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Public Health

The working group explored how Germany could invest to better effect, for example in health promotion and disease prevention, in infectious disease outbreak management, and in ensuring consistent health standards throughout the country. More generally, the scientists explored how to develop an evidence-based public health policy to cope with present and future opportunities and challenges.

Health is a fundamental human right (Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948). One useful characterisation of health is the ability to adapt and self-manage in the face of social, physical or emotional challenges. The British medical scientist Donald Acheson (1926 – 2010) has defined public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society”. It thus refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole.

Strategies to achieve better health on a population level vary widely around the world but many countries have recognized that the status quo is no longer sustainable and, therefore, are reforming their health systems. Moreover, there is an increasing debate about the extent of the responsibilities that individuals, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), health professionals, academia and the health industry, have with regard to the promotion and protection of health. These responsibilities in the global context have to be newly and carefully defined. Hence, strengthening national public health capabilities is expected to also enable Germany to make a growing contribution to tackling the challenges in global public health.

The report explores what is needed to support this new commitment – in particular in terms of the diversity and quality of the public health workforce, research support and its translation to practice, and an educated and empowered population. Especial attention is given to assessing Germany’s global health role and the means to pursue this role.


  • German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (lead)
  • Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
  • German Academy of Science and Engineering acatech

Spokesperson of the working group

Members of the working group

  • Jean-Francois Bach, Virology, Paris
  • Axel Börsch-Supan ML, Economics, Munich
  • Reinhard Burger, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin
  • Martina Cornel, Public Health Genomics, Amsterdam
  • Antoine Flahault, Public Health, Paris
  • Peter Goldblatt, Epidemiology, London
  • Jörg Hacker ML, Microbiology, Former President of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina – National Academy of Sciences, Halle (Saale)
  • Ilona Kickbusch, Global Health and Public Health, Geneva
  • Uwe Koch-Gromus, Psychology, Hamburg
  • Alfons Labisch ML, History of Medicine, Düsseldorf
  • Peter Propping ML, Human Genetics, Bonn
  • Bernt-Peter Robra, Social Medicine, Magdeburg
  • Frank Rösler ML, Psychology, Hamburg
  • Günter Stock, President of the Akademienunion, Berlin
  • Volker ter Meulen ML,Virology, Würzburg
  • Jos van der Meer, Internal Medicine, Nijmegen
  • Hans-Peter Zenner ML, ENT-Medicine, Tübingen

ML = Member of the Leopoldina



Dr. Kathrin Happe

Scientific officer, Deputy Head of Department Science – Policy – Society

E-Mail politikberatung @leopoldina.org