Improving the health of the population is the defining goal of any health system. To achieve this positive allocation, there is a wide spectrum of tools that can be managed– by contraction or expansion policies – under the specific needs of each population demand for health care.
Through the study of heath indicators it is possible to conclude which measures should be implemented in the future to rectify previously ineffective policies and, at the same time, to reinforce those that maintain a good perspective in the long-term.
In Portugal, the indicators give us some important details about the actual country heath status: there is an increase in life expectancy at birth, while, at the same time, we assist a decrease in peritoneal and infant mortality rates; Portugal has the lowest percentage of population who assessed his health as “good” in all Europe; women had lower self-assessed health status than men and there is high parameters of inequality in self-assessed health status by level of education. When we address the main risk factors, Portugal registers even worst results: nearly 20% of Portuguese aged 18 and over reported smoking on a daily basis; prevalence of obesity and, despite the small decrease from 2011 to 2012, alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents seem to persist.
An inversion of the actual health conjuncture urges. The high incidence of risk conducts (smoking, incorrect nutrition habits, mediocre level of physical activity, alcohol consumption and driving habits), the actual male–female gap among different indicators and some extreme inequality situations emerge, making urgent the adoption of new policies.
Primarily, it is necessary the development of an integrated strategy to address the male-female gap in health status, by enhancing the regulatory and organizational environment, and promote the exchange of information about gender inequalities. Investing in upstream and gender-responsive health promotion activities can also help to correct some associated risk factors, conducting to the integration of determinants of health into public health, health promotion and disease prevention programmes.
The promotion of health literacy, positive nutrition, physical activity and other health and social strategies focused on the young is also fundamental and must be paired with campaigns that emphasise the danger of the main risk habits (smoking, alcohol and obesity).
Despite the good estimates among child and peritoneal mortality rates, it is also necessary the implementation of successful health policies in addressing the most significant causes of mortality and morbidity, mostly by continuity policies that extend the already verified goods results to the future generations.
Finally, the national policies should lead to the development of leadership and to the investment in capacity building for incorporating health in all policies and, in a second effect, strengthen mechanisms for inter-sectoral action focused on health gains.
The future of our health system belongs to the importance and the sense of commitment that we will attribute to it. A responsible and detailed study of the actual Portuguese heath standards is the first step to better understand the measures that should be implemented. If, for any reason, something deviates from the supposed North, the evolution of the indicators will reflect the adopted policies.