By measuring people’s health status and behaviors, we know that health promotion is necessary. We know everybody needs to have equal opportunities for health, and that we should reduce social inequalities. But these results do not give us enough insight into how we can do this. Individual measures that only look at symptoms implicate that everyone has a free will and an opportunity to change so we often try to persuade people into making the right choice, for example: “stop smoking!” But it’s their own responsibility. This approach doesn’t consider that there are many people living in unhealthy circumstances, putting all their energy into surviving each day.
To convince everyone of the benefits of an environmental approach, we need to measure more than just the effects, but also the process and causes that are in the environment. The health policy survey measures policies in settings, and therefore monitors and evaluates the health objectives of the Flemish government. In 2016, the Flemish government proposed a new action plan called “The Flemish Belgian lives healthier in 2025.” Examples of questions in the survey include:
- How many Flemish schools still have vending machine for soft drinks?
- How do municipalities try to stimulate inhabitants to move more?
- What initiatives do companies take to help employees stop smoking?