The impressive improvements in health for the Swedish population during the last two and a half centuries can be ascribed to many reasons. There has been a multifold of important public health measures including the regular collection of vital statistics from 1749 on a national level through the state church, which also played an important role in the early and widespread vaccination coverage against smallpox. Preventive mother and child care, access to health care free of charge, restrictive alcohol policy, accident prevention in several sectors and anti-tobacco campaigns have also been important. However, the increased living standard due to universal welfare policy strategies including social security, high educational standard, high degree of employment for women and men, regional and housing subsidies, appears to be equally or even more important.
The Swedish National Institute of Public Health, SNIPH, has been responsible for supporting the implementation of the Swedish public health policy adopted by the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag, in 2003, and for reporting on the implementation process as well as the results. The policy has been made available in English in a supplement to the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health (volume 32, supplement 64; eds. Hogstedt C, Lundgren B, Moberg H, Pettersson B and Ågren G) as well as in a summary of the first Public Health Policy Report published in 2005. SNIPH has also contributed to the evaluation of Swedish public health research in another supplement (no. 65) to the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 2005.
Today’s public health policies and results can to a large extent be explained by history and experiences from earlier decades and even centuries. Therefore, we were very pleased to publish a book in 2005 on the health of the Swedish people in a historical perspective (eds. Sundin J, Hogstedt C, Lindberg J and Moberg H) in Swedish in cooperation with Professor Jan Sundin and Associate Professor Sam Willner from Linköping University and others. We are now equally pleased to be able to publish a summarised and modified version in English by Professor Jan Sundin and Associate Professor Sam Willner focusing on the health development in relation to social changes over the last 250 years. Bernt Lundgren, Christer Hogstedt and Henrik Moberg from SNIPH were responsible for the discussions with the authors and the processing of the book.
The new Swedish public health policy from 2003 has attracted much attention internationally due to its focus on structural determinants as well as lifestyle factors. The policy has been mentioned in the WHO Bangkok Charter on Health Promotion in a Globalized World and the WHO strategy for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in the European Region, as well as by the Independent WHO Commission on Social Determinants. It is our hope that this publication shall contribute to the understanding of the background and context for this policy.
Historical lessons from one country can not be transferred uncritically to another country or be used as a basis for future decisions. However, the likelihood of the effects of different policies could be indicated by comparing differences and similarities in the contexts. We hope that this book will prove useful for policy comparisons and in the training of public health policy-makers, researchers, administrators and field workers.
Östersund, December 2007
Swedish National Institute of Public Health , 2007. , 252 p.
Life expectancy, disease, medicine, public health, health policy, Scandinavia, Swedish National Institute of Public Health