of Education and the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Sciences and financed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The primary goal of the project was to determine the degree of physical fitness and the prevalence of healthy lifestyles and behaviours among young people. In particular, the relationship between regular physical activity, healthy diet and the degree of physical shape of young people with their health condition. A research on healthy behaviour patterns in secondary school pupils was conducted. As a final results of the project a Guide for proper physical exercise, nutrition and the desired degree of physical form in the function of health for high school students was published.

The Association for Sexual and Reproductive Health, with the support of the Ministry of Health, the Cabinet of the Minister without Portfolio in charge of Demography and Population Policy, the Institute of Public Health of Serbia, as well as health and social institutions and local governments launched the project "My body my rights" , which concerns the reproductive health of young Roma women, with the aim of educating, empowering and learning to properly plan a family. In addition to raising the level of information, access to health care, educational materials and contraceptives, the project includes continuous activity of 20 trained peer educators who will support young people in Roma communities and provide them with all necessary assistance and information relevant to sexual and reproductive health.

Health education and healthy lifestyles education in schools

Health education is integrated in Physical and health education (see more on physical education in chapter: 7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity /Physical education in schools). It is mandatory subject with the total annual instruction time 288 school hours. Main thematic areas covered are:

  • physical abilities;
  • motor skills, sports and sports disciplines;
  • physical and health culture.

Thematic area physical and health culture is realized through two topics Physical Education and Health Culture. The main goal of Health Culture is to explain to pupils the general health concept, the importance that physical exercise has for its preservation and the possible consequences of insufficient physical activity and improper maintenance of personal and collective hygiene. Importance of regular medical examinations, balanced and proper diet are also emphasised. Special attention is given to analysing the consequences that various psychoactive substances have on body (harmfulness of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, excessive use of pharmacological supplements, drugs, etc.).

Peer-to-peer education approaches

National Youth Strategy supports increased accessibility of programmes of prevention of youth addiction by supporting youth peer education programmes on the prevention of addiction to psychoactive substances, gaming and new media at local level.

Collaboration and partnerships

National Youth Strategy supports the development of the extracurricular activities by cooperating with scientific, cultural, sports, technical-technological and other institutions that provide development opportunities to young people.

Тhe Institute of Public Health "Dr Milan Jovanović Batut” together with its regional institutes continuously work on establishing partnerships and raising the level of a local community involvement and the non-health sector, along with the health sector, in activities aimed at disease prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyles (more details below).

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

To achieve set goals related to adopting healthy lifestyles among adolescents, the Decree on the National Health Care Programme for Women, Children and Youth specifies that it is necessary to conduct health promotion aimed at all adolescents, and especially at vulnerable groups and at parents, educators and the general public. Health promotion includes:

  • healthy and balanced diet, prevention of obesity and eating disorders;
  • promotion of physical activity;
  • oral and dental health;
  • mental health promotion;
  • prevention of risky sexual behaviour, use of tobacco, alcohol and psychoactive substances; prevention of injuries and poisonings, violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation;
  • prevention of diseases caused by adverse environmental influences (supply of defective drinking water, unsafe disposal of waste materials, internal and external air pollution, microbiological and chemical malfunction of food).

The Centre for Health Promotion of the Institute of Public Health "Dr Milan Jovanović Batut” deals with the promotion of community health, health education and health care for vulnerable population groups and groups with special needs based on a multidisciplinary and multisectoral programme approach.

Main activities of the Centre are:

  • Coordination, planning, organization and implementation of health promotion activities, which are especially aimed at vulnerable groups of the population (pregnant women, small and preschool children, school children, persons over 65 years of age and persons with disabilities).
  • Development, printing and distribution of promotional and educational material within the implementation of national health promotion programmes and marking campaigns from the Public Health Calendar.
  • Implementation of health education programmes for the improvement of youth health through coordination and education of teachers and health workers, evaluation and monitoring of health education work in Serbia.

Activities are planned and directed towards:

  • promoting positive behaviour to reduce the risk of disease in individuals, groups and the general population;
  • establishing partnerships and raising the level of a local community involvement and the non-health sector, along with the health sector, in activities aimed at disease prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyles;
  • prevention of risky behaviour and risk factors;
  • health education and information with the participation of the mass media;
  • realization of programmes, targeted health related educational contents and measures.

One such activity is development of a manual “Prevention - reproductive health of young people”.

In addition, Serbia has a network of regional public health institutes and they conduct awareness-raising campaigns and projects in their own regions. One such example is a competition of young constructors, secondary school pupils and university students, organized by the Technical College of Vocational Studies in Subotica " Dough bridge" in cooperation with the Centre for Health Promotion of the Institute of Public Health Subotica. The goal is to promote health and healthy lifestyles among young people. To include a larger number of students in promotional activities, cooperation was established with the student parliament and the Ecological Club of the Technical College of Vocational Studies in Subotica. The idea is that students within their curricula and exercises in informatics design and give ideas and interesting proposals for the prevention of certain behavioural risk factors that can endanger health of young people (use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, risky sexual behaviour ...) .

The Institute of Public Health of Serbia "Dr Milan Jovanović Batut" with a network of regional institutes every year prepares the celebration of different significant dates:

  • World Food Day - October 16
  • International Day of Physical Activity - May 10
  • World Mental Health Day - 10 October

Besides different activities with local schools, lectures, tribunes, exhibitions on the relevant topics are being organized.