In 2002, the third Public Health Status and Forecasts report was published, containing up-to-date information about Dutch public health and health care. A striking finding was that although life expectancy (LE) in The Netherlands increased between 1980 and 2000, the LE of men is rising less rapidly than the European Union (EU) average. The LE of Dutch women is stagnating and has now fallen below the EU average. These and many other unfavourable trends in the health status of the Dutch population were found to be largely due to unhealthy behaviour. One of the policy recommendations therefore was to strengthen the investments in prevention in order to reverse the stagnation in health status. In response to the findings, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport published the National Prevention Paper. This Paper states that the Ministry, within the existing prevention policy, will pay more attention to healthy behaviour, stressing the responsibility of citizens as well as the societal responsibility of other parties, such as business communities, schools, health insurers and care suppliers. The prevention of specific diseases (diabetes, psychosocial problems, heart diseases, cancer, musculosceletal disorders, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) has been given priority status. In this article, we present the major findings regarding the health status of the Dutch population and discuss the implications for prevention policy.