Child health in Switzerland | Expatica

We describe everything you need to know about health of children in Switzerland, pediatric care offered and how to access it, medical costs, health insurance, etc.

From its world-class education and banking systems to its stunning landscapes and tasty cuisine, Switzerland has a lot to offer expat families. Not only that, but the Swiss healthcare system is also one of the best in the world, which means that parents in Switzerland can expect a very high level of healthcare for their children.

That said, when moving to a new country with little ones, it’s important to understand how pediatric care works and how to access it. So, to help you navigate the system, this article provides the following information:

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The health of children in Switzerland

Child health in Switzerland is on par with the rest of the country’s high-quality medical system. In fact, the country spends around 11.5% of its GDP on healthcare every year, which is one of the highest in Europe. Of course, part of this sum is also used to take care of the children.

a child who consults a pediatrician in Switzerland

Several parties are responsible for providing and overseeing child health care in Switzerland, and as such, parents have a range of options when it comes to seeking medical attention for their little ones. Currently, 958 pediatricians and 5,945 general practitioners provide private primary care to children in the country. In addition, 32 pediatric hospitals and departments provide secondary and tertiary care. Some hospitals also provide care for children without having a formal pediatric department.

Because each of the 26 Swiss cantons has its own culture which influences children’s physical activity and obesity levels, the health of young people across the country can vary. For example, studies have shown that children in German-speaking regions are more physically active and tend to be less obese than their counterparts in French-speaking cantons.

How to access health care for your children

The Swiss government stipulates that all residents must have minimum basic health insurance, with private top-ups available. This also applies to children, who must have their own health insurance policy to access health care in the country.

Switzerland’s basic health insurance scheme covers a variety of services, including pediatric care, childhood vaccinations, basic medical treatment, and treatment in pediatric hospitals. However, parents will still have to make co-payments; although the exact amount depends on the specific insurance policy.

a child receiving a vaccine

In terms of access to child health care, pediatricians are usually the first port of call for infants. However, as children get older, they will usually visit their family’s GP.

Insurance for children in Switzerland

As mentioned, all residents of Switzerland must contribute to a Swiss health insurance scheme in order to access basic medical coverage. This includes all children, who must have their own health insurance policy within three months of birth. Fortunately, there are many types of insurance plans and parents can choose whether they want a basic policy or if they prefer to include additional benefits and alternative treatments. Some providers also offer family reductions if one of the parents is already insured with the company.

Notably, some parents in Switzerland also choose to take out an insurance policy for the child before it is born, as this provides an additional layer of protection. For example, if the baby was born prematurely or with congenital medical issues, the insurance policy will cover treatment for this.

a pregnant woman at an ultrasound appointment

While basic health insurance plans in Switzerland offer a high level of cover, many expatriate parents also choose to take out supplementary private health insurance in order to access a wider range of services and treatments or better accommodation in the event of hospitalization.

Some of the largest health insurance companies operating in Switzerland include:

There are also several price comparison sites that allow you to compare quotes from different vendors.

Take your child to a pediatrician

Pediatricians are the primary care providers for children in Switzerland. They treat a range of medical conditions, including physical problems, mental illnesses, psychosomatic problems and children’s health visits. As a result, nearly 80% of Swiss preschoolers consult a pediatrician for health care. Most children in Switzerland visit them when they are young, but almost half of them switch to regular GPs when they are 11 years old.

Parents can choose the pediatrician they want to treat their children. However, he must verify that the pediatrician is indeed a member of the Swiss Society of Pediatrics (SGP). This organization is also a good place to start looking for a reputable pediatrician, although you can also ask friends for recommendations.

Routine checkups for children

As in most other countries, the health of children in Switzerland requires regular checks. These routine visits ensure that the child’s health and growth are as they should be. They may also involve certain preventive screenings.

During the first months of life, babies are monitored to check that they are growing and developing normally and that their auditory, visual, neurological, respiratory and cardiac systems are normal. During this time, many parents also choose to start the childhood vaccination regimen and have blood screenings.

a baby having a checkup with a doctor

As the child grows, regular pediatric visits continue to check for appropriate progress in weight, height, feeding, walking, hearing, vision, motor skills, etc. For older children, health checkups are shifting to monitoring BMI, language skills, and socialization, among other factors.

The SGP requires children to have these routine exams at 1, 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months. After that, they can be done at ages 2, 4, 6, 10, and 14.

Vaccinations for children in Switzerland

Although Switzerland does not have compulsory vaccinations as part of its health system for children, it recommends many of the same vaccines as many other countries to protect public health. Basic health insurance also covers them to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.

Switzerland recommends the following vaccinations throughout childhood and adolescence:

  • whooping cough
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tetanus
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • HPV
  • Varicella

Take your child to see a doctor or specialist

Some children, especially teenagers, choose to see a doctor rather than a pediatrician. And, in some cases, toddlers may need to see a specialist for further care and treatment.

You can easily register your child with a GP when they are ready to leave pediatric care. All you have to do is show your identity card and your health insurance card and fill in the necessary forms.

If a child needs to see a specialist, they may need a referral from their primary care provider. This would be the case, for example, if they need to see an oncologist. However, to see a dermatologist, you can usually make an appointment directly. That said, it’s usually best to check with the primary care provider first.

Children’s hospitals in Switzerland

Although private clinics provide most child health services in Switzerland, there are also many hospital services. For example, all major university hospitals, including those in Bern, Basel, Zurich and Geneva, have specialized pediatric hospitals and departments. Children can also be treated in the emergency department of regular hospitals if necessary.

the entrance to a children's hospital in Zurich

Your primary care provider, who is usually your pediatrician or GP, can refer you if your child needs hospitalization. However, your basic health insurance must cover their treatment and care.

Dental care for children in Switzerland

As part of the child health system in Switzerland, the country offers dental care in schools. Since this is generally the responsibility of each canton, the exact dental care offered will be different. Most children have free annual dental check-ups, but parents will have to pay if further treatment is needed as basic health insurance will not cover this. Because of this, some parents choose to purchase specialized dental insurance so that their children can visit the dentist for more advanced dental care.

Mental health in Switzerland

For most children in Switzerland, their school is their first port of call for their mental health needs. Many schools have social workers who can provide basic counseling or advice on accessing care. Additionally, most private or international schools have in-house counselors who provide basic mental health care.

a young child with mental illness

Children can also seek additional mental health support from professionals outside of their schools. For example, basic health insurance policies usually cover visits to licensed practitioners and stays in clinics.

Most cantons also have specialized youth counseling services and helplines that offer free and anonymous support. And in case of emergency, it is possible to be accompanied in the central outpatient clinics.

Preventive healthcare programs for children in Switzerland

The Swiss government takes a preventive approach to health care in general and this includes programs for children. As such, pediatric health visits cover a basic checklist that has been established by the SGP. This focuses on early detection of diseases and developmental disorders so that they can be treated quickly and effectively.

The government and townships also use schools to provide basic preventive health care programs and education. For example, children can have annual basic dental exams and receive sex education to protect them from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Schools also offer nutrition education and physical activities to encourage children to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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