First ever Local Health Authority Day on 19 March

RKI works at federal level for the protection and improvement of public health and has declared 19 March Local Health Authority Day for the first time. It is the anniversary of Johann Peter Frank’s birth, a doctor born in Rodalben in the Palatinate in 1745 who is seen as the founder of the public health system, social hygiene and the Public Health Department (“ÖGD”). It was his ambition to improve the health of the population, amongst other things by introducing state health administration and promoting healthy living conditions.

Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries care for the well-being of individual patients. In contrast to this person-based approach, health authorities focus on the population. The Public Health Department thus has a greater impact on health than most people realise. ‘For a healthy population, adequately-financed local health authorities are indispensable,’ Lothar H. Wieler emphasises. For years, the number of local health authority staff has been reduced. But even the best laboratory network or surveillance system cannot manage to investigate suspected cases of disease or introduce quarantine measures locally. This requires qualified staff and modern equipment in every single health authority.

There has never been a Local Health Authority Day anywhere in the world although efficient local health authorities are the backbone of public health everywhere. Fighting disease outbreaks is just one particularly visible aspect of local health authority activities.

On its website, the Federal Association of Physicians of German Public Health Departments describes its responsibilities in Germany as follows: ‘The spectrum of responsibilities ranges from counselling and support for families with small children, counselling for mothers, medical examinations for children starting kindergarten or school, examinations and counselling for pregnant women, unplanned pregnancy counselling, control and monitoring of hospital, environmental and epidemic hygiene. Furthermore, counselling and assistance for people with mental disorders, the chronically ill as well as people with physical disabilities or the threat of disabilities, partly in fields in which no-one else is active (subsidiary), through to providing a doctor’s report or certificate prior to employment through to incapacity to work, and, as an important aspect of ÖGDs, participating in health reporting and policy consultancy. Not to forget the dental field as an outstanding example, amongst others, of prevention in the ÖGD.’

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Published by
Robert Koch Institute
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The Robert Koch Institute is a federal institute within the portfolio of the German Federal Ministry of Health

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