Prevention and health: Science Council conference discusses the launch of a new initiative

Germany urgently needs an initiative for prevention and health - that is the conclusion of the Science Council's conference "Rethinking Prevention", which took place in Berlin at the end of May. Experts from science and politics, including Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach, agreed that prevention is a key to keeping our society efficient and securing healthcare. BIPS was also strongly represented with Prof. Dr. Iris Pigeot and Prof. Dr. Hajo Zeeb.

Five people on one stage.

Moderated the event on data use, AI and digitalization in prevention: BIPS Director Pigeot (3rd from right). (c) "Wissenschaftsrat/David Ausserhofer"

"Prevention must not be a privilege of high-income or well-educated people, who often take good care of their health anyway. It must become part of everyone's everyday life," said Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. "Instead of only taking illnesses seriously once they have manifested themselves, we should do much more to prevent them. Hundreds of thousands of cases of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer would be preventable if we started earlier. We therefore need a turnaround in health promotion and health literacy. The National Prevention Initiative provides important impetus for this," said Lauterbach.

The participants at the conference discussed the prospects for a prevention initiative. The tenor: there is not a lack of individual knowledge in prevention, but rather a lack of implementation and networking between the players. What is needed is not only more money, but also a different distribution of existing resources in the healthcare system. The prerequisites for more effective prevention are

A better data basis
More and better data, including from healthy people, must be collected, networked and used to enable better analyses and forecasts and to support individualized healthcare.

Networking of all stakeholders
The existing structures for prevention should be better networked. This applies to the connection between scientific disciplines, political departments, the economy and social actors. Prevention is a cross-sectional task.

Binding political goals
Measurable goals within a national strategy are necessary in order to create political commitment and to be able to monitor success. Germany could follow examples from abroad, such as the Netherlands.

Setting effective incentives
Health-conscious behavior requires more than just knowledge and good intentions. Economic incentives are needed, for example by subsidizing healthy food. Health and healthy behavior should be less a question of money and social status than has been the case to date.

Greater emphasis on prevention in medicine
Existing remuneration structures are geared towards curing illnesses, not maintaining health. Medicine, health insurers and politics must change course to make prevention more attractive, without seeing prevention primarily as a new source of resources or marginalizing existing activities in the public health sector. For this aspect, overarching, multi-professional, scientifically oriented structures that promote evidence generation and help to overcome systemic problems of inadequate integration of prevention make sense.

Target group-oriented communication
Health and prevention must be discussed in a target group-oriented manner with broad social participation, depending on the age group and socio-cultural milieu. This must be a central part of the initiative.

Model projects
Due to the complex interdependencies, model projects that are carried out in different regions, scientifically supported and oriented towards overarching goals are required.

Around 200 guests from science, society, politics and the media took part in the conference. The event was financially supported by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, the German Cancer Aid Foundation and the German Cancer Research Center in the Helmholtz Association.