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It is time for a new effort to strengthen public and global health in Germany. Public health is the science and practice of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the integrated and organised efforts of society at all levels. Increasingly this includes not only national action but also cooperation at European and global levels. Examples of successful public health interventions include the following: the reduction of infectious diseases, notably human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and cardiovascular disease, the protection of non-smokers, and advances in health and safety at work. There have been important breakthroughs in identifying risk factors (behavioural, biological and environmental), improving health system performance and developing sound health-relevant practices. Public health is more than medicine: its implementation requires action across sectors and involvement of the whole of society.