What are overall strategies?
Parent strategies exist at international, national and regional levels and appear as policies, framework policies, programmes or networks. Such strategies aim to define a common framework for action for a clearly defined issue or theme. Vision, goals and recommendations for action provide transparent and goal-oriented guidance for all involved.
At the international level, the framework formulated by the WHO "Health for All in the 21st Century" is one of the best known strategies. This sets out the priority themes and 21 objectives formulated as recommendations for national health policies.
At the national level the overall strategy with priorities, objectives and measures is usually determined for a certain time frame as part of a national health policy. In Switzerland where a national health policy is lacking, a national law for prevention is currently being prepared. This should then provide a basis for common national goals and optimum coordination.
At the national level, programmes are based on specific themes. In Switzerland, for example:
- The national HIV / AIDS strategy, by the Federal Office of Public Health
- National Alcohol Programme 2008-2012, by the Federal Office of Public Health
- National Tobacco Programme 2008-2012, the Federal Office of Public Health
- National Programme for Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008-2012, Federal Office of Public Health in conjunction with Health Promotion Switzerland
Another form of overarching strategies are networks. They are based on a common understanding of professional standards, pursue the same objectives, ensure exchange of professional expertise and experience and promote the further development of the theme in question. At the European level, these are for example the "European Network of Health Promoting schools" and the "European Network Workplace Health Promotion".
The benefits of overall strategies
Experience shows that projects that are imbedded in a parent programme with comprehensive long-term goals have a greater chance of making an impact. Projects have a defined time span and limited effects. A coordinated implementation of projects and measures in the context of a common goal, therefore, suggests itself. What is more, a larger programme usually also has a broader theoretical base and is subject to monitoring and evaluation.
Programmes and networks contain important knowledge and function as exchange forums. Experiences are easily shared and synergies exploited, therefore improving effectiveness and sustainability of all the projects.
Projects that run outside federal and cantonal programmes or networks risk losing their effects sometime after they have ended.
Why you would disregard these aspects
- You fear that your project will be too focused on the parent programme's goals and it will thereby lose the freedom to pursue its own objectives.
- You prefer to work independently.
What you have to gain
- You can benefit from synergies and from the experiences of other professionals.
- You increase the chance for an effective and sustainable project, because goals and actions within an overarching framework are coordinated and focused.
- In a network, you benefit from shared expertise, from the flow of information and from the latest developments.
What you can actually do
- Get an overview of existing programmes and regional and national (possibly international) strategies. By talking to programme directors, find out whether there is any overlap with other projects and / or whether it is possible to build on existing projects.
- Find out which criteria your project must fulfill so that it meets the objectives of a corresponding programme or network.
Questions for critical reflection
- Can you fit your project into an overall strategy? If not, is there a reason for that?
- Do you know the national and regional priorities in health promotion and prevention, both in terms of action and themes.