Lifestyle choices, changes to demographic structure, and the environment have increased the risk of public health issues faced by nations. Increased incidence of non-communicable diseases, mental illness, air pollution, and newly developing infectious diseases are a few of these. Unhealthy lifestyles and poor environmental conditions continue to worsen the quality of life, cut lives short, and make populations less resilient to health shocks. Such challenges are both a health and economic burden.

The performance of a healthcare system has a substantial impact on a population’s health. When health services are of standards and are accessible to all, people’s health outcomes are better. Achieving access and quality goals, and ultimately better health outcomes, depends on there being sufficient expenditure on health. At the same time, various external factors, such as a person’s income, level of education, and the physical environment in which they live, impact health status. The demand for and supply of health services are also impacted by demographic, economic, and social settings.

Policymakers globally are experimenting with different interventions that can sustainably improve population health in response to these public health challenges.  Governments today face tight budgetary constraints concurrent with the growing demand for services to meet population needs. The health sector, therefore, increasingly “competes” with itself and other sectors for socio-economic priority. Political support is significant for public health interventions given they affect multiple sectors, both public and private.


Risk of Changing Lifestyle:

Source: OECD Health Statistics 2021, OECD Environment Statistics 2020


Smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity are the three major individual risk factors for non-communicable diseases, contributing to a large share of worldwide deaths.  Air pollution is also a critical environmental determinant of health.

  • Smoking causes multiple diseases, with the World Health Organization estimating tobacco smoking kills 8 million people worldwide every year.
  • Alcohol use is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, particularly among working-age people.
  • Obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Obesity rates have been increasing in recent decades in almost all OECD countries, with an average of 56% of the population being overweight or obese in 2019.
  • Air pollution is not only a major environmental threat but also worsens health. Air pollution may cause 6 to 9 million premature deaths a year worldwide by 2060.


Prescription of Physical Activity (PAP) (Sweden)

PAP is a primary-care-based intervention where general practitioners (GPs) provide patients with individualized written prescriptions to boost physical activity levels using latest scientific knowledge. Following the success of PAP in Sweden, a three-year project was initiated to facilitate the adoption of the intervention in ten EU member states.

JOGG (Young People at a Healthy Weight) (Netherlands & Ireland)

JOGG is a Dutch public health intervention that aims to improve diet and physical activity among young people (0-19 years). Activities within JOGG are decided at the local (municipal/city) level, for example, drinking water initiatives in kindergartens and creating playgrounds for children.

Active School Flag (Ireland)

The Active Flag (ASF) is a school-based intervention that aims to improve physical activity levels among children aged five to 18 years. ASF was originally developed in Ireland and was subsequently transferred to two schools in the Piedmont region of Italy and the Klaipeda District Municipality in Lithuania.

Let food be your medicine (OECD Countries)  

Let Food Be Your Medicine is nutritional advice based on a consumer’s dietary intake (and genetic tests, if provided) compared to recommended levels outlined by the European Food Safety Agency. The app is designed for both preventive and treatment purposes.

Digital health transformation of integrated care in Europe

SELFIE (sustainable integrated care models for multimorbidity, delivery, financing, and performance) is an EU-funded Horizon project designed to improve integrated care for people with multimorbidity.



The adoption of intervention in the public health sector plays an essential role. Selecting, Implementing, and Evaluating an intervention to address the challenge of public health and sharing the recommendations globally to achieve universal standards is crucial.

Engagement of the people who will be affected by an intervention early in its conception and in implementation can, in and of itself, be a strong lever for changing behaviors. Significant effort in building implementation capacity is crucial. Human capacity in the delivery system, in terms of time and skills of staff, and institutional capacity, in terms of all resources that support the people.


The article is based on reports: Health at a Glance 2021; Guidebook on Best Practices

in Public Health

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