Health promotion and prevention involve interventions in complex social systems. Due to the rapid pace of change in the field and the variety of contexts in which interventions are made, standardised procedures tend to be the exception and the level of complexity hinders clear, generally applicable statements concerning the "optimal" or "best" approach.
Health Promotion Switzerland, together with national and international partners, has defined a framework for best practices in health promotion and prevention, which serves as a reference for intervention planning and decision-making in health promotion and prevention. Its three dimensions (values, knowledge, context) are intended to promote ethically responsible, scientifically sound and context-sensitive decisions and actions.
Correspondingly, best practice in health promotion and prevention means "systematically take into account the values and principles of health promotion and public health, are supported by current scientific knowledge as well as knowledge from experts and derived from practice, observe the relevant context factors and achieve the intended positive effects whilst avoiding negative ones." (Health Promotion Switzerland, 2010, p. 7).
It is impossible to provide a generally valid, context-independent list of "best practice" interventions in the sense of practically applicable "recipes" for most areas of health promotion and prevention. Interventions must be deliberated with the target groups in each new environment and adjusted to changed contextual conditions.
The implementation of the best practice framework requires systematic, recurrent reflection or critical questioning by professionals when making decisions or when planning, implementing and evaluating activities relating to health promotion and prevention (see figure). This is carried out through the three best practice dimensions and the associated criteria and indicators, similar to a radar beam which criss-crosses the skies for airplane safety. This demand for periodic, systematic reflection corresponds to the development cycles that are typical throughout the course of a project, according to quint-essenz.
The quality criteria of quint-essenz essentially take into account and operationalise the key aspects of the best practice criteria. Systematically applying the quality criteria of quint-essenz to the planning, execution, evaluation and reflection of intervention projects therefore also covers the key aspects of the best practice criteria.