A national study commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health indicates that more than half of Switzerland's population is overweight. 

"/> A national study commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health indicates that more than half of Switzerland's population is overweight. 

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HEALTH

Half of Swiss are overweight: study

A national study commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health indicates that more than half of Switzerland's population is overweight. 

Half of Swiss are overweight: study
Dominic Hallau

53 per cent of the 1,445 people surveyed at the Lausanne University Hospital had a waist circumference that revealed them to be overweight, according to the conclusions published in newspaper SonntagsZeitung. Of those found to be overweight, 30 percent were obese.

The study also found more women (58 percent) to be overweight than men (48 percent).

The study is being considered the most important of its kind in Switzerland. For the first time, it measures waist dimensions rather than relying solely on body mass index (BMI) or people’s self-evaluation of their weight condition.

When experts only looked at BMI, results showed that 45 percent of the Swiss population was overweight, as opposed to 53 percent with the latest study.

According to Bernd Schultes, director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Centre of Eastern Switzerland abdominal circumference is a more important measure of health condition than BMI or body weight. The risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease increases with every additional inch of fat around the waist.

Michael Beer, head of the National Health and Food Safety Office, said the results would have to be checked for their representativeness since only patients at Lausanne University Hospital were part of the survey. But he warned that the study appeared to confirm earlier findings. “We have a massive problem of people being overweight in Switzerland,” he told the Sunday newspaper.

The proportion of overweight people in Switzerland is higher than it was 40 years ago. Researchers at Lausanne University Hospital blame the increase on two factors: fat in food has increased from 33 to 40 percent even though people consume the same amount of calories, and consumption of fruit has gone down by 30 percent.

The results on weight are part of a wider study commissioned by the Federal Health Office examining people’s salt intake in Switzerland.

The results have caused alarm in medical circles: Every Swiss eats an average of 9.1 grams of salt per day, a quantity well above the 5 grams per person recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Men especially consume too much salt: 10.6 grams per day on average, compared to the 7.8 grams for women.

The study also showed that 25.6 per cent of the individuals tested had high blood pressure. Again, men were more frequently affected (32.3 percent) than women (19.1 percent).

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HEALTH INSURANCE

What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Switzerland’s basic health insurance is among the most expensive in the world, but there are certain services it doesn’t pay for. Here are some of the benefits the scheme won’t cover in full.

What isn't covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian —  is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap, but it is quite comprehensive and includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

It also covers accidents for those who do not have accident insurance through their workplace.

Basically, whatever the doctor orders is covered by KVG / LaMal, at least partially.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

However, there are some treatments the basic insurance won’t pay for.

Experimental treatments

Any experimental treatments or drugs — that is, those not approved by the Swissmedic regulatory agency or the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will not be covered.

This exclusion is not specifically Swiss; insurance schemes is most countries won’t cover unauthorised medical treatment either.

Dental care

In most cases, services such as teeth cleaning, dental fillings, root canals, tooth extractions, and orthodontic braces, are not included under basic insurance.

The only exceptions, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), are dental interventions “necessitated by a serious disorder of the masticatory system, or if such treatment is required to support and ensure the success of medical treatment for a severe general disorder (e.g. leukaemia, heart-valve replacement)”.

Most dental treatments are not covered. Photo by Pixabay

Eyeglasses and contact lenses

Compulsory health insurance will contribute up to 180 francs per year towards glasses and contact lenses prescribed by an ophthalmologist for children up to the age of 18.

No such benefit exist for adults. However, “in the case of serious visual impairment or certain illnesses (e.g. disease-related refraction abnormalities, postoperative alterations or corneal disease), compulsory health insurance will, regardless of age, make higher contributions towards medically prescribed spectacle and contact lenses”, FOPH says.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?

Ambulance

Emergency vehicles that transport you to a hospital can be quite expensive — depending on the canton, the costs can range from 900 to 2,000 francs per trip. 

Basic health insurance will contribute a certain amount  to the cost of emergency transportation, but only if it is a medical necessity — a serious accident, an illness, or a life-threatening situation. But if the patient could have travelled by private car or public transport, basic health insurance policies will pay nothing.

Insurance will cover some of the cost of ambulance transport only in emergency. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Private hospital room

While the cost of your hospitalisation will be fully covered, the basic insurance does not pay for a private room.

You will be accommodated in a room with other patients.

Depending on a medical facility — whether it’s a small hospital or a large, university medical centre, you could end up with just one other person or possibly four or five, the latter being common in teaching hospitals.

If you insist on a private accommodation, you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?

Vaccines

Immunisations outlined by FOPH  will be paid for by insurance, as will the Covid vaccine.

Not covered, however, are travel-related vaccinations or preventive measures, such as against yellow fever or malaria.

Treatment abroad

Outside Switzerland, only emergency care is covered  — double the amount that the same treatment would cost in Switzerland.

Usually, basic health insurance will not cover transportation costs back to Switzerland, except in case of emergency, when it will cover 50 percent of the total cost of transportation to the nearest hospital abroad — but no more than 500 francs per year. 

If you only have a basic insurance policy and travel abroad often, especially to the United States, you should take out a travel insurance that will cover you for illness and accidents in foreign countries above and beyond what your Swiss carrier will pay.

And if you want to upgrade your treatment options, consider taking out a supplemental insurance or, if you can afford it, private one.

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

You can find out more about what KVG / LaMal will and will not cover here.

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